Getting the best value from a service provider is largely dependent on how good is the service level agreement (SLA) that an enterprise has with its service provider. However, enterprises often either are not aware as to what constitutes a good SLA or they end up signing an SLA that is loaded heavily in favour of the service provider. Even if an enterprise gets an ideal SLA, the service provider does not often adhere to its clauses. Moreover, there are situations where an enterprise is not able to pin down whether the service provider is at fault or not. The trickiest part is performance monitoring-often enterprises and the service providers have conflicting views on whether the performance parameters guaranteed by the service provider have been met or not. Monitoring network performance parameters like uptime, latency etc. is in itself another challenge.
Focus on business goals: Look at what business objectives you want to achieve with your network. Your business objectives should form the fundamental basis of the SLA. The SLA must have elements that support and take care of the business objectives. For instance, if you are an online banking company with maximum transactions between 9 am and 5 pm during the day, the SLA must specifically guarantee better network performance and availability during these hours. There would be no point analyzing performance on a 24-hour basis when you need the network to perform better during these hours. It may require significant commitment of an enterprise's time and resources to make an SLA that favors them.
No traps please: Parameters like uptime guarantee must be calculated on a day-to-day basis. Even while analyzing on a day-to-day basis, more weight should be given to network performance during peak business hours. If the service provider has guaranteed a 99.9 percent uptime and the network is down during peak business, there is no point analyzing performance by taking into account network uptime during non-business hours.
Say no to standard agreements: Service providers often come up with standard SLAs loaded heavily in their favour and they also don't really measure up to the business objectives of the client. SLAs should be initiated by the enterprise and contain clear, specific terms and conditions that service provider must meet.
Clearly define measurables: All measurables related to network performance like uptime, availability, latency etc. should be clearly defined in terms of what constitutes what. All standards and metrics to evaluate performance should be defined without any ambiguity. Clear definition of performance objectives will help avoid conflicts and finger-pointing. There should not be any room for too much interpretation. Black is black and white is white, period. That should be the attitude.
No vague promises: Service providers often make vague commitments, and at times even committing services which they actually can't offer. As such, the SLA should clearly spell out the minimum acceptable thresholds for all services. For example, if a service provider is not providing a service in a particular location where you want the service, the SLA should be clear about that.
Insert penalty clause, it pays: It is always wise to include penalty clause in the SLAs. For instance, if the network is down during peak business hours, the service provider must pay for loss of business. Also, SLA should clearly spell, for instance, if ten customers were not able to access the network during downtime, how much would be the average loss. The penalty can be calculated on that basis.