3 Tips For Informed SLA Management

Performance & Operations

The trend of outsourcing IT services has grown over the past few years. Productized services have many advantages, including scalability, external support, flexible pricing tiers, and term-based commitments. However, those advantages also bring with them a number of challenges as well.

Vendor procurement and accountability is not always straightforward. Many organizations struggle to understand the true cost and the true value of the services they pay for. This hinders their ability to ensure all Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are adequately maintained.

In this article, we’ll take a look at SLAs and provide you with a few tips for success.

What Are Service Level Agreements (SLAs)?

Service Level Agreements are explicit expectations of a vendor, defined with metrics for accountability. SLAs often include a series of discounts or penalties that can be exercised if a commitment is broken. These penalties are put in place to ensure that vendors are held financially responsible for any lapses in their service which could affect customers’ end-users and bottom line.  

Components of an SLA

An SLA has two main components: Service Level Objectives (SLO) and Service Level Indicators (SLIs).  

  • SLOs provide your team with specific goals (e.g., 99.97% uptime) they must meet to keep an agreement in good standing.
  • SLIs provide your team with real-time measurements (e.g., 99.998% uptime) related to that goal.

With both SLOs and SLIs, it’s a lot easier to fully understand, agree to, measure, and own an SLA.

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The Challenge Of SLA Management

SLAs can be complicated to manage. They may even lead to legal disputes between the vendor and the customer.

Typical reasons for SLA disputes can include:

  • Discrepancies over the time-frame being addressed.
  • Bias sources of the performance metrics.
  • Unknown accuracy of the data.

However, there are several actions that both vendors and customers can take to ensure accurate and verifiable performance data, as it pertains to their SLAs.

SLA Tips

1. Determine SLA Parameters

The first and most critical step for reducing SLA disputes is to define the parameters for SLA data collection and tracking. This typically includes both parties agreeing on two major components:

  • The data collection method (often a neutral third-party)
  • The time and locations for conducting performance analysis

Select a Data Collection Method

Agreeing on a data collection method is critical. If vendors and customers are using different monitoring tools to measure Service Level Indicators (SLIs), there will inevitably be disagreements on the validity of the data and whether the Service Level Objective (SLO) was reached or not.

Selecting the appropriate neutral third-party depends on a few factors, such as the number of users being served and where those users are located. An international business must also look for a solution that has ample coverage, or else they risk 1) SLI blindspots and 2) relying on multiple different SLA monitoring systems (and data sets) with varying collection methods.

Flashtalking, an international online advertising company, relies on Catchpoint for unbiased SLA monitoring.  This is because Catchpoint’s Global Node Network spans more than 850 nodes across 80 countries — meaning diverse performance data for accurate and objective accountability.

Define Time And Location Requirements

Measurement locations from the backbone and the last mile, as well as any relevant cloud provider, should be included for a full view. Requiring a diversity of analysis locations also ensures both parties can retain visibility and reporting capabilities should the cloud provider itself experience an outage. For example:

  • Use backbone testing to eliminate noise and validate Service Level Objectives (SLOs).
  • Use last mile testing to replicate the end-user experience.

2. Set Up Alerts Around SLA Thresholds

If you’ve followed the advice above, you’ve completed step one of effective SLA management: establishing the criteria for objective performance analysis. Creating alerts to catch degrading service, breach thresholds, and disruptions is step two.

The Cloud Ops team at iSeatz,  a loyalty tech company enabling travel & lifestyle bookings, relies on CatchPoint’s alerts to monitor the performance of their CDNs. “Every region uses a different edge making it complicated to test,” says Warshawski, VP of Cloud Operations and Information Security at iSeatz. “By setting up Catchpoint nodes in different locations where our customers exist, we can evaluate performance and take action such as spin up a new environment.”

Having fast and reliable alerting is essential to quick remediation and transparent communication, regardless of which side of the SLA agreement you’re holding.  

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3. Keep Historical Data

In many cases, businesses rely on other third parties such as DNS resolvers, cloud providers, and content delivery networks to deliver their applications and services to end-users. This can result in disruptions that are outside of their control.

If this is the case for your business, more important than ever to be able to  easily separate first- and third-party architecture components’ actions. This understanding enables you to accomplish several goals:

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  • Prove that a service disruption is not your fault.
  • Hold other vendors accountable instead.

Keep in mind that your performance data is invaluable in helping your vendors troubleshoot their own issues as quickly as possible — which ultimately helps your end-users.

Conclusion

SLA management can be tricky, especially when many of your services are provided by third party vendors. But the most common challenges to SLA management can be easily remedied by setting clear objectives, defining key metrics, and employing a mutually-agreed upon SLA monitoring solution to collect SLA performance data.

Need Help Managing SLAs?
Get clear and unbiased SLA measurements with Catchpoint.
Catchpoint’s monitoring solutions span across the largest global node network, offering multiple vantage points into your digital experience, end-to-end.
Get the SLA Handbook
Published on
Nov 16, 2017
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