Service level agreements are a common feature of enterprise IT. They include guarantees of specified levels of availability and uptime, application response time, end-user support and problem resolution, and – of course – those DR staples of RTO and RPO. However, these SLAs are often a disconnected collection of promises. You could even call them “islands of commitment”, like people talk about “islands of automation” and other items in the IT world that have not been linked together for added business value. That’s a shame, because when used correctly, SLAs for IT in general and for disaster recovery in particular can provide value directly back to the business as a whole.

It’s a three stage process. We need to start with the business value we want, such as achieving levels of revenue, high scores in customer satisfaction, or the availability of a service to a community. These high level goals can then be assigned indicators to measure an enterprise’s performance. These are the key performance indicators or KPIs. Customer satisfaction for instance might be measured in terms of regular survey scores, customer delivery success rate, and customer service response time. These KPIs then rely on service level agreements like the ones listed above. For example, RTO will affect customer response time, RPO can have an impact on successful delivery, and so on.

Now RPO can be viewed not just in terms of a time window of data, but also as a guarantee that customer orders will not be lost. Similarly, RTO can guarantee that those orders will also be executed without undue delay to a customer, even if systems go down. Moreover, these and other IT SLAs show where things might go wrong, compared to higher-level KPIs that often tell you (too late) that things have already gone wrong. For instance, regular testing of DR procedures is the opportunity to get back on track for RTO and RPO, if performance for these SLAs has dipped since the last check. That way, disaster recovery SLAs can proactively help a business achieve its goals, feeding value back up the chain via the KPIs to the overall business objectives.