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3/19/2010
10:21 AM
George Crump
George Crump
Commentary
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SLAs Can Make Life Easier

Many times when I am speaking with an IT Manager and I ask what their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are with their users, I get an eye roll filled answer that generally equates to the revelation that the SLA is implied. There is a belief by many that SLAs are just are not worth the effort. The reality is that SLAs can make life easier and are well worth the effort.

Many times when I am speaking with an IT Manager and I ask what their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are with their users, I get an eye roll filled answer that generally equates to the revelation that the SLA is implied. There is a belief by many that SLAs are just are not worth the effort. The reality is that SLAs can make life easier and are well worth the effort.The problem with an implied SLA is that when something goes wrong the user or line of business manager often forces the IT department down a path that requires massive hoop jumping to fix the issue. It is rare to see a "gray area" actually help an IT person. Implied SLAs don't define the expectation very well and as a result the user thinks that the SLA means that you will store all their data forever on the fastest storage available and then if they delete it, be able to recover any version of that file that ever existed. As a result overly complex storage practices and data protection tasks are put in place to try to come close to meeting these goals.

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.

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