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A Guide to Telecom Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Updated: June 24, 2020

A Service Level Agreement (SLA) details a service provider’s promises and guarantees about the services they offer. When evaluating service providers, “bells and whistles” in the form of fancy features can be attractive—until you realize reliability and dependability far outweigh features in terms of importance. When you know what to look for, it’s easy to tell if you’re engaging with a company who offers quality service your business can rely on. Once you identify which providers offer the highest quality of service, you can start to evaluate which of those providers have the features you need to grow your business.

Here’s a quick guide to the questions to ask and things to look for when talking with a new service provider. With these in mind, you’ll quickly be able to tell the best services from the worst.

What Does an SLA Have to Do With Your Success?

What exactly does success look like for market dominators and industry leaders? Is it having the best product in their market? Offering peerless service? … 

The answer? They’re always there for their customers. Whether that’s picking up the phone, responding to emails, conducting virtual collaboration, or timely delivery of solutions and support. It’s about timely and consistent fulfillment of promises. 

What do businesses need for consistent delivery? The right people? Tools? Platforms? Yes, yes, and yes. But what enables and powers those critical components? Your network. 

Your network is the backbone of your business. It’s what enables your teams, powers your tools, and keeps you connected with your customers. With so much riding on the importance of your network, can you risk network downtime? Worse yet, can you risk downtime without the promise of financial compensation? With business continuity more important than ever, how do you ensure your resiliency regardless of market fluctuations and the state of the world? SLAs.

What is an SLA in Networking and Why Do You Need One?

An SLA in networking is your provider’s promise of network performance. It is an agreement—or, if there are premium financial credits involved like with Epik, a contract—between an organization and their service provider. The SLA details the obligations and expectations of the mutual relationship, defining the level of service you can expect to receive from your provider. It should clearly state which components are covered and the corresponding metrics they’re measured by, including average metrics and the minimum metric level to be sustained before an SLA kicks in. Leading providers are confident in their reliable performance and services, and will therefore offer premium SLAs constructed on metrics that exceed industry standards and averages.

Why do you need an SLA? Simply put, because every minute in your operation is another minute toward your mission objectives and revenue goals. But if operations cease due to network-component failure, your business doesn’t just stop moving forward, it could move backward due to loss of clients, opportunities, and critical communications. An SLA provides the architecture, the blueprint, for what your provider will do to help make you whole and preserve your organization’s assets and reputation in the event an SLA is triggered. But an SLA will protect only what’s covered in the SLA. It is therefore of great importance you ensure the provider’s SLAs align with your unique operations and business goals.

What Should an SLA Guarantee?

Installation, uptime and latency are the fundamental services outlined in an SLA. Together, these tell you how well the provider knows the technology, their team, and their service. It also tells you how well they know their customers, knowing the SLA coverage customers need to be successful.

Network Installation

Look for an outline of installation times organized by product or service. A smooth, quick switch is one of the advantages of Hosted VoIP, so look for efficiency. The more specific, including any project exceptions, the better. The last thing you want is to be caught in a never-ending network transition with everyone giving you the runaround.

Network Availability (Uptime)

Network availability or uptime tells you how often your network will be running and accessible. While 100% network uptime is impossible to guarantee, most leading VoIP providers offer in excess of 99.9% guaranteed uptime. Even a difference of tenths of a percent have a significant effect on your office operations. Anything below 99.8% uptime is to be avoided, as it is substandard for Hosted VoIP.

Make sure the uptime guarantee pertains to the service you’re interested in. In some cases providers present 99.9% but only in highly controlled situations or for specific services. Uptime will usually come with exceptions in the fine print, but shouldn’t rule out main options.

Performance Protection for Your VoIP System

Low cost per call, service mobility, user-friendly features, versatile functionality, and reliable connectivity—all elements you’ll enjoy with the strong voice and video delivered by VoIP. Since VoIP is one of your core communications systems, you want to make sure it’s covered in the event of issues. When you’re considering a VoIP provider, confirm their SLA protects your VoIP service against recurring or sustained interruptions, poor audio fidelity, jitter, unreliable connectivity, and other similar performance issues. Leading providers will provide the tools and services needed for consistently clean, high-fidelity client and team interactions, while offering a financially backed VoIP SLA to protect against the unexpected.

Network Latency (Call Quality)

Latency is critical because it essentially describes voice and call quality. Generally, the lower the better, but you can expect leading providers to be at about 70 milliseconds of latency or lower across the continent. This is the measure of how long it takes voice data to travel the entire network between users.

High latency will result in a number of issues, ranging from voice delay to echo to dropped calls. The best installation and network availability won’t make up for poor voice quality.

Fair Compensation

SLA compensation is what holds a provider to their guarantee. You’re paying for reliability in an advanced technology. Unexpected issues shouldn’t be at your expense. The service compensation must represent an improvement over the service issue, otherwise there’s no hard incentive for the provider to stick to their SLA figures.

Look for the details on when and how the credits apply to make sure you are properly compensated. The key here is finding credits or options that directly benefit you in the future and make up for the loss. Dealing with only providers who’ve been around for a while, serving other reputable customers, will help ensure you won’t have to spend more precious time and resources just to cash in on your compensation.

Transparent Contract

Lastly, you want to make sure the SLA isn’t riddled with exceptions. Some amount of fine print is necessary for a company to protect itself, but it can sometimes be abused. SLAs may outline a number of desirable guarantees that actually exclude the provider’s main products or services. This is an attempt to inflate the guarantee and gain new business.

This is often accompanied by a lot of jargon that will usually leave non-tech managers or business owners somewhat confused. Again, with any technology service you will find industry-specific terms, but a conscientious provider will point you to the definitions in their SLA and actively clarify terms as part of the sales process. You should be excited about your new, next-generation cloud, voice, networking, and collaboration capabilities, not wary of being taken advantage of should anything not work as promised.

How Epik Empowers Leading Businesses with Premium Service

We believe in delivering the next-generation capabilities, user-friendly tools, and premium service needed to consistently exceed customer expectations. But we also know you need expert guidance, honesty, transparency, and reliability to get every ounce of value from all your solutions and power through your objectives.

Optimize Your Uptime with an Enterprise-Grade SLA

At Epik Networks, we hold ourselves accountable and stand by your business at all times. We exceed the industry standard to guarantee 99.99% uptime. With no one able to guarantee 100%, 99.99% is as close to uptime perfection as you’ll get. When every minute counts, every team collaboration vital, and each client interaction critical, every uptime percentage point makes a significant difference for the long term of your operations. You simply can’t risk going with anything lower than 99.99%.

Premium, Financially-Backed SLAs

Numbers are only as good as the guarantee behind them. With so much at stake, can you afford to not be compensated for potential downtime? We help ensure your business continuity by financially backing all our SLAs. The service compensation should always be greater than the service issue. Our guarantee covers your mission-critical services, outlined through clear, honest language—no tricky fine print. Keep your network running and accessible, your devices and applications powered, your teams productive, and your clients happy.

Saving money is especially important in today’s business climate. But cost savings should come through elements such as bundled pricing, informed investing, and expert guidance that ensures you pay for only what your business needs. Cost savings should not come from paying for cheap network services void of financially-backed guarantees. Paying the cheapest price possible for network solutions without financial guarantees might save you a few dollars in the midterm, but could cost you dearly in the long term. The risk of downtime without compensation simply isn’t worth the potential repercussions. And even if a Managed Services Provider (MSP) offers a financially-backed SLA, do they keep their promise? Make sure you partner with an MSP with a long and pristine track record of SLA fulfillment.

The Right SLA Keeps Your Operations Flowing for Optimal Productivity 

Data powers your solutions, tools, and people. You need to make sure your data gets to all target destinations as quickly and efficiently as possible. Ensure your network latency performance is guaranteed. Operate with confidence knowing Epik is always here to help prevent high-latency issues, such as voice delay, echo, and dropped calls, during your client interactions and team collaborations. In the event of sustained latency exceeding the terms we agree upon, you’ll receive indemnifying service credits to help you stay on track with your top objectives.

Get it Right, Right from the Start with our Network Installation SLA

It used to be whomever adopted cloud operations first leveraged a significant competitive advantage. Now, it’s businesses operating across multiple clouds and leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity who reap the benefits. Another of today’s significant competitive advantages comes from applications. Applications have become a central component in the daily operations of today’s leading businesses. But legacy networks weren’t intended to handle the massively increasing bandwidth demands, resource-intensive devices, and complex connectivity inherent to multi-cloud and app-centric operations. What does this mean for your network? You need a fiber optic network to get the most from next-generation solutions and outpace your competition. That likely means you need to switch your network. 

Epik Networks enables you to enjoy a quick, efficient, and seamless switch from your old network to your new fiber optic network. We’ll take care of everything to get you up and running within the agreed upon timeframe to ensure your business continuity. We follow industry-leading network installation and network availability SOPs. But in the unlikely event you experience latency outside the agreed upon rates, we’ll act quickly to correct the issue, backed by a service credit if latency exceeds the rate for the timeframe outlined in the SLA.

You can look forward to a smooth transition over to lightning-fast and secure connectivity, financially backed by our SLA guarantee. With your network representing the technology backbone of your business, you simply must go with an MSP that offers an SLA. But this is an SLA where it’s especially important to read the fine print. Less honest MSPs will waive the non-recurring charge (NRC), which means your service credit could be zero. Epik Networks strives to form long-term partnerships, which is why our SLAs are designed and fulfilled as promised to help keep you in business. We’re only successful if you’re successful.

Enterprise-Grade SLAs, Expert Guidance, and Reliable Support

We’re here for you no matter what’s going on in your market or the world. Operate with full confidence knowing you can leverage our flexible and reliable support whenever you need. Epik empowers and supports its partners with a range of self-service and self-help resources, phone support, and a user-friendly support-ticket system. Our support team is ready to assist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call and get connected with a highly trained technician within 60 seconds. From initial consultation to implementation and onboarding to maintenance and optimization, we’ll help you take your business to the next level.

Epik is dedicated to delivering the ultimate in connectivity, equipment reliability, and service quality. Our mission is to consistently perform at the highest level, with the aim of you never needing to redeem your SLAs. Regardless, we believe the service compensation should always outweigh the service issue, which is reflected in our plain-language SLAs. Ensure your business stays healthy with financially backed SLAs. Network-provider accountability you can trust.

Quality You Can Count on, SLAs You Can Bank On

Value. Accountability. Dependable excellence. These are just some of the standards Epik Networks lives by. We’ve been delivering on these standards since 2005. Consistency and reliability are key components to our mission and ongoing delivery of our exacting standards. It is through these standards that industry leaders have come to count on us for a variety of flexible network, collaboration, and communication solutions. We offer expert consultations and ongoing support to guide you through next-generation solutions and ensure your unique business is equipped with everything you need for success.

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