Every service contracts with a managed service provider (MSP) should be regulated by an SLA (Service Level Agreement). Without a properly drafted SLA it is hard to measure the level of service commitment and maintain a healthy relation with the provider that would lead to disputes and conflicts. A contract with an MSP is successful when the provider fulfills all the terms and conditions of the SLA. A well drafted SLA should clearly specify the services they offer, performance metrics, response time to support requests, responsibilities of each parties and a non-disclosure agreement with the information shared with the provider. Though Service Level Agreements varies from provider to provider and with the type of service they offer, here are the basic elements those should be considered at the least.
- Definition of Service
Based on the service contract with a provider, they might have control over some of the IT assets such as servers and workstations but not others which are already in another contract or under warranty. The SLA must have an inventory of assets those are covered in the contract to avoid any confusion about the assets in case of a malfunction.
- Reporting Channels
The service providers should be informed when there is a problem. The best way to contact the MSP staff should be clearly mentioned in the agreement and to make sure the quick response of to a problem. Be sure that a guaranteed response time is defined apart from the resolution time. It could be by email, phone, SMS but the method of communication should be specified.
- Performance Metrics
With a service contract an MSP is being trusted and allowed to access your IT environment for the support and smooth functioning of their business operations. The agreement must mandate periodical submission of performance metrics and reports such as device uptime and incident response times to measure the quality of the services. The metrics should be realistic, relevant, and easy to quantify, to avoid ant ambiguity about agreed performance levels.
- Compensation for SLA violation
Money-back guarantees and compensation terms must be part of a good SLA with relevant termination clause if the service provider is unable to perform as per the SLA agreed. The money back could be in the form some discounts with the next billing proportional to the violation of the service agreement. Non performance of SLAs could include Service delivery levels, non deployment of adequate skilled resources on-site/off-site, not maintaining adequate level of inventory etc
When drafting and SLA, responsibilities of both parties must be clearly defined for the access and use of IT environments by following practices and procedures sanctioned by the management. This gives accountability for both parties in case of unwanted or risky computing behaviors such as installation of unnecessary applications or data access. The corresponding party must be held accountable if any of these cause service disruptions.
The SLA set expectations and commitments from the provider to a certain level of service, and a good SLA helps to avoid disagreements between parties that can lead to early contract termination. If you have a contract without an SLA, it is the time to rethink your strategy to protect yourself and the provider.