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Managed Service Providers – Service Level Gotchas

The market is awash with choice when it comes to Managed Service Providers (MSP’s). You can go to a big SI, small specialist firm or resellers or Cloud providers.

So when choosing a partner to manage your Application or Database tier, what subtle points should you look out for? One key area is the Service Level Agreements they’re willing to commit to.

All MSP’s go by SLA’s. But how ambiguous are they? Are they rigid in the suppliers favour?

Sometimes you’ll see a clause in a contract stating that you can exercise a break-out of the contract only if they do not meet certain percentage of an SLA.

For instance – ‘[client] may only terminate the contract if [supplier] doesn’t achieve 90% of the Response SLA’s’

A thing to look out for is the term ‘response’. What exactly do they mean by response? Some MSP’s will consider a response an automated email ‘thanking’ them for logging a call. Boom – every call logged, you get an automated email within the “Response SLA”! You’re now trapped in a 3 year contract. Other times, a response is a ‘call back’ saying they’ll start the work whenever. Both could be seen as within ‘SLA’, but neither helps the client.

A truly sincere MSP, looking to provide a win-win scenario without trickery, would give you the option to negotiate SLA’s based on your terms, not just theirs.

A good MSP will also have the courage to admit that not all SLA’s will be 100% met 100% of the time – as MSP’s will still have challenges managing capacity and resource. They will (you hope), however, will be much better equipped to scale and manage these.

So if you’re in the market to outsource your Oracle or MS SQL Database management, or your E-Business Suite Support, look for a partner who’s willing to have a frank discussion about what you deem as appropriate Service Levels, not just what they want.

Also, look for a partner who’s also willing to commit to RESOLUTIONS, not just responses. This will ensure you’re not being forced to compromise on service and that the supplier is serious about pro-actively fixing things, not just responding to things that happen.

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