SLA? What Is It And Why Do I Need One?

by / Wednesday, 29 May 2013 / Published in Business

SLA: Service Guarantee

When researching your IT company options, one thing to keep in mind is that your infrastructure is only going to be as good as the service you receive. And your service is only guaranteed within the bounds of the service level agreement (SLA) that your IT provider offers. This is one of the sticking points you should definitely go over in detail with your managed services provider in order to hammer down those things that will pertain to your agreement.

But first, let’s go over a little about what this actually looks like.

What is included in an SLA?

Your SLA will include an agreement from the company stating the terms of your guaranteed uptime; that is, how much of the time you can expect your network and systems to be up and running. Your agreement will include service terms as well: what types of service you can expect from the company, what items are not covered under your contract, and response times.

Here’s where you need to be proactive when looking over your agreement. Different providers and different agreements will have unique terms of service. Reading between the lines will guarantee you understand what you’re signing onto. Working with an established, trusted provider with reputable references will alleviate fears associated with a new partnership. However, reading through your Ts and Cs will give you proper expectations down the road.

End-User Support

Depending on the type of service you are looking for, your agreement may not cover end-user support, or it may be billed on an hourly basis. An SLA will tell you what kinds of support you are entitled to. It’s important to know whether or not your end users will have reliable, predictable support. Not knowing can lead to significant headaches if your users request support when it is not under contract.

Third Party Application Support

Your IT provider will include in your SLAs what types of third party applications they will host and support. This includes providing service and support for installs and updates to the programs as well as hosting the application within the environment of your choice. Knowing what is and is not covered can minimize frustration when dealing with third party applications.

Exit Strategy 

Ideally, your partnership with your managed services or cloud provider should be long, healthy and mutually beneficial. However, sometimes it’s in the best interest to part ways. When agreeing to terms of service, it’s imperative you determine your exit strategy up front. This allows mobility should either you or your provider need to move out of this agreement for unforeseen reasons, and it’s a security policy that shouldn’t be ignored.

Support Availability

An SLA should detail the terms of the help desk’s hours of operation. Different variables will apply here, but it can reasonably be assumed that your help desk will be available to handle all the critical issues that you encounter any time. Be sure the provider outlines response times for critical issues as these can impede your ability to function more significantly. It stands within reason to go over these details with your provider to be clear on hours of operation for service and support.

Consequences and Feedback

It’s reasonable to expect that your provider will give you the service you need in a timely manner based on a set of criteria. Your SLA may include a set of consequences to any lacks of service or support, and this is something you’ll want to take particular care with as it details the terms of when the provider has broken its end of the contract and you can reasonably walk away from it. Many providers request regular feedback in order to continually improve the service you experience. Take advantage of these opportunities. Any IT provider worth its salt will be chomping at the bit to know how to improve and provide you a better experience.

These examples of items in an SLA should give you a basis for what to look at when judging a provider. The key point to keep in mind is that not all agreements are created equal, so always read carefully.

If you have any questions about SLAs or would like to talk with someone at Mobeus Technology, just click here.

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