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How SLAs Are Used

Not Everything Is Rosy

Many enterprises' biggest complaint with their service providers is that they see their SLAs as being difficult to enforce and document, and the agreements often don't have sharp enough teeth (see "SLA Enforcement and Business Issues," right). When deploying or renegotiating SLAs you need to go in with your eyes open--just knowing where pitfalls lie is half the battle.

SLA Enforcement & Business Issues
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Don't give up on SLA negotiations, even if you can't get the teeth that you would like--more than half of enterprises surveyed say that SLAs are useful even if there are no penalties involved. For example, assuming you choose good metrics, you can get a sense of where you stand and use this information to leverage future agreements with that provider or obtain better agreements with other service providers. In that vein, make part of the negotiation process delivery of good metrics to show whether the SLA has been met, and ensure that the performance documentation is in a form that is understandable and useful to your organization. Clearly, given the problems and costs associated with SLAs, businesses must have a compelling reason for taking the leap, and indeed, SLAs can support business goals (see "How SLAs Support Business Goals,").

SLAs are so important that a majority of respondents would subscribe to some services only if an SLA were available for it. They also say that SLAs help them compete more effectively: If it's worth the expense to deploy a new network service, it's worth the expense to know if the service is supporting the business goals that drove its deployment. In fact, the majority of enterprises surveyed deploy SLAs with a wide variety of services, ranging from low-level infrastructure and transmission services, such as frame relay, to high-level services, like videoconferencing.

So whether the services you plan on offering are complex or simple, SLAs will help maximize customer (end user) satisfaction. SLAs also will help you be more competitive by letting you know exactly where your dollars are going and if you are getting what you paid for.

Many of those surveyed place great value on SLAs (see "SLA Benefits,"). However, SLAs grow more valuable the more precisely they are written and measured. That's where marking and measurement come in. Marking in SLA parlance means the identification of specific services through the network. In this context, measurement means monitoring the marked services.

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