A service level agreement (SLA) is a contract between a service provider and the customer or client. It defines the level of service that is being performed and paid for. An SLA between a network service provider and a customer outlines, in measurable terms, what services will be delivered including items such as when services will be available, number of users that can be served, help desk response time, network change notifications, usage statistics and more.
Customers pay for a service because there is a need for it and expect that the service being paid for will work properly. Customers want to know that they are getting what they pay for and require proof of service delivery. Since high availability is critical, service providers typically make reports available that outline how the application or system is performing, whether service levels are being maintained properly, and whether there have been any service outages that you may be owed a rebate for.
Many service providers will include a percentage estimate with their proposal for the amount of uptime that will be provided. Due to the necessity of the service, most providers will offer at least a 99.99 percent uptime. This seems ideal, but think about how many minutes there are in a year. Even 0.01 percent of unplanned downtime can add up and is unacceptable because uptime is critical for an organization.
Service providers need to act on their responsibilities and be held accountable. Service providers have their own ways to ensure that SLAs are being met, but if the service being provided is mission-critical and the business is in jeopardy if the SLAs are not met, a third-party service level agreement monitoring solution should be used.
A service level monitoring solution should answer the following questions:
- What percentage of the time is the service available?
- How is the service performing?
- What is the root cause of outages and degradations in performance?
The IT department may have contractual obligations for service levels, and SLA monitoring software can help ensure and document compliance in addition to correlating user experience metrics with the underlying infrastructure components that support the associated business service. Up to the minute displays of SLA performance and information on shortfalls in compliance keep the customer in the know. In addition, SLA monitoring solutions will provide historical service level agreement reports to make informed business decisions moving forward.
An SLA monitoring solution may be an extra expense, but it provides peace of mind and ensures that you are getting the service that you paid for.