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HOW TO SERIES  SLA: Getting it Right

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VoicenData Bureau
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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.

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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.

Good SLA is like the terms of a good marriage

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.

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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.

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