Why Service Provider Dashboards Fall Short for Enterprise IT
Last week Google experienced a service disruption that affected nearly a third of the users of Gmail. Such outages have been fairly infrequent, but when they do happen they generate quite a bit of news. One article in particular, published on CNET in the midst of the outage, caught my eye. At the top of the article is a screenshot of the Google status dashboard with the subheading that it “indicates some type of issue.”
Imagine yourself, now, in the shoes of an IT administrator relaying status of wide-spread email outage to your boss. How satisfied do you think your boss would be with the statement that “there is ‘some type of issue’ 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 the company’s email wasn’t getting through?
Seems like what they call a career limiting move, right?
But this is exactly how these cloud provider 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 one on Monday 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 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.
True, in the case of an actual service provider outage such as this, customers have no direct means of helping with the resolution (at least not today), but think about the customer experience on Monday 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 going wrong themselves 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 themselves 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 wanting to realize these benefits need to take a fresh look at the tools and techniques they need to manage service levels and user experience. The dashboards are piece of the puzzle, but dashboards alone fall short of the level of visibility and proactive notification that enterprises need.