Components of a Service Agreement

Service agreements and SLAs may include the following items.

  1. Introduction: All documents need an introduction. In this case, the intro could identify the service, the customers and any other relevant parties. It may describe the service in detail or refer to another document elsewhere.
  2. Roles and Responsibilities: To the extent not addressed in the Introduction, this section should explicit define the responsibilities of the service provider(s), customers, and any relevant third parties. A RACI chart may be appropriate.
  3. Access: This item describes how the service is to be accessed and will vary based on the particular product. For example, if the service is an application, it might be accessed only via a browser with password security, but direct database access or ssh connectivity into the operating system is not allowed. If the service is a Metro Ethernet, access may only be available via the Ethernet protocol.
  4. Availability/Reliability: Describe the windows of availability. Mention here the maintenance window schedule or at least how downtime will be negotiated. If the service or solution has some notable single points of failure, this is where to address. If the customer did not want to fund redundant whatevers, they should not be expecting highly available service.
  5. Performance: Certain operational parameters may affect performance, pricing and commitments, such as maximum number of concurrent users and peak number of transactions per hour. These need to be defined and monitored. The service consumer may be expecting particular metrics, such 99.9% availability and one hour response times, and these also should be defined and monitored.
  6. Backup and retention: This component is likely relevant if the service is an application or environment. It could refer to a standard backup plan (or SA/SLA) or describe a customized plan for this service.
  7. Monitoring: This section should define what all parties should expect in terms of monitoring.
  8. Disaster recovery: This section should define the typical recovery and disaster recovery responsibilities of the service provider.
  9. Security/compliance concerns: Any relevant security or compliance concerns or regulations should be noted in this section. The service will be delivered differently if the data is sensitive vs. public domain.
  10. Change control: Some verbiage should express (or refer to) how changes to the service or product – as well as changes to the agreement itself – will be handled. In the former case, the SA may refer to a change or release management process; in the latter, there are likely contract and pricing ramifications to changes to the agreement.
  11. Engaging support: The service consumer must know the method to engage real-time support, i.e. the incident management process. This includes both points of initial contact and escalation.
  12. Sign-off: Whether there are signatures on this document or emails of approval, the service agreement must be officially agreed to.

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