Debunking Service Provider SLAs

One of the most important parts of a contract a business enters into is the Service Level Agreement between the organization and its service provider. This contains all the information both parties need to define the service being provided, as well as what could occur should this level not be achieved. However, how can a business be sure that its service provider is living up to the SLA?

What goes into an SLA?
First, it’s important to understand what an SLA is and what it typically includes. According to TechTarget’s Margaret Rouse, an SLA can be defined as the contract that outlines the services the customer will receive. An SLA often includes several specific metrics that the provider must meet, including those for service availability and uptime, the amount of concurrent users the service can support and application response time.

This document might also define certain performance metrics that can be used for comparison, as well as helpdesk response times and usage statistics. Some SLAs include specific service hours within a calendar, including the provider’s standard operating hours and off-peak hours. This agreement also typically includes plans for how downtime should be addressed, and any compensation the client might receive in the event of a breach of contract.

“Proving that service levels are being met is incredibly important.”

Overall, an SLA should be a living document that can be continuously changed, serving as the benchmark for services throughout the client-provider relationship.

“SLAs, once established, should be periodically reviewed and updated to reflect chances in technology and the impact of any new regulatory directives,” Rouse wrote.

Why is it important to prove SLAs?
While many business leaders take their time in reviewing the initial SLA, some don’t give the document a second thought after it has been established. However, proving that service levels are being met is incredibly important, for a number of reasons:

  • In terms of return on investment, it’s critical that the business is able to see where it’s money is being spent. Company leaders must be able to determine that they are, in fact, receiving the level of service they are paying for.
  • The SLA outlines the penalties and compensation that the client will be provided in the event that the contract has been breached. In this way, it is essential that the business be able to ascertain when and if the contract has been broken in order to receive the appropriate compensation.
  • When it comes time to review the SLA, it’s important that the business understand where they stand with the provider, and what level of service they have been able to provide under the contract thus far.

Currently, there is no formal rule that requires service providers to prove their SLAs. CIO noted that many vendors might offer access to metrics reports that may appear to back up the benchmarks in the SLA. However, as these figures are collected by the provider, there is no way of knowing what internal or external factors might have influenced the statistics. For this reason, it is critical that the business is able to prove the SLA in its own terms.

Businesses must have a way to track what service level they are receiving from their providers. Businesses must have a way to track what service level they are receiving from their providers.

How can companies track service levels?
Because many IT services are more abstract, it has historically been somewhat difficult to obtain concrete information that proves the SLA is being met, or that it has been broken. Some enterprises have turned to network monitoring technology as a solution, but these often don’t provide the granular level of management needed to robustly track service levels.

A software defined WAN solution, on the other hand, can offer the in-depth look at the overall network and its activities. This type of solution provides specific measurements for network availability, packet loss, latency and jitter, which is invaluable when it comes to proving SLA contracts. This information can show which points in the network are experiencing issues, as well as at what times. This real-time level of control hasn’t been achievable with nearly any other technology.

With a SD-WAN solution like Talari Aware in place, organizations have much more granular information about their network and its performance than any service provider is likely to provide its customers. Armed with this data, companies can put themselves in a much better position to negotiate contracts and pricing with service providers. Are they meeting SLAs? Data from Talari Aware enables businesses to definitely answer this question and hold a service provider’s proverbial feet to the fire if they are not upholding their end of the agreement. In addition, information from SD-WAN, when used as part of an overarching network analysis and network management effort, allows organizations to determine more definitely if existing broadband or MPLS investments are up to the job or if new connectivity options are necessary.

Best of all, a software defined WAN like Talari Aware can help ensure that the company’s network always performs optimally. Even in the face of an outage, this type of solution is able to adapt in real-time to current network conditions and application arrangements, choosing an alternative path for data to travel.

SLAs are critically important documents, but are even more valuable when the business is able to track service levels with robust technology like a software defined WAN.

Categories: Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN), Application Performance/Application Quality, IT Challenges, Network Reliability