Salesforce outage that happened this month has rightfully provoked all sorts of discussions about the dangers of cloud offerings. Most of those discussions are only theoretically interesting, since they are, for the most part, speculations on various aspects of what needs to be done to avoid this kind of situations, what the customers can do, what the service providers can do, why A is better than B and so on.
In my mind, what happened to SalesForce manifests a problem that can happen to other cloud services any time. It is a given, it is not something to discuss, it is just in the nature of this technology that it may fail. And it will, sooner or later, which was so effeciently demonstrated by SalesForce. So the question is not whether it`s going to fail and when, the question is what happens if it does and how that affects us, the customers.
And the only way we can somewhat appreciate those effects is by looking into the disaster recovery plans which are implemented by the service providers. So would not it be interesting to review what Microsoft is offering in that respect for Dynamics CRM?
Basically, there are two distinct aspects we could be looking at in that respect:
This is all about Service Level Agreements. Which are also called uptime guarantees. I don`t like the term since it is really not a guarantee – it is more a promise of service fee compensation. That, of course, is better than nothing, but there is something inherently wrong with this whole idea. You either have to trust the service or not. And, if you do, the service you purchased can become a very core part of your business processes. Once and if it happens, that kind of service fee compensation stops meaning anything since you will be expeiencing a business disruption whenever the service goes down, and that will be costing you much more than the service fee itself.
With that said, Dynamics CRM Online is offering the following SLA-s and service credits:
Less than 99.9% uptime – Microsoft will issue a 25% service credit.
Less than 99% uptime – Microsoft will issue a 50% service credit.
Less than 95% uptime – Microsoft will issues a 100% service credit.
Just to put this in perspective, though, 95% uptime means that you need to experience at least 1.5 days outage per month before you get to the point where 100% of the service fees are compensated.
2. Disaster Recovery Plans
Once we know the compensation structure, which, again, might not be that important, what we might really be interested in is to know what happens to the service when the disaster hits. Surprisingly, this is a somewhat grey area when it comes to Dynamics CRM online since Dynamics CRM is making no specific promises in that respect.
There are some parameters which would be normally looked at in the disaster recovery scenarios. For example, we might be looking at the RTO(recovery time objective, or how long it is going to the service provide to recover data) and RPO (recovery point objective – more or less about how much of your data will be lost).
Whether I was looking in the wrong places, or whether it is just what it is, but I was not able to find any details on that.
There is limited amount of material on Microsoft web site which is indirectly referring to what may happen, though:
This is where possible data loss and outages are mentioned.
This is where Microsoft speaks to the benefits of using SQL Always On feature withoug commiting to any numbers, though (besides, again, providing a reference to the SLA-s mentioned above).
What`s the conclusion, then? It is simple – disaster recovery plans for Dynamics CRM should be explained in much greater details. Otherwise, I would love to say that Dynamics CRM Online customers are protected better than SalesForce customers, but, right now, this is not something we can easily prove.