Azure SLAs

Another quite short post today, but for a complex topic.

I had the discussion several times with our customers, and more recently with several Microsoftees and MS partners.
The discussion boils down to “SLAs for Azure are complex, and you might not get what you think”.
And I’ll add “you might get better or worse than you are used to on-premises”.

Quick reminder, the official SLA website is here :
They are adapted quite frequently and what I write today might be proven wrong very soon. Yes, it happens, sometimes I am right for a long time 🙂

Back to our SLAs. I will focus on one service, but the idea can be expanded to almost all services.

Some services SLA are quite easy to figure out. Take Virtual Machines (Azure or not) for example. You just have to decide what metric proves that a VM is alive (ping reply for example), and measure that. Do some computation at the end of the month, and you’re done.

With backups, the official SLA () is a monthly uptime percentage. Which does not mean much for me, speaking of backups. Luckily, there is a definition of “downtime” :
“Downtime” is the total accumulated Deployment Minutes across all Protected Items scheduled for Backup by Customer in a given Microsoft Azure subscription during which the Backup Service is unavailable for the Protected Item. The Backup Service is considered unavailable for a given Protected Item from the first Failure to Back Up or Restore the Protected Item until the initiation of a successful Backup or Recovery of a Protected Item, provided that retries are continually attempted no less frequently than once every thirty minutes.

Meaning basically that the “backup service” has to be available at all time, whether you try to backup or restore. But, and there are actually two buts, there is not hard commitment there. Microsoft will give you back a service credit if the service is not provided, to the limit of a 25% credit. Eventually, you could get no service at all for a month, and you would get a 25% service credit. And the second, more important, but, there is absolutely nothing about a guarantee on your data. You could lose all of your data, and at most get a 25% service credit.
Some people would then point you to the storage SLA, stating that once the backup is stored, the SLA that applies is the one from storage. Another but here, as we are in the same situation : no commitment about your data.

One note : I never looked closely at the SaaS services SLAs (Office365 for example), but I remember someone from Microsoft IT saying that it was too difficult, and expensive, even for them, to build the infrastructure and services to compete with what Office365 offers. So yes, you might dig into their SLAs, and find that they have a light hand… but think hard on what you can do yourself, and how much it would cost you 🙂

Do not get me wrong, Microsoft does a quite good job with its SLAs, and from my experience, a way better job that most companies can do internally or for their customers. I worked for a hosting company, and I can assure you that we could write down an SLA about backups, and even commit to it. We could pray that we would be right, and prepare the compensations in case we were at fault, but that was it. There was no way for us to economically handle a complete guarantee.

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