The Cloud Contract Adviser: Service-level agreements

Be sure you know exactly how much downtime you're likely to experience -- and when

So you've heard how this great new thing called cloud computing provides benefits such as rapid deployment, flexible scalability and low start-up cost. Sounds like a no-brainer, and you should sign up without further ado, right? Sadly, it's not so simple.

Cloud computing serves as an umbrella term (no pun intended) encompassing software as a service, infrastructure as a service and platform as a service. The common thread here is "service," so one of the key issues to consider is the level of service that will be required to meet your needs.

The contract between a client organization and a cloud provider is the place to codify service-level agreements (SLA), including specific parameters and definitions for each element of the service provided, and remedies for when SLAs aren't met. Aspects of cloud services where SLAs might come into play include:

* Service availability

* Performance and response time

* Error correction time

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