Back in 2012, the European Commission (‘Commission’) adopted the Cloud Computing Strategy to promote the adoption of cloud computing and ultimately boost productivity. In June 2014, the Cloud Select Industry Group – Subgroup on Service Legal Agreements published Standardisation Guidelines for Cloud Service Level Agreements (‘Guidelines’) as part of this strategy.

To achieve standardisation of Service Level Agreements (‘SLAs’), the Guidelines call for action “at an international level, rather than at national or regional level”, and cite three main concerns. Firstly, SLAs are usually applied over multiple jurisdictions, and this can result in the application of differing legal requirements. Secondly, the variety of cloud services and potential deployment models necessitate different approaches to SLAs. Finally, the terminology used is highly variable between different service providers, presenting a difficulty for cloud customers when trying to compare products.

A number of principles are put forward to assist organisations through the development of standard agreements, including technical neutrality, business model neutrality, world-wide applicability, the use of unambiguous definitions and comparable service level objectives, standards and guidelines that span customer types, and the use of proof points to ensure the viability of concepts.

The Guidelines also cover the common categories of service level objectives (‘SLOs’) typically covered by SLAs relating to performance, security data management and data protection.  In particular, SLOs cover availability, response time, capacity, support, and end-of-service data migration, as well as authentication and authorization, cryptography, security incident management and reporting, monitoring, and vulnerability management.  Some of the important data-management SLOs cover data classification, business continuity and disaster recovery, as well as data portability. The personal data protection SLOs address codes of conduct, standards and certification, purpose specification, data minimization, use, retention and disclosure, transparency and accountability, location of the personal data, and the customer’s ability to intervene.

The Commission hopes the Guidelines will facilitate relationships between service providers and customers, and encourage the adoption of cloud computing and related technologies.