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What Is A Service Level Agreement?

Service Level Agreements control all guarantees regarding response and resolution times, up-time, hours, availability, approved communication channels, call-out fees, and much more.

Just what is a service level agreement (SLA)?  It’s a contract that controls all vendor guarantees when entering into a managed IT services partnership.  The guarantees often pertain to technical support response and resolution times, up-time, hours of availability, approved communication channels, call-out fees, and more.

Each business has their own personal set of preferences and concerns. As a result, your service level agreement should be fully customized to suit your needs. It’s important for your business to set expectations at the onset of your managed service provider (MPS) agreement. This way, you know what to expect, and your vendor can provide you with the proper service.

Sample SLA

  • Support – Available during work hours 9:00am-5:00pm Monday through Friday, with the exception of federal holidays.
  • Emergency support – Available on a first-come first-serve basis for nights, weekends and holidays. Emergency support is available on an hourly basis.
  • Response Times – We guarantee the following response times:
    • No Impact/Reporting Tickets – 7 Days to close tickets
    • Minor/Standard Tickets – 24-hour response time
    • Major/Important Tickets – 4-hour response time
    • Site Down/Urgent/Critical/Server Issue – 2-hour response time
    • Crisis/Outage – Custom SLAs only
  • Up-time – We guarantee 99.999% up-time for Hosted Exchange Email, Office 365 applications and backup. Less than 30 seconds of unplanned downtime per month.
  • Crisis/Outage – Response times of as little as 5 minutes available.  All custom SLAs with Crisis Response are supplied with emergency contact information not available with standard agreements.

If there are specific needs that are not outlined in your SLA, request a revision. Ensure that you are comfortable within the parameters of the agreement before moving on to other matters.

Who Needs an SLA?

Service level agreements are very important when a business is paying for services on a retainer basis.  In other words, when paying upfront, SLAs are very necessary.  Without one in place, your new vendor could become decidedly less motivated after getting paid.  The SLA will ensure that your managed service provider is available on a regular and predictable basis.

Service level agreements are also important for an MSP.  It is an important tool for managing client expectations.  In the absence of an SLA, clients tend to demand priority service, even for small issues.  This leaves the vendor with little recourse when they cannot meet client demands service.  This can lead to strained relations between the vendor and client.  An SLA paves the way for better relationships, through well managed expectations.

Pros of Service Level Agreements

  • Predictable service
  • Streamlined pricing
  • Emergency response
  • Client recourse
  • Better client/vendor relationship

Cons of Service Level Agreements

  • Ongoing monthly expense
  • Rigid parameters for requesting and receiving support
  • Non-critical issues might take longer to get to resolution


Service level agreements are a must when contracting with a managed IT service provider.  Without one, it will be a constant battle between the vendor and client.  Consequently, no one will be happy.  Do not proceed with an MSP without a service level agreement you are comfortable with.