The Beauty of a Great SLA

For MSPs, setting realistic expectations and educating customers is critical before finalizing a backup and disaster recovery (BDR) contract and service level agreement (SLA).

October 18, 2013

3 Min Read
The Beauty of a Great SLA

By Datto Guest Blog 2

I’m thinking I should take some of my own medicine when it comes to setting homework expectations with my kids, and implement a Homework Service Level Agreement (SLA).  If I write it correctly and set viable expectations for both my kids and myself, it might be the answer to ending late nights and upset kids (and a tired, upset mom!).

As many of you know a good SLA is the foundation of a strong mutually beneficial working relationship between your business and your client.  It’s a must in the managed services space.

Simply put, a SLA is a negotiated contract between a service provider and customer that details which products the service provider will deliver. While SLAs are undoubtedly important, it can become a slippery slope if expectations are not properly set. 

While managed service providers (MSPs) want to offer only the best service possible to their clients, it’s imperative to include practical measures in the backbone of their SLA. For MSPs, setting realistic expectations and educating customers is critical before finalizing a backup and disaster recovery (BDR) contract.

Customer expectations are one of the most important elements when finalizing a contract. William Shakespeare was on target when he sayeth, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”  An open flow of communication between the MSP and end user will allow both parties to define exactly what they can expect from one another. The mantra for setting customer expectations is under-represent and over-deliver, so that an MSP or VAR can be the hero that saved the client’s company tens of thousands of dollars and thusly, offering value to your services.

In regards to backup, recovery and continuity, clear customer expectations allow the customer to understand the process they will go through if a disaster does occur. While the MSP or VAR is there to manage the risk with support for their servers, if they need a file or server restored, the expectations are in place for the MSP or VAR to limit risk on them.

How To Set Your Customer Expectations:

  • Service Level Agreement times are for first response, NOT for time of resolution. This is important because some issues can take longer than expected for a variety of reasons.

  • Properly train your staff on SLA to avoid any miscommunication to clients.

  • Understand your vendors’ SLAs in order to properly set your own. For example, Datto’s SLA is organized by priority levels, Emergency, Urgent, High, Normal, and Low. Emergency/Urgent issues will receive a response within 1 hour, High will be responded to within 4 hours, Normal 6 hours, and Low 10 hours.

  • Set estimated times for all types of restoring, i.e. BMRs, File Restores, Virtualizations, etc., that are reasonable and attainable.

  • Guarantee that all issues will attempt to be resolved within the committed time frame.

  • Environmental issues (i.e. Server data change, failed RAID cards) are unavoidable and should be addressed within the committed time frame. 
It is good business practice to limit your company’s risk by putting hold harmless clauses. Reassure your client that your job is to limit the amount of risk to the client as possible.

It’s important to set expectations as to what the MSP should manage, what the client can manage and when to bring in the vendor. This way, problems can be fixed more efficiently and miscommunication is avoided. Creating a more detailed SLA will help MSPs convey it’s committed to servicing their clients.

Please share any tips you have on creating a great SLA.  And if you have any tips on a Homework SLA!

Holly Wainwright is Director of Marketing at Datto.

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