How does your cloud service provider’s service level agreement (SLA) stack up against the new EC guidelines?

Lifting the Cloud on SLAs

How does your cloud service provider’s service level agreement (SLA) stack up against the new EC guidelines?

The Cloud Select Industry Group – Subgroup on Service Level Agreements (the Group) has been established to work with the European Commission to work towards technical and contractual standardisation for cloud SLAs between cloud providers and professional cloud users.

The Group’s new guidelines, issued on 24 June 2014, seek to ensure that everyone (cloud service customers, providers and regulators included) understands the information set out in SLAs and other cloud service documents. In particular, customers should be provided with sufficient information about metric(s) used for each quantitative Service Level Objectives (SLO) so that similar services can be compared easily and informed decisions can be made when choosing a provider.

The Group identified four key SLO areas: performance, security, data management and data protection.

1. Performance: The performance and quality of cloud-computing services should primarily be monitored by the following (non-exhaustive) service level and credit mechanisms.

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2. Security: SLOs should provide measurable objectives allowing the customer to understand what the cloud service provider is offering, and allowing the cloud service provider to understand the security level requested by the customer.  For example:

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3. Data Management: these SLOs are subdivided into four categories.

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4. Data Protection: the cloud customer acts as data controller and the service provider as a data processor. This processing of personal data must comply with relevant legislation.

It should be noted that these guidelines will be revised and updated once the Data Protection Code of Conduct for cloud service providers has been published.

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It is clear that the advantages of on-demand access to services, the ability to leverage economies of scale, a broad geographical distribution and the ability to flex services to meet differing levels of demand are attracting more companies to engage with cloud computing service providers.

These guidelines (and the non-exhaustive list of SLOs) aim to improve clarity and understanding of cloud SLAs for customers and provide a helpful checklist for customers wishing to make a meaningful comparison of the offerings of competing cloud service providers.