An Introduction to Service Level Agreements

Most maintenance agreements have an SLA or Service Level Agreement component.  SLAs establish customer expectations regarding service provider’s performance and quality in a number of ways.  In the case of service agreements, SLAs usually revolve around response times and how long it will take a service provider to respond when you raise an issue.  Issues must be reported in a specific way – for example an online system or via a help desk.

So You Guarantee To Respond But Not Fix It?

YES – Most support agreements will not guarantee resolution times. This is because the most severe, disruptive problems (like hardware failures) can take longest to fix and are often outside the immediate control of a service provider.

For example; a server crash can sometimes be resolved by simply restarting the server. That might only take five minutes. However, a server may also go offline because its hard disk has failed. If this happens, it may take a day or two to replace the disk, reinstall software and restore data from backups. Yet both these problems might be classed as ‘severe’, thus falling under the same resolution time.

What If I Want Guaranteed RESOLUTION Times?

We can do this, however, you need to be prepared to pay for hardware spares, spare servers and other equipment and/or services to have immediately on hand.  Repair times for specific systems can then be guaranteed.

Having a clear understanding of the SLAs associated with your maintenance agreement helps understand priorities, how work is allocated and sets expectations.

What Are PCA’s Normal SLA Definitions?

PCA defines our ticket PRIORITY levels as follows:

  • Priority 1 (P1) – A complete business down situation. The client is unable to operate.
  • Priority 2 (P2) – A major component of the clients ability to operate is affected.  Some aspects of the business can continue but it’s a major problem.
  • Priority 3 (P3) – The clients core business is unaffected, but the issue is affecting efficient operation by one or more people.
  • Priority 4 (P4) – The issue is an inconvenience or annoying but there are clear workarounds or alternates.
  • Priority 5 (P5) – The issue is a background or planned task and will be addressed when time permits or on the planned date.

Some Examples:

  • My computer is not booting – Unless you’re the CFO or you’re doing Payroll for your company, this is likely a P3. If it’s payday and you’re the CFO then it would be a P2!.
  • My email is not working. – a P3
  • The company's EMAIL is not working –  a P2.
  • The server is down – its taken our mail, files and whole companies login ability offline – A P1
  • No one can get to the internet – for most companies a P3  (for ones with complete dependence on Internet for their line of business application this could be a P1 or P2).

Who Determines the PRIORITY Level of The Issue?

The priority level will be initially determined by PCA. We know a lot about your business and are generally able to make this determination accurately.  Occasionally, we might get this wrong and not fully perceive the scope of the issue, so please let us know if you think any issue warrants a different priority level and why.

How Do We Determine the Priority Level?

The priority level for a particular job is determined based on the IMPACT of the problem and the perceived URGENCY as conveyed by the client. For our contract clients we utilize the following matrix to arrive at a PRIORITY level:

Some examples:

  • an issue of HIGH impact but MEDIUM urgency would be given a Priority 1 Level.  (as highlighted)
  • A MEDIUM impact and HIGH urgency would be given a PRIORITY 2 level.

Why Bother? – I Want My Job Done NOW!

A Ticket priority system is an essential component of a well-managed response system. In this manner, resources are allocated fairly across all our clients in logical manner and resources allocated to genuine need.  The International world standard best practices (ITIL standards) define these definitions and all reputable IT partners will adopt them to some degree. Even if you had entirely dedicated resources they would need to adopt a similar approach to internal job priority allocation.

The PCA Commitment

For PCA IT support we undertake the following commitments:

PW Reset:  Attempt to handle immediately via transfer to tech. Or respond ASAP
Priority 1
:  1 hour to respond
Priority 2:  4 hours to respond
Priority 3:  1 business day to respond
Priority 4:  5 business days to respond
Priority 5:  14 business days to respond

So What Does ‘Respond’ Mean?

In the context of PCA’s SLAs, respond means we will receive and acknowledge your issue and that we will have allocated a technical resource to commence work on the issue.  For all Priority 1 (and certain Priority 2 items) the issue will be worked at an expedited level by PCA until the problem achieves 1 or more of the following results:

  1. Full Resolution of the problem – Always PCA’s primary goal.
  2. Replacement items such as parts or software are ordered if the issue cannot be resolved without them.
  3. A work around is put in place when possible so client work can continue if more work needs to be accomplished by PCA to achieve full resolution.

After such time that any one of the three results listed above is achieved by PCA the issue’s severity will be lowered and worked in a normal manner until Full Resolution is achieved.

More Questions?

If you have more questions relating to SLAs or perhaps you need a different SLA around a KEY system or item of equipment, then please contact us at 845-876-6561.

*Note: All timeframes and ‘continuous’ means during business hours.

A Final Note – This article is intended to describe how an SLA works and provides our current general SLA commitment.  If you have a specific or old maintenance agreement, then your SLAs levels and response times will be defined in that document and take precedence.