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Cloud SLAs can be a touchy (feely) subject

Get a bunch of cloud proponents in a room together to talk service-level agreements and things can get heated and even a little emotional. Or at least that’s how it seemed at the recent Cloud Standards Customer Council meeting this week in Santa Clara, Calif.

Discussions argued about the lack of (and desire for) a single cloud standard on which all cloud vendors can compare themselves. Think Underwriters Laboratories Inc. for the cloud. Sure, it would create a starting point for consumers to weed through the budding cloud vendor market, but the industry is still a long way from seeing a UL-like certification stamp of approval on the cloud.   

So what’s an enterprise to do? Trust. And read the SLA. “You need a strong rooting of trust in the cloud to begin with, then comes the SLAs,” said CSCC member Larry Carvalho, an independent cloud consultant located in Ohio.

One problem is that there’s no single answer on what a company should look for in an SLA. Different vertical markets will need varying levels of commitment, security and uptime. And some small to medium-sized businesses may not even need to read the SLA.

“We just trusted the cloud. It was better than the alternative,” said Eric Eric Edelson, vice president and co-owner of Fireclay Tile, a recycled tile manufacturer. Edelson helped the SMB move its outdated system run on FileMaker Pro to And he hasn’t looked back. gave the then-struggling tile company a sense of order and visibility into the entire production process. And for a flat fee of about $12,000 for eight licenses (plus additional maintenance costs) with promises from Salesforce that it won’t raise fees, Edelson said he didn’t pay very close attention to the SLA.

Of course, large enterprises don’t have it that easy. They need assurance and they need to study contract terms. So with nothing but trust as the first “stamp of approval,” where’s an enterprise to turn? When asked which vendors are the most trusted, the big guys prevail: Amazon, Google, Rackspace and But we all knew that already.

Makes me wonder … How do small or new cloud vendors prove themselves in the market? And what can they do to gain your trust?  

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