Cloud computing is not news for anyone anymore. Nonetheless, cloud has changed the way most businesses operate today. Service Level Agreements (SLA)s have become far more commonly used. As an accepted standard in business transactions, their shape and content have adjusted over time to both new services being provided and to the changing demands of the customers.

So, what is SLA? To put it simply, all of the customer’s expectations in terms of service level are neatly organized in this one legal document. The provider guarantees that its service will meet all the needed parameters. You can check out our SLA here.

Even though now they are more widely known because of heavy use by cloud hosting providers, Service Level Agreements have their roots in the 1980s when telecom operators started using them.

Service Level Agreements can be defined using different levels. The two most common types of SLAs are:

Customer-based SLA: An agreement signed with an individual customer or a group of customers, specifically designed to cover the services that group uses. You can have one of these, for instance, between a hosting provider and the finance department of a large company to cover things like the finance systems, the payroll systems, the billing systems, the procurement/purchase systems, etc.

Service-based SLA: One of the most used types of SLAs, it implies the same standard agreement for all the customers using the services that are offered by the service provider. Take, for example, an e-mail system for all of the companies. The SLA would cover the whole service provided.

Your cloud provider might guarantee that you will have service at least 99.99% of the time. If whatever little downtime that remains is still too much, it may require negotiating with your service provider to establish the terms of the service that are satisfactory for both parties. Of course, disaster might strike and without a well written and executed plan, your business might lose money, so you it is important to make sure the business continuity provisions are covered in the SLA.

We at Prominic.net have included some important sections in our SLA: Network Uptime, Server Availability, Network and Server Exclusions, Hardware Guarantee, Scheduled Maintenance, Customer Support, Remedy & Credits.

Network Uptime is fairly self-explanatory. As a hosting provider, we guarantee that the network will be available 99.99% of the time, corresponding specifically to no more than 5 minutes of downtime in a given month, excluding scheduled maintenance.

Server Availability is a bit more on the technical side, such as having certain ports available, port 80 (HTTP) and, when applicable, ports 1352 (Lotus Domino) and/or port 22 (SSH). You can get all the details here.

Network and Server Exclusions section of the SLA serves to make communication clear between us and our customers. For instance, our customers need to let us know in a reasonable amount of time if things have gone wrong.

Hardware Guarantee. Since we are a hosting company and are depending on a lot of hardware to provide our clients with a service, should anything break, we will fix it. Should any piece of hardware become obsolete, we will take care of upgrading it as well.

We will, from time to time, need to do some maintenance work, this is where the Scheduled Maintenance section of our SLA comes into action.

Also, because we want our customers to know when they can rely on us and our great support, we have included the  Customer Support section.

Remedy & Credits is where we clarify what we will do for you should we mess things up so bad that your business is affected.

Why do we talk about how we wrote our SLA? Because it’s a model of what an SLA should look like. It helps you and your business to have everything  neatly organized in a document that states exactly what your service provider will do for you, and what happens if that service fails.

When it’s your business on the line, such a document can protect you in case of an unforeseen interruption, since you depend on your service provider to run your business. So, let’s try and secure ourselves, so that a SLA is not just a piece of paper that grants you an illusion of safety, but a real tool that protects both you and your provider so that your business relationship is an easy one.