The Service Level Agreement (SLA) is often the bridge that connects the technical expertise to the business management perspective. It is that yardstick which lets you see whether your vendor is keeping their end of the promise or not.
A thorough SLA will list expectations from a service, as well as specific exceptions to the service terms. Exceptions can include elements like factors outside the control of the service provider. These can include network issues and regular or scheduled maintenance and faulty hardware.
A Service Level Agreement can also include exceptions that may be exclusive to the service provider. When exceptions are spelled out, they can provide legal protection to the provider as well.
SLAs in the context of user experience and the cloud
But how many vendors really understand the link between user experience and the outlines of the Service Level Agreement?
The Service Level Agreement is an instrument to safeguard user experience, while delivering the key points as specified by the client. For this reason, service level agreements can become a double-edged sword where end-user experience may not be assigned as much significance as it is expected to have. If end-user experience is not taken seriously, the SLA loses its significance.
As virtual workspaces get popular and cloud computing gets higher acceptance, a Service Level Agreement needs to cover more ground. This is because providers may work in a distributed network system, a trend that could multiply as more people take to cloud-based systems. With applications within a distributed network being accessed by many users, the need for effective application monitoring increases. An SLA thus needs to be able to adapt to changes more rapidly, while continuing to monitor application behavior effectively.
An SLA can:
> Help ensure a certain level of performance
> Bring consistency in the face of multiple service providers and their networks
Elements that need to be covered by a Service Level Agreement:
Monitoring performance: Web services can be monitored for their performance. However, to ensure that an SLA-covered service is launched or deployed, it is a good idea to test its components. Later, the tools that you use to test components could also be employed to test SLA-adherence.
Elements for a service that is to be covered with a Service Level Agreement
Some elements in a web service that is covered with an SLA must be tested thoroughly before they are launched or deployed.
Some elements that are part of services covered by a Service Level Agreement include:
> Access to controls: Does the service have open access or can only authorized entities access it and control it?
> Response time: This is one of the vital parameters in a web-based service. Generally, user attention spans are as short as 2-3 seconds. Anything more than 10 seconds can be considered slow.