Today's focus: Crafting service-level agreements

If you're ultimately in charge of a critical network or network service, you're probably familiar with the popular - yet sometimes confusing - concept of service-level agreements. This week's Management Strategies story covers the topic and offers you some advice if you find yourself in the position of needing one.

Here are some points to ponder before you negotiate your next SLA:

* If you're the person who would get the angry phone call if your critical net went down, you'd probably want the best SLA in town. However, SLAs are basically insurance policies, and buying all sorts of coverage you don't need is going to cost you more. Ultimately it's a waste of money, like a single person buying the same policy as a married person who supports a house, mortgage and six kids.

* Experts say the first thing to do is determine the levels of service your company needs to operate. Don't automatically buy into a standard agreement. Knowing this before entering into negotiations will help you purchase an SLA that better fits your needs.

* Make sure that the service that you want guaranteed can realistically be guaranteed. Otherwise your provider will charge you more for an artificial guarantee.

* When determining the price of an SLA, providers work from the standpoint of what the agreement will cost them if the SLA is not met - not what it will cost to meet the SLA.

SLAs can be tricky business. Read this week's Management Strategies story in its entirety for more advice and information:

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