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Why Service Provider Dashboards Fall Short for Enterprise IT

Organizations need to take a fresh look at the tools and techniques they need to assure service levels and user experience

In September, Google experienced a services disruption that affected nearly a third of Gmail users. As you'd expect, it generated quite a bit of news. Such outages are fairly infrequent, but even Google struggled to resolve it. The Google status dashboard during that outage simply said "indicates some type of issue."

Imagine yourself, now, in the shoes of an IT administrator relaying the status of a widespread email outage to your boss. How satisfied do you think your boss would be with the statement that "something's wrong and we're looking into it," if that's all the information you could provide? Worse yet, what if you didn't even provide that information until after your boss spent the last hour trying to figure out why email wasn't getting through?

Seems like what they call a career-limiting move, right?

But this is exactly how these cloud status dashboards convey service level information. Obviously, the problem for cloud service providers, particularly those delivering mission critical SaaS applications like email, real-time communication, and document collaboration, is that incidents such as the that one scare organizations away from the cloud. However, the problem is not so much that there was an outage. Incidents like this are rare and the major SaaS providers are generally recognized to have architected and operate datacenters that are more sophisticated and reliable than most enterprises.

The real problem is that events like this cause organizations to fear that they will be blindsided by outages in the cloud, and when problems do occur, they won't have any visibility into where the problems are, much less have any control in resolving them.

Yes, in the case of an actual service provider outage such as the one Google experienced, customers have no direct means of helping with the resolution (at least not today), but think about the customer experience that day while people were trying to figure out what was wrong with their Gmail. How much time did the end users, in addition to IT departments, lose trying to figure out what was wrong or checking Twitter before the dashboard was updated? That may be acceptable for an individual using a free email service, but it isn't for an organization where email communication is key to employee productivity.

The broader problem is that while actual SaaS provider outages are infrequent, users' access to SaaS also depends on the internet connection between them and the service provider as well as their own organization's IT infrastructure. Both of these are more likely to be the source of service delivery problems, and no cloud dashboard can provide insight into issues in those parts of the delivery chain.

Don't get me wrong. Using cloud apps for email, collaboration, and document storage is definitely the way to go. The lower costs and richer capabilities are hard to argue with. However, organizations that want to take full advantage of these benefits need to take a fresh look at the tools and techniques they need to assure service levels and user experience. The dashboards are pieces of the puzzle, but dashboards alone fall short of the level of visibility and proactive notification enterprises need.

More Stories By Patrick Carey

Patrick Carey is vice president of product management and marketing for Exoprise, a provider of cloud-based monitoring and enablement solutions for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. He spends his free time thinking about how companies can get to the cloud faster and stay there longer.

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