Why Internal SLAs Shouldn't Feel Like Punishments
by Joe Michalowski on

Service-level agreements (SLAs) are becoming increasingly familiar territory for the average IT leader. Unfortunately, the number of SaaS SLAs is sprawling across IT organizations to the point that it’s nearly impossible to manage them all.

Business-critical applications are increasingly moving to the cloud and it’s only a matter of time before bandwidth resources start to succumb to the pressure—if yours haven’t already.

Despite their negative reputation, internal SLAs might be the best way to align business objectives with IT operations.

Internal SLAs Aren’t New

If you’ve been around long enough, you might remember when internal SLAs were discussed in the early days of internet-connected applications. Also known as chargeback, the idea is that IT allocates specific technology resources to business units to understand department usage and needs.

Meant as a tool for IT leaders to maintain performance, internal SLAs gained a reputation as punishments for business users. Everyone can agree that external SLAs benefit the business because they keep providers accountable. But tell a business leader that you’re going to put guidelines and restrictions on application usage, and the conversation takes a turn for the worse.

Business leaders are no strangers to application performance KPIs and metrics. Understanding application performance provides insights into where technology might be hindering employee productivity. However, implementing internal SLAs against these KPIs and metrics often make managers feel like their own performance is being called into question.

The purpose of an internal SLA shouldn’t be to punish business users—it should be to call attention to potential problems, set performance expectations and create a clear path to conflict resolution.

With so many external SLAs to manage, internal SLAs now provide the best means of optimizing bandwidth utilization and application availability.

Internal SLAs Keep Cloud Application Demands in Check

In a perfect world, every cloud application would have unfettered access to network resources, giving business users the freedom to enjoy peak performance no matter the situation.

But IT leaders know that this isn’t possible. There’s only so much bandwidth to go around and, like it or not, certain applications are more important than others within an organization. Someday, IT infrastructure may reach a point where every application can access unlimited bandwidth—but that’s not today.

From an IT perspective, using internal SLA planning when cloud apps are involved lets you lay out all of your external agreements and prioritize them in the context of your network’s capabilities. When you set expectations for QoS, end-user performance/experience, application availability and troubleshooting time to resolution, the whole business benefits.

Every business leader will expect top-tier service—redundant WAN connectivity, load balancing capable of handling even the largest spikes in traffic, consistent application response times that are near-instant, four-nines or greater availability, and top-priority helpdesk responses. Your job is to make business users feel they’re getting all of this without exhausting the network. Certainly, it’s easier said than done.

Application groups may feel restricted at first, but if you manage internal SLAs properly, business leaders will never notice their presence. Ideally, they’ll feel like they’re getting the technology resources they and their teams need.

However, proper planning and management of internal SLAs requires an intimate understanding of cloud application contracts. Have you become a cloud broker for your organization? Or are your business leaders losing faith in the IT organization?

If you want to learn more about the need to adapt to the cloud-based workplace, check out this infographic about becoming a cloud broker.

Filed Under: cloud computing, Performance Monitoring

Tags: cloud services SLA , SaaS applications , SLAs