Learning About Service Level Agreements

A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contract made between a web host service provider and its clients. At the most basic level, an SLA explains the services that the service provider will provide to the client. An SLA should also describe the consequences of any events that may disrupt this service (e.g. server downtime, network outages, a software or hardware malfunction) and how these events will be resolved by the service provider. The SLA should also list any associated reimbursements, fees, or warranties. Additionally, an SLA should explain data recovery procedures, describe client expectations, explain how to terminate the hosting service, and discuss metrics (e.g. server availability, response time, bandwidth, latency) that the service provider will use to assess the efficiency of their services.

An SLA is not necessarily the same as a Term of Use agreement; rather, the relationship between the two is up to the discretion of the service provider. Some businesses combine the two while others instead treat their SLA as a supplemental document. Furthermore, a service provider may offer their clients different SLAs based on their needs. A client who operates a twenty-computer business network would abide by a different SLA than an individual user would. The service provider also decides whether or not their company’s SLA is legally binding.

Understanding an SLA can ensure that a company or an individual is actually receiving the services that have been paid for. An SLA should be written from the customer’s perspective, in a way that clearly states what the service provider is offering to its clients without excessive use of technical jargon. A thorough SLA will describe how common problems will be resolved, including how quickly the provider’s information technology department can typically respond to a server issue and how much downtime the client can roughly expect. If you plan on trying to enforce your SLA, you may want to spend some time looking at an SLA management tool that you can use to

The SLA should also clearly describe any reimbursement clauses. Many modern web hosts offer a 100% network uptime guarantee, and will accredit a client’s account in the event of any unexpected downtime. Some companies offer similar reimbursement plans for any hardware that they lease to their clients. However, these processes may not be automated – for example, some companies require the client to manually report downtime prior to reimbursement – so be aware of the conditions offered by a service provider.

Another thing to consider about SLAs is what they pertain to. For example, if the SLA pertains to the uptime on a web application, you may want to be sure that an application performance monitoring tools you’re using are fully monitored to ensure that you uptime calculations are correct. You can do this with a variety of free and paid tools online, just make sure it’s something that you take the time to do.