What does SLA mean for businesses?
Find out what SLA means and how it can ensure your business will receive the service you acquired and it will work the way it should.
What does SLA stand for? It stands for service level agreement. Essentially, this is a contract between a service provider and a client which outlines the standards the business can expect to receive. This can be related to all manner of services such as building services, plant maintenance, information technology, cloud services, telecoms and more.
If you ask ‘what does SLA mean?’ you’ll get the answer that it covers aspects including the quality of service provided, its reliability, and the responsibilities of both the service provider and the customer. All of this is set out in writing so that both sides understand what they can expect and what is expected of them.
In terms of telecommunication and broadband, the SLA will typically cover aspects such as minimum guaranteed connection speeds, contention ratios, expected levels of uptime, time to fix problems and so on. In this respect, it’s rather like having an insurance policy that assures you the service will work in the way it should.
When people ask ‘what does SLA mean?’ they are usually thinking in terms of the components included in the agreement. These will usually include the following:
- What kind of service is being provided? – This sets out the service to be provided, together with any additional details as to how it’s being provided and any special features. If it relates to something like an Ethernet leased line, this will cover considerations including the operation and maintenance of networking equipment, the connection bandwidth on offer and so on.
- The performance level of the service – This will usually cover minimum guaranteed speeds that can be expected from the line, contention levels in the case of broadband, and the level of uptime expected. This will of course largely be about reliability, ensuring that there are minimal disruption and maximum availability. Responsiveness is usually covered too, ensuring that the network responds promptly to requests.
- Monitoring and reporting – Here the SLA will cover how the service is monitored and supervised. Services such as leased lines are monitored by the service provider to ensure that any issues are spotted early before they become a problem. The SLA should set out how monitoring takes palace, what statistics are collected in the process and what reports are available to the customer to show how the service is operating.
- Dealing with problems – The SLA will set out what happens when there’s a problem. This includes the steps the customer needs to take in order to report an issue, and what the service provider will do when a report is received. Items covered here will be contact details for both routine issues and emergencies both in and out of office hours, plus what details are required in order to report an issue. It will also cover the timescales for responding to an issue after it is initially reported, and how long it should take for an issue to be resolved.
- Timeframes – A key part of the SLA, touched upon above, is to set out the time frames involved in responding to problems. This should cover how fast an initial response from the service provider needs to be and what that response should encompass – a call back from a support analyst for example. Once that initial response has been received the clock should be ticking in terms of how long the service provider has to put things right.
- Penalties – No one likes to think about what happens when things go wrong, but no SLA would be complete without a look at what happens if either the service provider or the customer fails to meet their obligations under the agreement. Things covered here are likely to include who has the right to terminate the contract and under what circumstances. It should cover any payments that may be due to the customer in the event of loss of service, as well as any extra charges the service provider may be able to levy in the event of the customer not meeting its obligations under the agreement.
What does SLA mean to your business?
By now it should be becoming clear that the question ‘What does SLA mean?’ in business terms is a crucial one. It helps to provide reassurance that you are dealing with a professional organisation and that all of the bases are covered in the context of what might go wrong.
When you are relying on telecoms services, broadband or leased lines for the day-to-day operation of your business, you want to be sure that they are not going to let you down. By having quantified limits on downtime and fixes enshrined in an SLA, you can be confident that the service is going to live up to your expectations.
Leased lines, in particular, are often chosen by businesses as an alternative to broadband because they offer greater speeds and dependability. The fact that these lines come with an SLA provides greater peace of mind that the service will live up to expectations and underlines that you are dealing with a professional service provider.
Before you sign up to a contract with a new service provider you should ask to see a sample of their standard SLA. This will give you the opportunity to verify that it meets your needs and will allow you to query any areas that you are not sure of. The SLA is there to protect both sides, so the service provider should be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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