Tech

What are SLA’s and why does your Managed IT Service Provider need to have one

When a company is working out a Service Level Agreement with a Managed IT Service Provider, there needs to be a clear understanding of expectation for the SLA to be mutually beneficial for both the MSP and the client.

SLA’s serve to hold IT companies accountable when delivering an expected standard of IT Services.

Clearly defined metrics are used to measure the quality of services agreed upon in the SLA.

The purpose of an SLA is to ensure your Managed IT Services Provider will take every reasonable step to ensure your staff are able to use their systems and any fault can be fixed as soon as possible.

Your Managed IT Support Provider will act as your IT department; carrying out any reasonable task required of them within their support hours -unless specifically excluded from your agreement.

For an MSP to provide effective IT Support, they must be familiar with equipment deployed in your end-user environment. Location, too, is an important factor for an MSP to meet standards you expect of them. For example, if an MSP is based in London, it may be more ideal for their client to be based in London also.

The closer your MSP is to your business, the quicker they can resolve your ‘on-site’ IT issues.

Features to look for in an IT support SLA:

In a Service Level Agreement, there are different types of IT Services and IT Solutions: such as:

Services:

1.     Remote Support

Remote IT Support is any work undertaken under the end user support agreement being delivered by IT engineers working from the offices where your MSP is located.

2.     On-Site Support

On-site IT support is any work undertaken under the end user support agreement being delivered by IT engineers working at your location or at any of your sites.

Solutions:

3.     Standard Software

Standard software, which is widely available and installed in many office environments. This would include applications such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Microsoft Exchange Server, Safari, etc.

4.     Third Party Software

Third party software is used to describe software supplied by a vendor for a specific business requirement of the client, which is less commonly available and is usually supported by a specific support agreement and specialist
helpdesk. This would include systems such as business portals built on specialist systems, bespoke accountancy packages, etc.

When an IT support ticket comes into an IT service desk team, the first task is to differentiate whether there has been a technical fault or IT failure at the client’s location If they are requesting a service (e.g. new user request, email group, firewall
modification etc.)
If there is a maintenance issue such as a network monitoring alert.

 The Service desk team should assort incoming support tickets based on the following priority levels:

 Priority 1 – High – complete catastrophic failure e.g. AD server offline and no one can log in.

 Priority 2 – Medium (default) – partial but insubstantial impact e.g. cannot print to 3 of 6 printers available

 Priority 3 – Low – service requests such as a request for a new starter, change to the folder permissions, an issue affecting one individual user some of the time

This would enable your Managed IT Services Provider to identify risk areas, spot opportunities for your business, make fact-based recommendations for the management of your infrastructure and provide detailed reporting 

Expected response times to be agreed in your SLA agreement with your MSP could be as follows:

Priority 1 – 20 mins response and 8 working hours resolution

Priority 2 – 1-hour response and 16 working hours resolution

Priority 3 – 1-hour response and up to 5 days resolution 

A typical view of our weekly incident reports appears as follows:

To put this into perspective, your MSP should aim to achieve 90% completion of all tickets within their respective time frames. You should be provided with transparent analysis on target delivery, deep analysis, and reporting/dashboards, enabling you with the capability to monitor ticket status and SLA in real-time.

How clients can help IT companies deliver the SLA and uptime you need:

It all comes down to the ‘robustness’ of your IT Infrastructure. Equipment needs to be kept up-to-date; all software and their patches require regular updates to maintain stable systems and there is a requirement of continual investment in an IT Teams’ skillsets to keep with the pulse of modern business demands, as well as deliver effective management of your IT solutions.

The ‘bare bones’ of it is this – if you invest in your infrastructure, the more uptime you are likely to experience and the less an SLA becomes a focal point.

For instance, if a client’s infrastructure has limitations, to begin with, IT companies should provide recommendations to them based on in-depth auditing of their IT systems.

Hypothetically, if systems within your IT infrastructure were outdated – yet you decide not to invest for the next 24 months – yes, initial costs would be less than if you were to upgrade systems with state-of-the-art IT Solutions.

However, faulty components are unpredictable; their shelf life incalculable and they present a difficult challenge when forecasting future IT budgets. It becomes difficult to predict:

when systems will break down (it’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’) how often they will break down the amount of downtime the business will suffer as a result 

How would an SLA play a part in this?

 Many tech providers cease to provide support for outdated systems. In such situations, this makes replacing faulty parts for unsupported IT systems both problematic and expensive over a 24-month period. Particularly if downtime becomes your biggest headache. Experienced Managed IT Service Providers will be up-to-date with which IT systems are no longer supported therefore will make it perfectly clear they will not provide support for techany longer supported by the vendor.

The initial expense of upgrading your IT infrastructure would truly pay off as fixed monthly costs make for a favourably more predictable bottom line; less chance of downtime and greater peace of mind that you are prepared for that possibility. This is enabling businesses with highly productive workforces no longer limited by the tools they have been provided with.

In conclusion, if you are paying for service desk services promised to be of the highest standards, then having clear visibility into your SLA delivery, the quality being delivered and data being reported becomes vital, as it will indicate the true value for the monthly amount of service charge.

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Mitesh founded Fifosys, an IT Infrastructure management services providers, in 2001 following completion of a master's in computer science. He has a reputation for straight talking, delivering focused and effective directives to his clients. Having an in-depth understanding of both operational and transformational IT projects, he enables exceptional IT project delivery at Fifosys. He also acts as a mentor, guiding junior aspirants commencing their business career.

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