Service Level Agreements

One of the things that has come up recently in conversation with potential clients is service level agreements or SLAs.  Not everyone is familiar with that term, so I’ll give you a quick definition from Wikipedia.

SLA Definition

A service-level agreement (SLA) is a commitment between a service provider and a client. Particular aspects of the service – quality, availability, responsibilities – are agreed between the service provider and the service user. The most common component of an SLA is that the services should be provided to the customer as agreed upon in the contract. As an example, Internet service providers and telcos will commonly include service level agreements within the terms of their contracts with customers to define the level(s) of service being sold in plain language terms.

Applications to IT Services

So why has this been coming up in discussion with potential clients?  Well, it’s because i.t.NOW has an SLA on its services.  That’s right.  We guarantee our clients that we will respond to their issues within a certain amount of time based on the severity and the impact of the issue.

Most of our competition doesn’t do anything of the sort.  In fact, most IT providers and even managed services providers (which is supposed to indicate a higher level of service) don’t even track their response times.

How could they possibly offer you a service guarantee on something they don’t even track?  The short answer is that they can’t.

Why is that important to your business?  Well if you’ve ever had a burning IT concern and had to wait days for it to be addressed by your provider you may know why.  Without an SLA in place they can get to it whenever they feel like it.  There is no promise that you’ll have a quick response, and there is not expectation of superior service.

With the cost of downtime climbing higher and higher for most businesses, an SLA should be an essential element that you ask your IT provider for when looking at their services.  This provides accountability, transparency, and protects your interests.

Why Doesn’t Everybody Have An SLA?

The quick answer is that it’s hard and costs money.  In order to provide a service level agreement to their clients a managed services provider must have systems in place that allow them to track response times on all requests.  This is typically in the form of a ticketing system that allows them to track issues and the time spent on each one.  The expense and time required to set up a good system to track all issues is enough to keep some providers from doing so.

In addition, to be effective at meeting the response times outlined in an SLA there must be a really good structure to the helpdesk.  Tickets must be dispatched in a timely manner as they come in, technicians assigned, and work completed.  This requires structure and diligence on the part of your staff.  It also requires you to have enough staff members that you can reliably hit those SLA’s even during peak times when things are busy.

Transparency is the last reason that some providers don’t want to provide a service level agreement.  They don’t always want their clients knowing how long it takes them to respond.  SLAs can also have regular meetings or reporting where the provider shows the client how they’re doing.  If you know that you’re not keeping your promises, you don’t want to report that to your client.

Application

If your current provider doesn’t offer you any SLA or guarantee of service, it might be worth looking for one that does.  Those providers that offer an SLA are typically more mature as service providers.  They will likely have the right systems in place to track and deliver service.  It’s also a good indication that they may be more transparent with you about the service.  This fosters open communication and a better relationship.

If that’s the kind of IT provider you’re looking for i.t.NOW is here to help.  i.t.NOW has SLA’s and guarantee our service.  We meet with our clients quarterly to review those response times and discuss our service.  We would love to help your organization with your IT needs.  Call us today!