In the world of information technology (IT) services, it is a requirement that some kind of contract defines the customer’s expectations and the provider’s role in meeting those goals. A common construct is the service level agreement (SLA) which is widely used by outsourcing and cloud vendors. It is designed to protect both parties by formally defining their responsibilities.
Once in place, there needs to be processes created to ensure that the SLAs are being met. These procedures range from reporting on the level and performance of specific services to monitoring that can identify potential roadblocks in fulfilling the agreements. Keeping a focus on the underlying infrastructure can prove to be a viable strategy that enables organizations to engage in SLAs that they can meet.
Inside a Service Level Agreement
SLAs can be categorized into three general types which influence how the agreement is written.
- Customer-based agreements are developed to provide specific services requested by a client. They are tailored to individual customers and allow more flexibility from the provider’s perspective.
- Service-based SLAs are more generic in nature and can be seen as the standard offerings made by a provider. These agreements are not modified for different customers and outline the basic services that clients can expect from a vendor.
- Multi-level SLAs combine aspects of service and customer-based agreements to create a comprehensive arrangement that completely serves the needs of a client’s business. They can include corporate service level management intended to keep tabs on the provider’s ability to meet the agreed-upon requirements.
There are usually financial penalties that accompany the inability to meet service level agreements. Failure to meet designated service levels also results in unsatisfied customers who are not motivated to sign further agreements and may start searching for alternative solutions for their IT needs.
Crafting SLAs that appeal to customers is easy. You just promise them everything they want. Unfortunately, this is a policy that is doomed to failure. Overpromising may help obtain the initial contract with a new customer but is almost surely destined to result in one-time agreements and disappointed clients. Depending on how the SLAs were structured, this can also be very expensive for the provider.
How Your Infrastructure Affects SLAs
When working with customers to develop SLAs, providers need to be cognizant of the capabilities of their infrastructure. While they may have sufficient bandwidth and computing power to handle their initial customers, resources can quickly become scarce as more customers are signed. Organizations that offer services that require SLAs have to balance the desire to increase their customer base with a realistic take on their ability to fulfill the agreements.
Infrastructure monitoring has many advantages for IT providers. It can be used to identify problems so they can be addressed before they impact the ability to serve customers. Another vitally important use of infrastructure monitoring is to study usage trends and changing capacity requirements. This practice can supply the information needed to bolster computing resources before signing SLAs with new customers. Without this type of data, you are just guessing regarding your ability to satisfy the needs of current or future clients.
Monitoring Your SLAs
IDERA’s Uptime Infrastructure Monitor can help your organization understand the resources at its disposal when creating SLAs and track service-level performance trends to ensure compliance with customer agreements. It’s a great tool for companies involved with offering paid IT services that require the acceptance of SLAs. Here are some of the features that this tool provides IT organizations specifically designed to assist in effective SLA delivery.
- Uptime offers SLA monitoring and proactive alerting that lets you stay ahead of issues and resolve them before they rise to the level of customer-impacting problems. The tool supplies detailed reporting that focuses on the infrastructure components that affect your SLAs.
- The reporting capabilities of Uptime allow you to monitor all of the infrastructure elements and applications that are involved in satisfying specific SLAs.
- One of the most valuable features of Uptime enables you to test SLAs before committing to them. Compare new potential agreements with historical performance metrics to determine the viability of signing a new SLA. Armed with this information, infrastructure changes can be implemented that ensure your organization can meet its promised level of service.
- Customizable SLA dashboards can be created to indicate the performance, availability, and capacity metrics that guide your IT teams. You can view the complete environment or focus on specific SLAs with drag and drop functionality.
All told, Uptime can help your organization maintain SLAs in many ways. If providing services for paid customers is on your agenda, the tool is well worth a look. It might make the difference between satisfied customers who are eager to expand their footprint with you and disgruntled clients who want to run for the door. Which do you think management prefers?