Author Archive: Born a Geek

Hosting and SLAs – Why Uptime is Important

Before we get into the meat of this article let us first define our terms, not everyone, after all, knows what SLA means or what uptime is. Some people may not understand what hosting means either.

Hosting simply means that a company or individual is letting another individual or company use their servers for information space on the internet, typically to host a website. Web site hosting is the most common type of internet hosting.

SLA simply means service level agreement. A service level agreement is merely the section of a service contract wherein the actual service is clearly defined.

Uptime is the measure of time on a computing device and longer uptime is usually considered a testament to the systems stability and durability in relation to a web host. The longer the uptime, the better the system and it’s maintenance, generally speaking. However, exceedingly long periods of uptime may indicate negligence to the system as reboots and updates are often highly recommended and sometimes essential, depending on the system in question.

So why is uptime so essential, is it even? The answer to that question lies in the answer to another, how often do you use your website and what do you use it for?

If your website is entirely for the purposes of recreation, such a photo gallery for friends and family and there is no revenue generation or financial dependency, then you probably do not have to worry about uptime or downtime all that much.

However, if your website is dedicated to an ecommerce venture and you and others are financially relying upon it to put bread on the table then you will definitely want to concern yourself with uptime and downtime.

The reason for this is quite simple really, the more uptime you have the more access your customers have to your goods and services. Just as the longer a store stays open the more money it will be able to make. Conversely, the more downtime your website has the less your customers will have access to your goods and services and this will cause them to start going to other websites for those products. This leads to a direct loss of revenue and will burn a hole quite quickly in your virtual bank vault. To avoid this it is highly recommended that you implement a uptime and downtime tracking software program. There are providers whom you or your business can hire to do this for you, so that whenever you being to have difficulty with your serves you will be instantly notified of, not just the problem, but also data on possible solution, via email, text or other quick, digital messaging.

Managing an SLA -Things to Know

Outsourcing services to third parties for the sake of efficiency is the new trend. However, nothing is outsourced more than web hosting. The reason for this includes lack of space, less money, lack of technical experience needed for utilizing a company’s own servers, and requiring expert advice to achieve better results. Whatever the reason may be, signing the SLA or Service Level Agreement is necessary. This contract defines the responsibilities of the service provider towards the customers and is, essentially, there to benefit both the parties. In order to ensure that the SLA is managed properly, some things need to be kept in mind.

• Quantification of Everything – When an SLA for web hosting is being signed and managed, the most important thing to know is quantification of services. Make sure and check regularly for the services that are specified in your SLA and if the web host is honoring them. This means keeping tabs on storage space, checking response time for resolving technical problems and site speed. These should be stated in the SLA in measurable numbers. Whether you choose to have a paid or free SLA management system, ensure that this point is kept in mind.

• Regular Meetings with Service Provider – You should insist on regular meetings with the service provider to ensure that the SLA team is always up-to-date and on their toes regarding developments and changes, if any. Is the speed that is being paid for received? Is the response time for technical issues like DOS attacks and server speeds being met? The quicker these issues are cleared, the better it will be for both the parties. The provider will know if they are fulfilling their side of the deal. You and your company will be able to maintain the productivity levels. Even if you can’t meet with a service provider, it may be a good idea to use some type of interface that allows you to monitor an SLA in order to make sure that they are meeting the agreed upon terms. Dotcom Monitor’s SLA management tool provides a number of things that a person looking to monitor their SLA may be interested in having. In addition to them, Pingdom also has a number of good tools available for the same purpose.

• Penalties – The good SLAs that are drawn up with competence always have a section stating the fees and penalties that either party will have to pay in case duties are not fulfilled by them. There are some businesses and customers that simply refuse to pay for the services received if the servers were halted because of technical problems. Sometimes, SLAs mention a time frame in case an issue does not resolve. These things can only be clarified by giving the SLA a thorough read.

If the SLA is managed properly and the above points are kept in mind, the results would be efficient for both the parties.

Why It’s Important to Keep Track of Your SLA

Firstly, you need to know what an SLA is. SLA is short for “Service Level Agreement” and is basically a contract. A service provider’s responsibilities to its customers are defined in an SLA. The services should ideally be described in detail and might be designed for specific customer related services or services to a group of customers or even a corporation.

• Importance of SLA – The mark of a good SLA is – specified metrics using which the services will be measured, process of remedying problems, and in case of service level breach, penalties and fees the provider would be liable to pay – are mentioned. Also, both the service provider and the customer will be protected by a good SLA. This ensures that the promised services are provided to the customer but the provider is not penalized if the fault lies with the customer, for instance, if timely information is not provided by the customer. In order to protect the interests of both the involved parties in the long term, expectations are defined from the relationship’s conception and misunderstandings are, thus, avoided in case of any future disputes.

• SLA and Web Hosting – When using an ISP for web hosting, the SLA should be examined closely. Special attention should be paid to security measures, quality (technical), availability of network and similar details. Network availability should have further subdivisions on the basis of time and percentage. For instance, 98% availability between 6am to 11pm. Check whether infrastructure related to the network – like routers, switches and cabling – is included in the SLA. Check for the inclusion of the server of the customer in the hosting network. Also read the fine print, focusing on response time to issues like DOS attacks, service outages et al. There are a number of tools that can be used for Sla management, many of them being third party or paid tools, but if keeping track of your SLA is important, then it may be something worth looking into. Obviously not everyone needs this, but if you do it may be worthwhile.

• Managing And Keeping a Track of Your SLA – SLA is a dynamic document and thus, needs periodic reviews, whether it’s used for hosting an e-commerce site or a personal blog. Metrics can change because of increase in traffic on the website or workloads because of technological improvements. Sometimes, you might have to see if the terms of the SLA are being met by your web host by keeping a track of uptime/downtime.

Finally, the biggest reason for managing and keeping a track of your SLA is that you don’t want to pay money for services you are not receiving and the only way to ensure that is to keep a close watch.