Finding the right service provider to partner with on the journey to become an Always-On enterprise in the age of availability need not be stressful. Claude Schuck, regional manager for Africa at Veeam, examines some of the existing considerations especially when it comes to matching service level agreements (SLAs) with compliance requirements.
“As technology rapidly evolves, decision-makers need to find the best solutions that meet their strategic requirements. Of course, those solutions also have to be cost-effective and implemented as smoothly as possible to ensure continued business operations with minimal impact on the bottom line,” says Schuck.
Adding to the complexity of this is that whatever happens, the business continuity and disaster recovery requirements still need to be met. On the one hand, CIOs are tempted with innovative solutions and approaches but on the other they still need to keep all systems running and operational. A rip-and-replace approach might have worked a few years ago but being Always-On means that there is no time for even the smallest periods of downtime.
Identifying the right partner means a company has to look at who will be there when they need them, keep their data secure and available, and meet the myriad of compliance and regulatory requirements in the market. Of course, the providers who take the time to understand the business needs of the client in the broader context of its strategy will get their feet in the door first.
“But beyond this, the humble SLA forms one of the defining parameters in knowing which service provider is the right fit for the business. The nuts and bolts of it might be a standardised service contract where various aspects are defined but the potential is so much more. The SLA protects the client and gives clear direction on the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of the relevant stakeholders,” Schuck says.
The SLA, especially in terms of business continuity for the Always-On enterprise, is not simply defining uptime. Rather, attention should be shifted to what happens when there is a failure or disaster. After all, no service provider can guarantee 100 percent uptime.
“When business continuity is needed, that is where the SLA comes into play. The business needs to decide which of its systems (and data) need to be available within minutes of going down. Prioritising data makes not only for a more cost-effective approach but it also guides the business through the process of understanding the important elements of its information.”
Respondents in the 2016 Veeam Availability Report stated that the average written SLAs for recovery time objectives (RTOs) in an organisation for its mission-critical and non-mission-critical applications are three and nine hours respectively. When it comes to South African respondents, the results were six hours for mission-critical applications and 10 hours for non-mission-critical applications.
However, not all data is equal and the service provider needs to adopt a consultative approach with the company to help determine those components that need to be up and running as quickly as possible. This makes the recovery process significantly smoother than trying to do a full restore of data.
“Being connected creates an expectation that the company is able to deliver products and services around the clock. Customers want access irrespective of time, device, or location. Having an effective SLA in place with a service provider that is able to meet the expectations of an Always-On enterprise makes the business more competitive and more relevant in the digital world,” concludes Schuck.