In today’s data-dependent culture, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are under constant pressure to deliver more network uptime at reduced cost. It’s no surprise that uptime has become one of the most sought-after commodities today: the constantly expanding availability of broadband internet around the world, coupled with an ever-increasing number of our day-to-day activities moving to the cloud or being augmented with Internet of Things (IoT) technology, means that we are becoming, in a very real sense, more and more dependent on data in every facet of our lives. But what constitutes acceptable levels of uptime in today’s landscape, and how can you ensure that they’re stuck to within the bounds of reason?

In this blog, we’ll discuss the importance of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in managing uptime, both from the client’s and the ISP’s perspective, and its role in facilitating customer satisfaction and business continuity.

What should the customer expect from an SLA?

In an SLA, the ISP provides an outline of the uptime they can guarantee for a particular customer. The amount of uptime agreed upon can depend on a variety of factors, including the type of connectivity available in the area and the client’s exact requirements. Typically, customers will be offered a percentage of guaranteed uptime, and will have to pay a higher rate should they require more. There’s a lot of writing about optimising SLA metrics (as well as identifying and resolving flawed measurement and reporting in SLA contracts), and as a result there are many SLA templates today that can be used with only a few small tweaks to the finer details. However, it’s important to bear in mind that for an SLA to be truly effective, it should be customised to the client’s unique circumstances.

What does an “acceptable level of uptime” look like today?

Depending on the nature of the organisation you’re partnering with, the level of uptime that should be considered “acceptable” may vary. A fairly common practice, for example, is for ISPs to offer “five nines” uptime, which means an uptime of 99.999%. That might seem impressive on paper, but once we dig a bit deeper, we see that five 9s translates to a daily downtime of 0.9 seconds, a weekly downtime of 6 seconds, and a yearly downtime of just over five minutes. It might not sound like much to the average business or home user, but for a service such as a telecoms network, five minutes of downtime a year could present some serious problems. The more uptime you offer your client, the more expensive it will be for you to maintain that target, and you could also be setting yourself up for failure if you agree to unrealistic terms in your SLA.

The best SLAs are always open to revision and optimisation.

Over time, the requirements of each individual network will change, as will the expectations on what constitutes acceptable uptime. Network Performance Management is about running a consistently available network, and it might be necessary to revise the uptime rates and other metrics in your SLA from time to time in order for it to provide optimal service to both the ISP and the client. Setting good SLAs from the outset reduces the frequency with which your SLAs will need to be revised, but at one point or another, every Service Level Agreement will have to be revisited to some extent. In the Xceed Group’s whitepaper on SLA metrics, measurement and manipulation, Manji Kerai outlines five basic guidelines for setting good SLAs:

  1. They are meaningful and reflect business priorities
  2. They are objective, measureable and reportable
  3. They reflect service performance entirely within the provider’s control and scope of responsibility
  4. The targets are realistic and fair to both parties
  5. They have consequences that provide an incentive for the service provider to do a good job and keep doing it well

Comprehensive SLAs and Network Performance Management go hand-in-hand in a number of ways. Setting comprehensive SLAs makes it easy to measure performance according to the stipulations set out in your agreement with the client, and helps to build good relationships by eliminating the chance for misunderstanding between ISP and client. To find out more about the importance of SLAs in Network Performance Management or IRIS’ range of versatile Network Management Software, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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