Instead an SLA allows a conversation prior to something going wrong that defines what can and can't be done from a storage and recovery standpoint. It brings the line of business manager into the process and strikes a balance between storing and protecting everything forever vs storing and protecting for a reasonable period of time.
For example in a data loss situation it shifts some of the responsibility for data recreation back on the user. While no one likes to recreate data, the cost of developing a system to make sure that no one ever has to re-create it can be far more expensive than bringing in a few temps to re-key a couple of days worth of information. There are exceptions, of course. For some applications loosing even a few hours of information is unacceptable, but applying that standard across more than a few may be unrealistic.
Without a written SLA in place it is almost impossible to know what standard of storage and protection should be applied to which data set. The result is a one size fits all data protection policy which can be expensive or not bring adequate protection to the critical applications.
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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.