What is a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?

Service-level agreement best practices


Customers must be satisfied with your company’s services or products. To make this happen, you’ll need structure, starting with a checklist of all the tasks that must be completed in order to give good service and build a SLA (Service Level Agreement).


Effective contracts between service providers and their customers can improve communication, boost customer happiness, and set clear expectations for both parties. Successful agreements can boost your company connections dramatically. Service level agreements (SLAs) can assist providers and consumers communicate and set expectations. We define service level agreements, explain why they’re necessary, explain who uses them, list the components of service level agreements, and respond to some frequently asked questions in this post.


A service-level agreement (SLA) specifies the degree of service you anticipate from a vendor, as well as the metrics by which service is measured and remedies or penalties in the event that agreed-upon service standards are not fulfilled. It’s an important part of any technology vendor agreement.


A service level agreement (SLA) is a contract in which one party agrees to provide another with a set of deliverables.

An SLA Contract  will also specify the amount and quality of service you can expect, as well as the consequences if those expectations are not reached.

SLAs are an important part of any outsourcing or technology vendor agreement. An SLA provides remedies when requirements aren’t satisfied, in addition to specifying service type and quality expectations.

Answers to frequently asked questions concerning SLAs, as well as advice on how to create effective SLAs with your vendors and partners, are provided here.


What is a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?

A service-level agreement (SLA) specifies the amount of service that a customer expects from a supplier, as well as the metrics that are used to assess that service, as well as any remedies or penalties that may be imposed if the agreed-upon service standards are not fulfilled. SLAs are most commonly used between firms and external suppliers, although they can also be used between two divisions inside the same company.


The following items are included in a Service Level Agreement: • Detailed service overview • Speed of service delivery • Performance monitoring plan • Description of the reporting mechanism • List of penalties that will be implemented if the agreement is violated • Constraints


Why do I require a service level agreement (SLA)?

SLAs are an essential component of any IT vendor agreement. An SLA is a single document that compiles information on all contracted services and their agreed-upon expected reliability. They explicitly describe measurements, obligations, and expectations so that neither party can claim ignorance if there are problems with the service. It guarantees that both parties are on the same page when it comes to obligations.

Any important contract without an accompanying SLA (approved by legal counsel) is vulnerable to misinterpretation, either intentionally or inadvertently. Both parties to the agreement are protected by the SLA.

Who is responsible for the SLA?

Most service providers offer standard service level agreements (SLAs) — sometimes multiple, indicating different levels of service at varying costs — that might be a useful place to start when negotiating. However, because they are frequently tilted in favor of the supplier, they should be evaluated and updated by the customer and legal counsel.

When submitting an RFP, customers should mention desired service levels in the request; this will influence supplier offerings and pricing, as well as the supplier’s decision to reply. If you require 99.999 percent system availability and the supplier is unable to meet this requirement with your specified design, it may recommend a new, more robust solution.

What exactly is a SLA?

Not only should the SLA include a description of the services to be provided and their expected service levels, but it should also include metrics by which the services are measured, each party’s duties and responsibilities, breach remedies or penalties, and a protocol for adding and removing metrics.

Metrics should be designed in such a way that neither party is rewarded for bad behavior. If a service standard is breached as a result of the client’s failure to supply information on time, the supplier shall not be fined.

What are the essential elements of a service level agreement (SLA)?

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Specifics of services provided (and what’s excluded, if there’s any doubt), service availability conditions, standards such as time window for each level of service (prime time and non-prime time, for example), responsibilities of each party, escalation procedures, and cost/service tradeoffs are all service elements.

Definitions of measurement standards and methods, reporting processes, contents and frequency, a dispute resolution process, an indemnification clause protecting the customer from third-party litigation resulting from service level breaches (this should, however, already be covered in the contract), and a mechanism for updating the agreement as needed should all be included in the management elements.

This third point is crucial: service requirements and vendor capabilities change over time, therefore there needs to be a means to keep the SLA current.


What is a SLA model, and how does it work?

To grasp this, one may need to be familiar with the following performance metrics:



What is an indemnification clause, and how does it work?

An indemnity clause is a crucial condition in which the service provider undertakes to hold the customer company harmless in the event of a breach of its warranties. Indemnification refers to the provider’s obligation to reimburse the customer for any third-party litigation costs incurred as a result of the provider’s breach of the warranties. If you employ the service provider’s standard SLA, this clause is likely to be missing; ask your in-house counsel to craft a basic provision to include it, but the service provider may wish to discuss this further.

Is it possible to transfer a SLA?

The customer may believe that its SLA will be honored if the service provider is acquired by or merges with another company, however this may not be the case. It’s possible that the agreement will have to be renegotiated. Make no assumptions; nonetheless, keep in mind that the new owner may want to honor previous SLAs in order to avoid alienating existing customers.

How can I ensure that service levels are met?

Most service providers publish statistics, which are generally accessible through an internet portal. Customers may see if SLAs are being met and if they are eligible for service credits or other penalties as specified in the SLA.

Typically, the outsourcing provider is responsible for identifying these procedures and methodologies and ensuring that they can satisfy the SLA agreement. However, it is essential that the client and outsourcing business collaborate throughout the SLA contract negotiation to avoid any misunderstandings regarding the support process and approach, as well as management and reporting procedures.

Customers should, however, invest in third-party technologies to automatically record SLA performance data, which provides an objective assessment of performance, for key services.

What metrics should be kept track of?

The sorts of SLA measurements needed may vary depending on the services offered. Many items can be tracked as part of a SLA, but the scheme should be kept as basic as possible to minimize misunderstandings and unnecessary costs on both sides. Examine your operation and decide what is most important when selecting metrics. The more complicated the monitoring (and related solution) plan is, the less likely it is to be effective, because no one will have time to thoroughly study the data. When in doubt, go for convenience of metric data gathering; automated solutions are preferred, as costly manual metric collecting is unlikely to be trustworthy.

The following are examples of metrics to keep an eye on, depending on the service:

The amount of time a service is available for use is referred to as its availability. This can be quantified by time slot, with 99.5 percent availability necessary between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and more or less availability required at other times. E-commerce operations often have extremely aggressive SLAs at all times; for a site that makes millions of dollars per hour, 99.999 percent uptime is not uncommon.

Counts or percentages of errors in significant deliverables are known as defect rates. This category may include production issues such as incomplete backups and restores, coding errors/rework, and missing deadlines.

Technical quality is measured in outsourced application development by commercial analysis tools that look at things like program size and code flaws.

Application and network security breaches can be costly in these hyper-regulated times. In the event of an incident, measuring controllable security measures like anti-virus updates and patching is critical for establishing all reasonable preventive steps were performed.

Business outcomes: IT customers are increasingly requesting that business process metrics be included in their SLAs. The best way is to use existing key performance measures, as long as the vendor’s contribution to those KPIs can be measured.

When choosing metrics for my SLA, what should I keep in mind?

The goal should be to incorporate best practices and regulations in an equitable way that maintains service performance while avoiding additional expenses.

Select metrics that encourage the desired behavior. Any metric’s primary purpose is to encourage appropriate conduct from both the client and the service provider. Each side of the interaction will try to optimize its activities in order to satisfy the metrics’ performance goals. To begin, concentrate on the behavior you wish to encourage. Then, put yourself in the shoes of the opposing team to test your measurements. What steps would you take to improve your performance? Does such optimization help you achieve the goals you set out to achieve?

Ascertain that measurements reflect elements under the control of the service provider. SLA measurements should reflect things under the outsourcer’s control to drive the proper behavior. Punishing the service provider for delays caused by the client’s poor performance is a common blunder. It is unreasonable and demotivating to hold the service provider to a pre-specified delivery date if the client sends modification specifications for application code several weeks late. Making the SLA two-sided by assessing the client’s performance on mutually dependent actions is an effective strategy to keep the focus on the desired outcomes.

Select measures that are simple to acquire. Compare the power of a desired metric to the ease with which it may be collected. The SLA measurements should ideally be recorded automatically and with low overhead in the background, although this may not be practicable for all necessary metrics. When in doubt, opt for easy collection; no one wants to go to the trouble of manually collecting metrics.

Less is more in this case. Despite the temptation to control as many variables as possible, avoid selecting an excessive number of metrics or metrics that generate a large volume of data that no one will have time to study and that cause a lot of overhead. Too few measurements, while less common, might be a problem because missing even one can signal the provider has broken the contract.

Establish a proper starting point. Only half of the battle is won by defining the correct measurements. The measurements must be set to reasonable, attainable performance levels in order to be useful. Be prepared to return and change the parameters at a later date through a predefined method outlined in the SLA unless substantial previous measurement data is available.

Carefully define. SLA definitions may be tweaked by a provider to guarantee that they are met. The Issue Response Time metric, for example, is designed to verify that the provider responds to an incident within a certain amount of time. Some providers, on the other hand, may be able to achieve the SLA 100 percent of the time by sending an automated response to an incident report. Customers should define SLAs precisely so that they accurately reflect the service level’s goal.

The contract should not only define the services to be delivered, but also how they will be monitored, including how data will be recorded and reported, how often it will be reviewed, and who will be involved in the evaluation.

Is it possible to bargain with cloud service providers on SLAs?

Because their margins are based on offering commodity services to a large number of customers, cloud vendors are more hesitant to change their standard SLAs. Customers can, however, negotiate conditions with their cloud providers in specific situations.

Regardless of whether there is wiggle room, understanding and scrutinizing the SLAs in a cloud computing contract is crucial to determining whether they pose any major risk.

Is it possible to construct common SLAs for numerous suppliers or service providers?

Customers can develop shared measurements for numerous service providers that account for cross-supplier effects as well as implications that the vendor may have on processes that aren’t covered by their contract.

Operating level agreements (OLAs) explain how specific parties involved in the process of delivering IT services will interact with one another in order to maintain performance in IT companies that manage many service providers.

Do I still require SLAs if I choose outcome-based pricing with an IT outsourcer?

As corporations move away from pure time and materials or full-time-employee based pricing models, IT outsourcing partnerships in which service providers’ compensation is connected to business results accomplished have gained in favor.

In these circumstances, rather than a specific activity, operation, or resource, the end result is a business result. SLAs are significant indicators of performance against business outcomes even in outcome-based contracts. SLAs for these contracts will not specify technical or operational criteria for specific tasks; instead, they will specify end-client objectives. The outcomes must be explicit, there must be mechanisms to assess achievement of the outcomes, roles and duties must be clearly defined, and the supplier must have control over the end-to-end service required to produce results for this strategy to operate well.

By using the same sorts of SLAs that IT employs

Is it possible to develop service level agreements (SLAs) for shadow IT?

to govern the performance of IT service providers to shadow IT, IT can exploit the power of shadow IT services and solutions while mitigating associated risks. IT businesses can take a number of steps to create a SLA framework for technological services provided by third parties, as well as measure and report on their performance.

What happens if a service provider fails to deliver on agreed-upon service levels?

When vendors fail to meet minimal performance criteria, SLAs include agreed-upon penalties called service credits, which can be enforced. When SLAs are not met, the provider and customer agree to put a percentage of monthly fees (usually equivalent to the vendor’s profit margin) “at risk,” from which these credits are deducted. This strategy aims to incentivize provider performance without being too harsh.

Best-in-class IT businesses avoid utilizing SLA provisions as a means of punishing their IT partners, instead using SLA measurements as a springboard for positive discussions about performance, priorities, and the engagement’s or relationship’s future direction.

What do you mean by “earn backs”?

Some vendors may request the ability to “redeem” paid service credits. This type of provision allows providers to reclaim service credits lost due to SLA defaults by performing at or above the standard service level for a set period of time. While some providers may argue that an earn-back provision is just reasonable, it can completely derail the service credit strategy.

How often should we review our service level agreements (SLAs)?

As businesses evolve, so do their service needs. A service level agreement (SLA) should not be regarded as a static document. SLAs should, in fact, have a well-defined structure for contract modification during the contract’s term. The SLA should be reviewed on a regular basis, especially if the following conditions exist: • the client’s business demands have changed (for example, establishing an e-commerce site increases availability requirements).

The Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an important aspect of any supplier agreement, and it will pay dividends in the long run if it is carefully thought out and formalized at the start of the relationship. It safeguards both parties and, in the event of a conflict, specifies solutions to avoid misunderstandings. Both the consumer and the supplier can save a lot of time and money this way.


Perhaps you’re aware that service providers are required to have a so-called service level agreement. This type of document can help manage customer expectations and establish when users are not to blame for outages or gaps in the provider’s activity. What is the significance of SLA? Let’s start with a definition of the SLA acronym.

Many contracts begin with an overview, which contains crucial contract details such as the contract’s start date, the parties involved, and a general explanation of the planned service offers. The summary could include crucial clauses and describe the agreement’s parties’ responsibilities. If they use the term “vendor” throughout the agreement, for example, they may explain who that title refers to in this first section.

Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an acronym for Service Level Agreement. It is a legally enforceable contract between a company and its service provider. It provides a list of the provider’s services, as well as inclusions, exclusions, and exceptions. It also offers KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for measuring performance and penalties for not meeting service requirements. It’s an essential component of every contract, and both vendors and partners must sign off on it.