Don’t fall for gimmicks, 100% uptime SLA doesn’t mean 100% uptime

When I was a child I believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Leprechauns. Yes, Leprechauns. While I now know that these characters were created to inspire kids, there's no denying that it's a deceptive practice. It’s weird to say out loud (or write) but part of me thinks that the deception is why parents do it. *SPOILER ALERT* Santa Clause doesn’t really fly around the globe breaking into homes to leave gifts under a tree. You (hopefully) know that the reality is that adults use this sleight of hand to help kids believe in magic and that anything is possible. The intention is positive, so even it's a bit deceptive, most of us would agree that it’s all well and good.

Anytime you find a technology provider that offers a 100% uptime SLA, however, they’re basically trying to convince you that the Tooth Fairy really does exist. This 100% uptime SLA claim is also a sleight of hand because it doesn’t mean what many believe it implies, 100% uptime.

There are several questions businesses need to ask and understand while examining any contractual SLA with financial penalties if the SLA isn’t achieved.

Does the SLA increase the price of the service?

Often times when you find a technology provider offering this extremely eye-catching agreement they will increase the price by either limiting their discount capabilities or in some cases actually telling you that it will cost extra. The reason this kind of misleading companies do this is to hedge their bet so when they do have downtime (which they will) the financial impact to them is essentially nothing. The businesses, in this case, are simply paying for a type of insurance to provide some sort of coverage when the technology inevitably does have downtime.

What is the downtime track record for the previous 18 months?

Why 18 months you might wonder, it’s so you have at least 6 months of year-over-year comparison plus the most recent six month period. This should give you a clear understanding of trends and/or patterns. Once you have this info you now need to hold the technology provider accountable by moving to the next question on this list.

Ask reference customers about downtime and compare their answers to what the vendor provided

If you don’t already know this, you should ALWAYS ask for a customer referral to validate claims being made that seem too good to be true, like a 100% uptime SLA. During these reference interviews have your downtime report on hand form the vendor and validate with the customer that the information you have is accurate and not excluding anything significant. Sadly some technology providers do try to bend the truth to align with the reality they wish they lived in.

Examine if the financial credit is really worth hours of downtime

One of the primary issues with a financially backed SLA is that the penalty the technology provider owes is finite while the downtime could cause catastrophic problems with financial impacts that last far longer and are far more significant than any credit a technology provider might have to pay up. I always do the math to see what an hour of downtime is at the peak time of day, on the peak week of the year to determine how much revenue would be impacted. Once you have this number, double it and that’s what you should push for in your credit terms regarding a 100% uptime SLA. If they can’t agree to it, they know their SLA is as real as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

What’s excluded from the uptime calculation?

It seems more and more providers are overtly publicizing their SLAs and commitment to high availability, yet more often than not we don’t have the deepest understanding as to how they calculate uptime. For instance, some providers exclude downtime that takes place during routine maintenance in the overall calculation of their monthly uptime. While it might be in the fine print of the contract, this is an important distinction to clarify upfront as this type of sleight of hand is what ultimately gives a provider all the wiggle room they need to avoid paying out financial credits for downtime and present the “Santa Claus” to you that is the illusion of super-high availability.

Belief in these childlike wonders is one thing. Deception is another. Don’t fall into the trap of alluring messaging with false figures that carry no substance. Get real with your provider and know what’s actually on the table when it comes to uptime SLAs.