My Opinion on SLAs
SLA stands for Service Level Agreement. Service providers provide users with an SLA that informs clients about their service quality. It can include performance numbers, availability, or general responsibilities of the service provider.
When clients are trying to choose between different providers, they usually compare SLA’s in addition to service features to determine which service suits them better. SLA’s usually provide an availability rating. A 99% availability means that their service can be offline for 87 hours each year, which is unacceptable for many clients. A 99.99% reduces that downtime to one hour per year, which is pretty good for most use cases. SLA’s can also include performance metrics, e.g., 10,000 A requests per second, 5,000 B requests per second, etc.
In short, SLA’s provide users with some numerical data to compare different service providers. Besides, it gives them a good idea of how much load the service can handle. It usually is a critical metric when companies are designing services.
So does SLA guarantee these metrics or qualities? Well, no. There have been countless instances of Denial of Service attacks, natural accidents that had led to downtimes, etc. There is always the possibility of some accident that the service provider has not thought through. In my experience, hat happens is that service providers do not include SLA’s guarantees, and in case of a breach, they compensate clients with free credit or extended premium support. My experience was not with services provided in the US, and I’m pretty sure if the SLA were in the contract, it would make no difference as these kinds of agreements were new. Therefore, judges had zero experience in dealing with such cases, and there were no laws protecting clients. The situation can be drastically better in more advanced countries. If service providers had to pay vast amounts of money for breach of SLAs, then they would provide more realistic SLA’s which would make clients have better backup plans.
In the end, I think SLAs help customers a lot. With laws protecting clients, it can protect them by giving them a realistic idea of the service they are receiving and additionally compensating for their loss.