As more businesses outsource IT infrastructure and services to third-party providers for cost savings and flexibility, they must manage the risk that comes with relying on others to handle important and even mission-critical processes.
For peace of mind, businesses can employ service-level agreements (SLAs) as a form of insurance for outsourced IT operations.
However, having a standard SLA for outsourced assets will not help if a service provided by an external vendor goes down, bringing an entire solution down with it.
“A simple network outage is likely to be covered by a service-specific SLA, so an affected organisation might be able to recoup some losses,” says Kevin Wee, Director, Colocation Business Development, Asia Pacific, CenturyLink.
“However, if the outage causes the rest of the enterprise’s IT infrastructure to go down, the resulting losses could be severe.”
Enterprises often rely on a patchwork of SLAs from an assortment of service providers and find out too late that their coverage is only as good as the weakest SLA link in their service delivery supply chain.
Companies should look to solutions-based SLAs to help weed out such weak links and protect their outsourced IT assets.
A solutions-based SLA covers an enterprise’s entire hybrid IT solutions portfolio, from cloud infrastructure to managed and network services.
If one piece goes down, the company is covered across the board.
While solutions-based SLAs are only now beginning to get attention from many third-party IT providers, CenturyLink suggests four ways enterprises can begin implementing them into their business:
1) Start small:
When an outsourced solution is narrowly defined, such as an individual application, it is easier to implement a solutions-based SLA.
To do this, selectively identify a business process and its expected outcomes as well as the SLA relationship that gets tied into it.
2) Adapt SLAs based on the size of the enterprise:
Solutions-based SLAs are most effective in larger companies where a service provider can craft a custom-tailored solution and the business has the back-office resources to support it.
Smaller enterprise can buy an off-the-shelf software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, which already has an SLA as part of its offering, and build business processes around it.
In traditional IT environments with numerous discrete components, solutions-based SLAs are not as easy to implement compared to having a single service provider to manage them all.
Ideally, your components coalesce, as well as your SLAs, through a single, accountable vendor.
4) Keep the lines of communication open:
The communications governance between the service provider and the buyer can often be as critical as the technical solution from which an SLA is drawn.
Companies should be able to project what that communication looks like over time so they can deploy the solution and manage it accordingly.
“A well-constructed solutions-based SLA should be like buying a comprehensive umbrella insurance policy for the home,” Wee adds.
“It should provide a broader peace of mind that there will be easier follow up and accountability with one provider in the event that there is an issue.”