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Examine that SLA

MSPs may promise the five nines (99.999%) when presenting proposals, but it is really the SLA that guarantees consistent Quality of Service (QoS), network uptime/performance, and delivery of specific services.

An SLA (Service Level Agreement) is a contract that outlines the responsibilities of an IT services provider, the rights of the users and the penalties a service provider suffers if the SLA is violated. It also defines the service offering itself, plus the supported products, evaluation criteria, and QoS that customers should expect.

What is its purpose?

SLA is a written agreement between a service provider and client that documents the agreed levels for a service. The purpose of having an SLA is:

  • To clearly state the type and levels of services to be provided
  • To define the scope of the outsourced services
  • Identify performance objectives for the delivery of those services
  • Document the business units and individuals within those units who are responsible for meeting those conditions
  • Balance customer demands and expectations with cost of service provision
  • Define measurable service levels and measurement criteria
  • Specify the outputs and deliverables of the service
  • Provide a baseline for quality improvement
  • Provide a base for further outsourcing (underpinning contracts) to several other service providers.

In effect, the SLA codifies the interpersonal and operational working relationships between customer and MSP. Because such relationships differ from case to case, SLAs will differ.

Why are they necessary?

SLAs makes the MSP aware of the targets it has to achieve. Through the SLA, both MSP and client can provide evidence of actual performance.

An SLA helps the client and the MSP to determine the success or failure of the outsourcing partnership in

operational terms as well as in financial terms.

What should an SLA state?

A good SLA should cover the following aspects of service provisioning:

a. General

  • Parties, contacts and formal authorized signatures
  • Service description
  • Reporting and reviewing process (Content & Frequency)
  • Roles & responsibilities
  • Incentives and penalties
  • Business objectives & scope
  • Policies
  • Procedures for updating the SLA
  • Security management
  • Problem management
  • Setting priority or severity


  • Service level penalties
  • Performance report on SLA


b. Support

  • Service hours
  • Support definitions
  • Change Procedures
  • Escalation

c. Delivery

  • Availability
  • Reliability
  • Throughput
  • Transaction response time
  • Systems summary

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