The Van Halen SLA

Nov 2010

The Van Halen SLA

Posted by Larry Bourgeois

A coworker recently pointed me to a blog post on Blue Shift that tells the story of how the rock group Van Halen had, buried in each of their performance contracts, a strange requirement: a bowl of M&Ms backstage with all the brown M&Ms removed.

Were Van Halen’s actions vanity or astute business acumen? On the surface this sure sounds like rock star vanity. Way back when I was in high school, and heard this for the first time, that is exactly what I thought. What prima donnas!! However, what the blog article points out is that this was, in fact, a calculated move by the band to determine whether they could expect every other technical detail of their show to be handled correctly too. If the smallest requirement is met, then every other requirement is more likely to be met as well. Who would have thought that David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen or anyone else on their rockstar tour bus would have had the foresight to come up with such a simple, yet elegant solution to a technical issue faced daily while on tour.

 The remainder of the blog article went on to focus on how this related to Cloud applications and Cloud Security. However, I think that this applies in a much broader sense to the world in which Asigra works every day -- the world of managed services and the Managed Service Provider. The same challenges faced by Van Halen while on tour are also faced daily by companies as they look to outsource their IT and services. These challenges are also faced by the MSPs themselves as they strive to ensure that they provide a quality product to their customers.

A company looking to outsource anything to an MSP must ensure that all their needs are being met by their service provider. In short, does the MSP provide the level of diligence it takes to guarantee not a single brown M&M in the bowl? Your company’s unique requirements are your best M&M test. Look in your bowl of M&Ms. If there are no brown ones - that is, they’ve addressed your tiny, idiosyncratic requirements - then it’s likely your MSP has the policies, procedures, and diligent staff to handle every other requirement.

An MSP, however, that takes a cookie cutter approach and leaves even one brown M&M in your bowl is probably leaving more. You just haven’t found them yet. You may want to reconsider whether the competency is there to meet your needs.

The M&M test – some questions MSP should be able to answer:

  • How long has the MSP been in business?
  • How many customers do they have?
  • Will they provide references?
  • Do they provide a written SLA and support policies?
  • Is their staff certified and trained on the right products, applications and operating systems?
  • Do they have enough staff to provide 24x7x365 support?
  • Is their datacenter SAS-70 certified?
  • Can they readily identify your unique requirements?
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