A service level agreement (SLA) is a contractual document between a service provider and a customer that spells out responsibilities of both parties. It describes the type and quality of services customers can expect to receive from their providers, and outlines how customers can resolve problems.
A typical SLA can include the following information:
Quality of service, or availability. The availability is typically measured in percentages. For example, the service availability of 99.9% means that the allowed downtime per month is 43.8 minutes. Any monthly downtime (usually scheduled and unscheduled) over 43.8 minutes will be considered a breach of contract.
Remedies for common potential problems. An SLA usually describes who should be contacted if a problem occurs, and the typical response time required to resolve a problem. It also describes the type of compensation (account credits, etc.) customers can expect from the provider if a breach occurs.
Termination of contract clause. An SLA often has a provision that determines the circumstances when a customer (based on the performance of the service) can decide to terminate the relationship before the contract expires without incurring any penalties.
SLAs are typically signed between customers and external suppliers. In addition, large organizations can also establish SLAs between internal departments, in order to monitor and evaluate the performance of their IT teams.
Monitoring SLAs can be a difficult and tedious task. Many organizations rely on the help of System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) to oversee their SLAs. SCOM can track various SLA objectives, such as SLA performance and availability. The biggest problem, however, is that SCOM is not doing it proactively. To check the status of SLAs, administrators have to open a report or a dashboard, which can prevent them from catching problems in time. It’s important to know when an SLA is about to be breached, so that the problem can be remedied, rather than to know when it already happened.
Although SCOM, on its own, is not capable of proactively monitoring SLAs, it can be achieved by deploying Live Maps Unity to work together with SCOM. With the help of Live Maps Unity, organizations can automatically track performance of their SLAs, with automatic alerts to warn administrators when certain benchmarks are about to be reached. Live Maps Unity allows the IT team to view the status of SLA monitoring in context with other relevant status information that show, besides SLA impact, business impact and root-cause information.
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