Service Level Agreements: Considerations and Concerns

Service level agreements provide an effective way to manage customer expectations and create common-ground to help understand services, priorities and responsibilities on the part of the Web hosting company. However, it’s not the panacea that will solve all of your communication problems or create the perfect working relationship. An effective SLA opens up the line of communication and helps customers and service providers understand expectations on both ends.

Establishing an SLA

Before you create an SLA, the customer and Web host should gather the required information needed to negotiate. Customers need to know their needs and priorities, while service providers need to have an understand of the level of service that can be provided to the customer. This can be accomplished by reviewing past service history and making an agreement based on past trends.

Agreeing to an SLA

Once a basic agreement has been formed, it’s important that both parties agree that a formation of a service agreement will be beneficial. Slapping an SLA on an unsuspecting customer typically backfires. It’s better to go into an SLA openly and with full cooperation of the customer. For a Web host, this part can be skipped for new customers. The Web host can simply post the SLA as a contract between the host and any new customers. Current customers may need to have the option to leave or take part in the creation of the agreement to avoid backlash.

Criteria to Include

One of the key elements of any Web hosting SLA is the degree of uptime. The SLA must clearly state what a customer can expect at any given time within the month, with the exception of scheduled maintenance. Next, the Web host must outline the type of equipment guaranteed to the customer. This gives the customer a clear indication of the speed and reliability of the servers they are signing up to use. Finally, the agreement should indicate that the power and infrastructure will be running unless there is notification ahead of time of any anticipated problems or service. If any of the elements in an SLA are not fulfilled, then the agreement must provide a remedy to give the customer a refund or some form of compensation of the failure.

Enforcing an SLA

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to lodge a complaint with your web host against your SLA because they aren’t delivering their end of the bargain, there are a number of things that you can do. First of all, you’ll need to have some outside data that’s unbiased in order to present the best case. If you aren’t already employing some type of SLA management solution right now, you may be putting yourself at a serious disadvantage when it comes to proving that your web host has violated the SLA. If you don’t have any outside information, you may be forced to rely on whatever data they have.

Keep in mind that even with some outside data, you’re still at the mercy of the terms of your SLA, and if you didn’t read it over carefully, you may find yourself disappointed in your options. Regardless, if your service is substandard, you should at least try to contact them and see what can be improved.