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Understanding the Basics of SLAs

Ben Gonyea, VP, Product Management
August 1, 2017

An SLA (service-level agreement) is a crucial component of any contract you sign with a technology vendor. In many ways, it serves as the foundation on which your relationship with that product or service will be built. Start with something shoddy or ill-defined and you could open the door for various problems to arise down the road. In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the basics of the SLA and how to ensure that the SLA you sign sets you up for success with that product or service going forward.

What is an SLA?
An SLA is a document that describes the scope of work a customer can expect from the vendor in question. It should go into detail about what is and is not covered by the terms of service, what kinds of performance metrics are expected to be reached, and what kinds of consequences exist for failure to meet expectations.

Why is an SLA important?
An SLA is like a checklist for everything you are paying your technology vendor to provide. In the event that something goes wrong, the SLA ensures that neither party is in doubt about the specifics of the agreement. Similarly, if you need to access a certain piece of key information about the agreement, you don’t have to go wading through page after page of contract to find it. Your SLA ought to be written with your specific business goals in mind so that gauging progress and success is a relatively simple process.

Who is responsible for the SLA?
The service provider you sign the contract with will provide the initial SLA, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have work to do, too. Depending on your requirements, the original version may need to be updated to reflect the finalized products and solutions you have chosen. You will need to work with your provider to ensure the agreement lines up to your selected products and achieves your business goals. Work with your legal team to review the SLA and ensure that you understand the terms for a quicker and smoother process.

What are its key components?
The SLA has two primary areas: services and management. Services should include an exhaustive description of the services that are and are not included in the agreement. It should go into detail regarding how and when those services operate, if necessary. It should answer any questions that might arise throughout the length of the contract, including points of contact and any emergency procedures. Management should include details on reporting and measurement, as well as a way to make sure that the SLA can be updated in the event that your requirements or the vendor’s capabilities change.

This represents a good primer on what an SLA is and why it is so important for businesses employing IT services. But you may have more questions, and there’s always more to know about the ins and outs of SLAs. If you’d like to learn more, read this article from CIO. If you’d like to learn more about working with Digital Realty, click here to get to know us a little better.

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