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Breaking down what's in your cloud SLA

Last updated:May 2014

Editor's note

A cloud SLA is not a document to gloss over. It is a binding contract between your chosen cloud provider and your company that outlines responsibilities on both sides. So before you grab your pen and give the service-level agreement (SLA) your John Hancock, learn how to sift through it, piece by piece.

Cloud SLAs contain details in several areas, including cloud governance, security specifications, compliance, and performance and uptime statistics. When shopping for the best cloud provider for your company, be sure to compare and contrast the specifications for each of these areas among your top options.

In the planning phase of a cloud migration, determine what the most important areas are for your company. Do you want to ensure your data stays in the United States? Do you need 99% uptime guarantees? Be sure they're all detailed in your cloud SLA.

The first step for understanding a cloud SLA is to get a feel for all of its pieces. This Essential Guide looks into three crucial areas and gives an overall picture of SLA analysis.

1Cloud governance, compliance major SLA concerns

In the wake of the Patriot Act and the more recent NSA scandal, companies, particularly highly regulated ones, are concerned about losing control of their mission-critical data. Cloud governance will be outlined in your SLA with a cloud provider, so make sure the specifications meet your needs. Some companies, such as AWS, will have data centers located outside of the United States and others may not meet the strict compliance regulations your industry requires. It's essential to read the fine print.

2Calm cloud security concerns with SLA assurance

As long as there has been cloud computing, there have been cloud security concerns. For security-conscious enterprises, be sure your cloud SLA outlines the security practices and guidelines of the provider. There are always supplemental ways to boost your cloud security, whether it's using third-party tools, security as a service or instead opting for a virtual private cloud. As with governance and compliance, some industries are required to comply with strict security guidelines.

3Don't be caught unaware with poor cloud performance

Cloud outages have made headlines in the last few years, even from the most famous cloud providers, such as Amazon. These outages can be costly for users and their customers, and they can kill a company's reputation. Though you can never truly completely protect yourself, put specifications in place that say who is responsible in case of disaster.

4Defining cloud SLA

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