What is an SLA?

  • Agreements with customers about the reliability of your service.
  • An SLA (service level agreement) is an agreement between a provider and client about measurable metrics like uptime, responsiveness, and responsibilities. SLA has to have consequences if it’s violated, otherwise, there’s no point in making one.

These agreements are typically drawn up by a company’s new business and legal teams and they represent the promises you’re making to customers—and the consequences if you fail to live up to those promises. Typically, consequences include financial penalties, service credits, or license extensions. SLAs are notoriously difficult to measure, report on, and meet as these agreements—generally written by people who aren’t in the tech trenches themselves—often make promises that are difficult for teams to measure, don’t always align with current and ever-evolving business priorities, and don’t account for nuance. 

For example, an SLA may promise that teams will resolve reported issues with Product X within 24 hours.

Who needs an SLA? An SLA is an agreement between a vendor and a paying customer. Companies providing a service to users for free are unlikely to want or need an SLA for those free users.