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tain a list of problems and suggestions for their vendor, and these are dealt with satisfac-
torily. Once the system has been in place for five years, the Library plans to carry out a
formal evaluation, comparing their system with those of other vendors and institutions.
Scenarios
A Group of Libraries Using SLAs for collections management
A small regional library is having difficulty in allocating sufficient financial and human
resources to maintain its growing collections database, particularly the range of e-journals
to which it now subscribes.The library is invited to take part in a joint ASP initiative
being put together by other similarly sized libraries, which it is hoped will act as a joint
portal for searching and maintaining their datasets, while at the same time offering
improved services to its patrons. It all sounds very straightforward, but the librarian needs
to be convinced that this is a stable technology and one which will benefit both the
library's patrons and its staff, who at the moment are sorely overworked. After carrying
out some independent research into the current uses of Application Service Providers by
larger libraries in the sector, she decides to join the expanding group. For some months
the institutions engage in preparatory discussion and fact-finding via an online bulletin
board and mailing list. Finally representatives from all of the libraries meet up face-to-face
to discuss what the system should do and how this functionality can be guaranteed.
The representatives are aware that they need to negotiate a Service Level Agreement
with their chosen vendor, which will set down in clear and quantifiable terms the expec-
tations that the libraries have for their project.The trouble is that they are unsure what
such an agreement should contain.They seek advice from contacts with experience in
this field.
The first issue the service provider wishes to cover in the agreement is the percentage
of uptime availability. For most business clients, an acceptable percentage will lie some-
where between 99.9% and 99.9999%; over the course of a year this corresponds to a
range of between eight and three-quarter hours to as little as five and a quarter minutes
of downtime. For a library, such high levels of uptime are not mission-critical, and so the
librarians feel they can sacrifice some uptime for a lower cost service and/or improved
alternative services.The service provider is willing to make this trade-off, as Internet
downtime can be costly for providers if they do not cover themselves from the outset,
particularly in sales-driven environments.
Nevertheless, the service provider still wishes to include a number of exceptions to the
uptime clauses in the agreement.These will include hardware failure on both sides
(which is less common), problems with telecommunications or routing over which the
ASP has no control, negligence on the part of the library consortium, hacker attacks, and
scheduled maintenance, which will be programmed for the libraries' least busy periods.
The librarian reflects that it is a good thing that the libraries are all in the same time
zone, or this could prove a problem with different periods of activity causing problems in
scheduling downtime.
Further issues the libraries will have to consider include technological impermanence,
data loss, and changes in the ways in which users are now approaching the content they
offer.The service level agreement will not resolve all of these problems in a single stroke,
but the libraries must ensure that their provider is able to adapt to changing demands,
The Application
Service Model
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