This article is part of a larger series on VoIP.
A service level agreement (SLA) is a contract between an end-user and a service provider—defining the type of contracted services, quality metrics, and the expected penalties and remedies. The SLA serves as a customer guarantee and establishes the priorities of a service provider, including product quality, service provision, costs, and client satisfaction.
The Importance of Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
An SLA is an essential document that indicates what a provider is expected to deliver and what happens if they don’t. This will keep them accountable when fixing bugs, responding to support requests, and keeping your business running 24/7.
Here are the other reasons having an SLA is important when committing to a business phone provider:
Protection for Both Parties
Should disputes arise, any contract without an SLA is open to misinterpretations. The SLA contains information about the dispute resolution process and a clause protecting the client from third-party litigations from service-level breaches. With an SLA, both the provider and customer avoid misunderstandings and apply specific remedies in times of conflict.
Adherence to Industry Compliances
An SLA may include information related to compliance programs affecting communication security. One example is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires service providers to meet their availability obligations and manage data risks. If you’re in an industry requiring specific compliance, check in advance whether your chosen phone system provider accommodates these requirements.
Manage Client Expectations
During system outages, businesses only tolerate a few minutes of downtime. Otherwise, this will hurt the efficiency of their operations and customer satisfaction. To ensure a provider is honest in terms of its uptime guarantee, an SLA provides approximate predictions regarding the response time. The SLA will also stipulate the service expectations and penalties.
Maintain Seamless Operations
For businesses and customers alike, a high level of service performance is critical in delivering seamless operations. In call center environments, SLAs play an important role as a communication and conflict-reduction tool. An SLA indicates how quickly agents should handle a large volume of calls and maintain a certain standard of service to their customers. It also enables you to track and analyze your company’s overall call center performance.
The Different Levels of Uptime SLAs
Voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) statistics are used by business phone providers as a major selling point. An example is offering the highest uptime guarantee because it is something potential customers often look for. When analyzing SLAs, it’s important to note that every additional 9 a provider adds to their uptime score is equivalent to a slight increase in reliability and costs.
The most common standard for uptime is 99.999%, or the so-called “five 9s,” which means the network stays operational 99.999% of the time. However, not all providers offer this level of SLA. Take a look at the chart below to determine how uptime is measured:
1h 40m 48s
7h 18m 17s
21h 54m 52s
3d 15h 39m 29s
2h 11m 29s
8h 45m 56s
Uptime and availability are often used interchangeably as long as the topic discussed is consistent. For example, in a network outage, a system can stay up, but the service is not available. There are also cases when the system is available to work on, but the service isn’t functional. Perspective is important in uptime SLAs—whether the item discussed is the software, hardware, operating system, or the service itself.
Providers With High Uptimes
Achieving a high uptime guarantee is no easy feat for a business phone provider. Fortunately, many industry leaders have continuously invested in powerful architectures to maintain a level of reliability for their customers.
Here are the top business phone providers that provide the best uptime SLA in the industry:
RingCentral is one of the best business phone systems for managing communications across various channels, such as messaging, phone, and video. It maintains a 99.999% uptime thanks to its geo-redundant data centers, decades of industry experience, and powerful cloud architecture. They use a modular strategy to intelligently manage increases in usage while also ensuring redundancy and resiliency.
Check out our RingCentral review for a more comprehensive view of this leading business phone provider.
Dialpad is a cloud communications platform for conferencing, contact centers, and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered customer service. It boasts of its 100% uptime SLA to its Enterprise-level subscribers on both unified communications and contact center solutions. With its multitenant architecture, Dialpad guarantees 100% company commitment to delivering customer satisfaction and keeping them connected 24/7.
For more details, read our Dialpad review to learn more about the cloud-based communication services they offer.
Nextiva is among the most popular business phone providers because of its robust communication and collaboration features for growing businesses and remote teams. This provider offers a 99.999% uptime guarantee on every plan to avoid downtime for your operations. It actively monitors its network 24/7 to ensure maximum reliability and connectivity for its customers.
To know more about this provider, take a look at our Nextiva review and see how they perform for your business.
Wondering whether you should switch to a cloud-based VoIP or remain using your legacy phone system? Check out our guide about VoIP vs landline to find which one fits your small business needs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How should I verify the service level?
Most providers have statistics available through their website or customer service portal. They will state whether they actively meet their SLAs and what type of credits and penalties they are entitled to. However, it’s important to discuss the SLA with the service provider to avoid misunderstandings about the process and management.
You can also periodically check the service availability statistics that most providers publish on their site to ensure that service is available at the percentage outlined in the SLA.
How often should a client & service provider revise the SLA?
Ideally, the SLA should be reviewed and revised every year. Typically, this happens when there are changes or improvements in the client’s workload, business needs, and technical environment. A provider is also required to revise the SLA if the metrics, methods, and measurement tools have improved.
What are the SLA metrics that should be monitored?
Depending on the type of service being provided, the metrics requiring monitoring include security, business results, defect rates, service availability, and technical quality. Apart from these items, a metric should include elements that are most related to the operation.
The SLA is a critical component when working with a technology provider or outsourcing contract. While most SLAs differ in scope, it’s important to keep all the different components in mind when committing to a business phone service provider. Although they can’t control every part of your operations, a contract like this will keep them accountable and take necessary measures to provide the best quality service possible.
When you plan on choosing your next business phone provider, check out our guide on how much a VoIP service costs. This will give you an idea of which subscription plan to invest in and determine the factors that influence a VoIP service.