Backup SLAs: The art of diplomacy


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You need more than technical acumen to negotiate an SLA with your business units.

Negotiating service-level agreements (SLAs) can be one of the trickiest elements of transitioning IT from a mere technology competence center to a real part of the business. Detailing what a backup service will provide to its customers, and figuring out how to measure and report on these promises, will improve satisfaction and alignment; however, many IT professionals lose their cool when discussing service levels with business managers.

SLAs are a hot IT topic (see "

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The essential elements of an SLA"). They're a key element in transitioning IT from merely "something that has to be taken care of" to a critical business advantage. SLAs hinge on the proposition that proper feedback to a customer will yield better products. In other words, if IT can clearly articulate what they'll deliver, computer systems users will be better able to ask for what they need. And when people who know the business have their needs met more appropriately and efficiently by internal groups, the whole enterprise benefits.

Of course, this isn't how IT operates at most companies. Indeed, the recent high-profile stories of companies that failed to protect their data brought the discipline of data backup into the limelight like perhaps no other element of IT infrastructure. Judges are subpoenaing data restores, lost tapes are embarrassing companies and possibly compromising their customers, and natural disasters are exposing the poor data protection practices at many organizations. With all of these outside pressures on the business, IT staffers are subjected to daily demands to increase backup service levels.

This was first published in September 2006

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