In any outsourcing relationship between customers and service providers, SLAs (Service Level Agreements) have been long touted as one of the important factors. Hosting providers often use SLAs to ease fear among customers about the danger of outsourcing. The common method is by defining a specific service level and specifying solutions if it isn’t met. However, in some cases, SLAs fail to create the trust, providers are seeking. Perhaps it’s caused by the fact that SLAs are designed with no considerations whether providers can actually meet the SLAs. Many providers lack the resources to perform on a service level mandated by the SLAs, worse; even fewer hosting providers have reliable systems that can measure compliance to SLAs accurately.
SLAs require web hosts to provide free services or discount when they fail to live up to expectations, but it’s unlikely customers will consider these remedies as sufficient. In the end, customers seek providers that can offer reliable services, not discounts that providers give when they fail to deliver. Due to the repeated failures, SLAs are increasingly becoming marketing tools. Because SLAs no longer foster trust, customers are quite wary about outsourcing agreements and most of the time they need to decide which projects to keep in-house and which to outsource.
Service providers can establish trustworthiness by supplying consistent, reliable and cost-effective services that SLAs have originally promised. With verifiable and reliable services, it’s possible to establish a loyal customer base that outsource more over time. Instead of focusing on SLAs, web hosting providers should prioritize on TLC (Trust Level Control) and this is achievable only by reassessing the data center architecture. Today, SLAs don’t deliver because it has things that providers simply can’t meet,
TLC can provide five-9’s (99.999%) reliability, but it requires specific requirements to work properly:
- Dedicated resources: For major customers, a primary concern in outsourcing is to find dedicated facilities and resources that they can use alone. Providers must assure customers that they can get dedicated resources that can’t be brought down by the failure of other customers’ account. Although providers can accomplish this with co-location cages; such arrangements often drive operational costs through the roof. Rather, providers should make sure that the data center is highly integrated and can provide good software and hardware allocation for each customer.
- Cost-effective redundancy: Today’s web hosting architecture is a collection of equipments strung together. To improve reliability significantly, customers should agree to install redundant systems and locate them in separate data centers. Data centers should provide full software and hardware redundancy to achieve very high reliability without penalizing customers.
- Scalable performance: Services should be highly scalable and can meet sudden increase in demand. Scaling a modern system often takes too long and disrupts users. However, because webhosting is a service-oriented business, disruptions are highly intolerable. To achieve Five-9’s reliability highly scalable equipments are necessary.
- Centralized management: Quick troubleshooting and reliable service require well-organized management. It is often difficult to achieve reliability with separate or dispersed management systems. Data centers should also be managed under a single system to help pinpoint and troubleshoot issues, which in turn will improve reliability.
- Customer control: In any outsourcing relationship, maintaining trust level can ensure long-term relationship. It can be achieved by allowing users to see many things related to their hosting account. Many providers issue snapshots and reports on a weekly basis; however customers want real-time monitoring over its account. If traffic dips, customers need to quickly determine whether it is caused by problems in the data center, network equipments or client’s network. Recent technologies in web hosting allow providers to provide highly manageable and reliable service.
Trust Level Control can be achieved by offering a way for customers to monitor their outsourced resources. It also creates an environment where it is easy to offer add-on services and accelerated business development.