IT Problems are probably one of the most frustrating things that can happen within your business. What are you to do when you’ve got deadlines to meet, or you’re working from home and can’t access anything? Are you then expected to contact your IT support and wait? How long should you wait?
The answers to these questions are within SLA, a service level agreement. An SLA is the agreed length of time your IT company is contracted to respond to and resolve your IT issues within your business.
This works by having different levels of priorities; for instance, when you call your IT provider, log a ticket with them or call them, they will attach a level of stress. Within Integral IT, we have critical, High, Normal and Request levels.
This severity of the issue affects the entirety of the business. This could be in the form of a server being down or accessibility issues to emails. The response to this would be almost instantaneous. The problem needs to be solved as soon as possible.
A high-priority issue would affect one person’s ability to work in the business. These issues can interrupt the workflow and prevent people from missing important deadlines that they need to meet and therefore are treated with a high priority.
Any issues that don’t affect the workflow or productivity, such as errors or questions someone may have, would be classed as normal issues as they won’t affect the business.
Anything that isn’t a problem or issue, and just a task that may need doing, such as making a new account or placing an order for a new keyboard or computer, would be a ‘request’ as this is non-essential and can be done when there is time available.
With each of these different priorities, we have a guaranteed service level. A different priority has a different timeframe, with the worst issue being the fastest to react to and the least essential being the slower of the options. The way we categorise these IT problems is from a technical standpoint. How is this technical issue affecting the business or the individual? We get many IT issues logged with us, so we must find a way to organise how we tackle them.
There are scenarios in which the SLA timer will pause; an example is if you log an issue, such as being unable to log into email and then the engineer is unable to reach you to fix this problem, their timer will pause.
This high-priority issue may have a time of around 4 hours to improve; however, the engineer, who can’t get through to you for whatever reason, maybe you’re in a meeting, or you’ve left the office, will pause the timer after they try to contact you and get no response. The timer will start to run when you and the engineer are in contact again, and the issue can be resolved appropriately.
This is not the IT company’s fault as they have attempted to contact you and cannot resolve the issue if they are out of contact with you.
Another example of a timer being paused is if a product needs ordering. The timer would start during the ordering process, pause when delivery is in progress and then begin again when it arrived. Your IT provider cannot control the speed of the delivery other than selecting first class/next day.
Anything that IT support cannot control because of external services will result in the timer being paused until it is back in control of the IT company.
SLAs and Your Business
Now that you know SLAs and how IT companies prioritise might be time to time to look at your SLA with your IT company. Most importantly, does the SLA suit your business?
Your SLA needs to cover your regular working hours. For instance, if your business is open on weekends and the busiest day is on a Saturday, is this covered in your SLA contract, or does the SLA only cover the weekdays?
What about specific applications you might use that are critical to running your business? Does your IT company categorise problems with these applications properly, so the issues get fixed quickly?
SLAs are vital in ensuring that your business gets the right level of service from your IT provider. However, more than anything, nothing beats communication and setting customers’ expectations.