Managed IT services are a great option for small businesses that cannot afford to build and maintain their own in-house computing infrastructures. However, partnering with a reputable vendor doesn’t just cut costs – it also increases service uptime, improves security and provides virtually limitless scalability. Regardless, a decision like this is not something you should take lightly.
Here in Vancouver, cloud providers are popping up like mushrooms after the rain, and not all of them are made equal. You need to pay close attention to the promises included in a provider’s service level agreement (SLA) before you commit, because this is the most important document to consider when outsourcing your IT. So with that in mind, here are some of the things you should look out for:
Every IT solution needs maintenance, even those operated by major companies and backed up by multiple data centers. Service availability is one of the most important features to look out for in any SLA, since it defines the amount of annual downtime you can expect, during which your cloud-hosted applications and services will be unavailable.
Most cloud providers measure service availability in nines. For example, three nines mean a minimum uptime of 99.9%, which translates into a service outage of around nine hours per year. That’s probably fine for most services, but if a few of those hours occur in the middle of a busy season, three nines could present a problem. You might want to pay extra for less downtime or have different SLAs for services based on priority.
One of the most important benefits of outsourcing your IT support is that you have someone to take care of all your IT problems and challenges. Therefore, you need to be sure that you’ll receive the support you need when you need it, rather than being left in a situation where your employees cannot access the resources they need to do their jobs.
An SLA shouldn’t just guarantee maximum response and problem-resolution times – it should also consider priority. That’s why IT providers usually define severity levels. For example, if a security system, such as a firewall, encounters a problem, it should have a much faster response-time guarantee than a laggy desktop.
You can hardly expect your cloud provider to respond to problems it doesn’t even know exist. And your in-house or outsourced IT support will run into a world of problems if they don’t have the necessary information to conduct a thorough analysis. That’s why you also need constant monitoring and reporting.
A dependable cloud provider should be committed to providing regular reports on things like bandwidth consumption, network security analyses, and service uptime. The quality and frequency of these updates should be clearly expressed in an SLA.
Data security and regulatory frameworks are evolving as quickly as the technologies they govern. Meeting requirements like HIPAA and GDPR are not getting any easier, and the rules vary widely depending on specific business requirements. When a third party hosts your confidential data, it will still be up to you to ensure that they are fulfilling any security and regulatory obligations pertaining to your business and the type of data it handles.
An SLA should include legal assurances regarding the ownership and integrity of your data. For example, data encryption and limited network access are just a couple of things your vendor should be prepared to commit to. Be sure that any SLA you sign makes clear the responsibilities of both parties.
While it’s important to look for a long-term partnership with any cloud provider, you also need to remember that circumstances can change. For example, SLAs can be revised or your business might outgrow the services provided, forcing you to start looking for a new service provider.
Chances are, if you need to cancel your partnership, your cloud provider will have a lot of confidential business information in their care. That’s why your SLA should guarantee that such data will be thoroughly destroyed when you stop working with them as well as a timeframe for making it so.
Dyrand Systems is proud to offer businesses an outstanding level of customer service backed up by clear and honest service level agreements. If you’re ready to make the shift to the cloud, give us a call today.