Microsoft Azure Outage – 5 Things You Should Know About Cloud SLAs

Spend Matters welcomes another guest post from Forrest Silverman of NPI, a spend management consultancy focused on eliminating overspending on IT, telecom, and shipping. 

On Monday, Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing services suffered an outage that lasted approximately five hours. The disruption was one of the most severe Azure outages in history, affecting multiple data centers and customers across the globe. So, what happens if you’re one of those affected customers? Or, if you’re considering a move to Microsoft Azure or another cloud computing service? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Microsoft is on the hook for penalties, but it’s not easy to claim them. Microsoft is willing to pay a penalty for Azure downtime that falls outside of their Service Level Agreement (SLA) commitments, but it’s the responsibility of the customer to follow a precise (and tedious) process to file a claim. Here is an example of what this process looks like for Microsoft claims:

ii. In order to be eligible to submit a Claim with respect to any Incident, the Customer must first have notified Customer Support of the Incident, using the procedures set forth by Microsoft, within five business days following the Incident.

iii. To submit a Claim, Customer must contact Customer Support and provide notice of its intention to submit a Claim.  Customer must provide to Customer Support all reasonable details regarding the Claim, including but not limited to, detailed descriptions of the Incident(s), the duration of the Incidents, the names of affected databases, failed operations, and any attempts made by Customer to resolve the Incident.

iv. In order for Microsoft to consider a Claim, Customer must submit the Claim, including sufficient evidence to support the Claim, by the end of the billing month following the billing month in which the Incident which is the subject of the Claim occurs.

v. Microsoft will use all information reasonably available to it to validate Claims and make a good faith judgment on whether the SLA and Service Levels apply to the Claim.

2. Microsoft Azure SLAs change often. Under the Azure platform, there are 20 different cloud computing services, all of which have their own SLA. These SLAs change frequently and customers are rarely notified directly. It’s up to the customer to stay on top of SLA changes and to understand how they affect their business.

3. Cloud computing SLAs are rarely negotiable. Unless you’re one of Microsoft’s largest customers and can afford a dedicated cloud environment, your enterprise’s SLA will look just like the one provided to Joe’s Coffee Shop down the street. That makes points 1 and 2 even more important.

4. You need to know how disaster recovery will be handled. Make sure your contract specifies how and how often data will be backed up, the cost associated with that (don’t assume it’s free) and what happens in the event of an outage. It’s also wise to determine if you or your vendor should get business insurance to cover any losses in revenue caused by outages.

5. You also need to understand terms for termination costs and transition assistance. Sometimes, it takes an outage for a company to realize the risk of IaaS is simply too great for them to bear, or that it’s time to switch vendors.  Specifying termination costs and data transfer guidelines upfront in the contract makes this process far less painful and costly.

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