Let’s Talk SLAs – Service Level Agreements

NASA image of Earth from low Earth orbit (LEO)

Service Level Agreements between a business owner and service provider can be expensive. It’s one of the top IT expenses for many growing businesses. SLAs play an important role for businesses that cannot afford to lose online services. Or a more accurate description would be, businesses that want to be compensated when services go down.

Disruptions to online shops, automated services, communications, productivity, it goes on and on. The more you rely on revenue from the Internet, the more you are susceptible. Some of the most frequent and worst outages occur at the Internet backbone level. This is where access to the internet becomes slow or unavailable. A service disruption at Amazon is more likely and could affect your marketing emails served by smaller provider who rely on those services. For example, an automated email scheduled to send from MailChimp could be delayed as a result of an Amazon service disruption. As we centralize storage and computing of data at large data warehouses like Amazon and Google a chain reaction occurs during downtime. For example, your website is hosted at a Google Data Center in Iowa. Other major hosting providers like Siteground host in the same data center. Once broken the chain can affects everything all the way down to your smartwatch. So SLAs are important to hedge against lost service. Our Google Workspace and Google Cloud Compute clients have SLAs. But the actual value of these SLAs primarily exist in very large budgets when millions of user accounts are affected.

We could provide and have provided SLAs to clients. Today the costs are often prohibitive. Over the years downtime at hosting providers has become less of an issue as they move to larger data centers with redundancy. An SLA costing $500 to $750 per month could give you peace of mind but it’s likely not what you think or what you need.

If we sold you an SLA we would be promising you monetary compensation if our services go down. The realized benefit is limited because disruptions and outages are calculated on a monthly basis. An hour of downtime on a busy Monday morning may not result in compensation unless the downtime resulted in an average monthly uptime drop below say, “95%”.

Because we use Google services for your platform we, like you are still at the mercy of the providers to restore service during an outage. When a service disruption occurs we also wait for service to be restored. We would check last backup integrity, monitor and report progress. This is good for peace of mind but it’s not great for your R.O.I. Especially considering Google service disruptions affect our clients a couple times every few years.

For example, the huge service outage you may have read about last night caused gmail to go down for a small portion of users for 24 minutes. The truth is very different from the stories, at least that’s what we see in your dashboards. For example, this so-called, “widespread outtage” was likely imperceivable by any of our clients or their team members. We hear things like, “yeah, google was acting a little funky” but we cannot be 100% certain the funkiness was a Google issue.

In fact, your Google Admin Dashboard is nearly always above 99.00%. Again, this is calculated over a month so as always the details reveal the real issue. In this case the 1% of downtime experienced in 2020 could happen at the exact time you are trying to warn your team about a virus circulating through your office wi-fi. In this case 1% downtime can be incredibly frustrating and the SLA would automatically credit your account for a few days or dollars of service time. The $2-$5 dollars compensation or free day of service essentially nullifies the value of the SLA. What you really want is someone to be responsible for monitoring and reporting problems to you that are affecting your online business. That’s what we do for managed hosting and marketing services for clients. It’s less of a feature and more of a commitment.

For the reasons mentioned above, uptime is of course critical during certain minutes of the day. But disruption or outtage reporting should not cost you $500 per month. Especially for a healthy business with great backup and retore processes. What you really want is to only pay for SLA services during a problem. It doesn’t mean your other software and hardware doesn’t experience downtime and we’re available to help. Your Google Workspace Account is covered by this SLA.

That’s exactly what our managed hosting clients receive. We don’t report issues that do not and likely will not ever affect your business. From time zone and data center locations to the way you use Google services in your business, you simply do not need to know when the Singapore data center is having a ten minute service disruption for 10% of local users in Singapore at 3am HST. You need to know your online business is protected with standard operating procedures that work. Especially your website security. Security is a much larger threat and a considerable amount of energy is placed in your website security. You really want to know your data is safe. That’s what we do and that’s what you get when you trust us with your online business services. Your security information is always available in your WordPress dashboard. You can always take a look at the Google Workspace Status Dashboard and make your own decision.

But we also want to hear your experience. Did you notice any service disruption? Any funkiness in your Google services i.e.; Gmail, Drive/Docs/Sheets, Calendar or other on any device?