You likely know that a Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a thing of immense importance when picking out a web hosting provider, but if you’re not completely sure what a web hosting SLA is, stick around and you’ll find out soon.
While good-old word of mouth still plays its part in marketing, nowadays, it can only take your business so far. Sooner or later you’ll figure out that not having an online presence can significantly cripple your business and stagnate its growth.
So, whether you want to get your business online, shift from a brick-and-mortar store to an ecommerce platform or bring your blog project to life – you’ll want to choose a web hosting service and make sure it’s a solid one.
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Before selecting one web hosting provider over the others, you’ll want to check a couple of things first including service reliability, uptime score, features, security, and customer support.
Also, it’s smart to consider whether any of these sections are backed by an SLA, but let’s first clear up what an SLA is and why you should care about it.
What is a web hosting Service Level Agreement?
Short for Service Level Agreement, an SLA is a type of contract that takes place between two parties and in most cases, these are a customer and a service provider.
This contract defines the level of service that’s expected to be provided to a customer by a service supplier and it often includes multiple metrics according to which the service is measured as well as remedies or penalties in case service isn’t up to the level.
Thanks to this, a customer can be sure they’ll receive the service they’ve signed up for or some sort of compensation if the service doesn't cut it.
A web hosting company, for instance, will promise network availability of 99.9% per year, specific response times, and site loading speed. However, this agreement can also cover customer support, specific support levels, and promise priority to premium customers.
More often than not, an SLA will come as a part of the terms of service or as a part of the same section, so make sure to read it before subscribing to a service.
Why should you care about SLA?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a customer or a service provider, both sides are sure to benefit from an SLA. This is because the clauses set out in an SLA will serve as proof of all conditions the two parties agreed upon before completing the sign-in process. This way, if any of the parties breaks or intentionally ignores any of the laid out conditions, the other party has the legal right to take action to right the wrong.
This is particularly important when picking out a web hosting provider, since an SLA should include critical information about the hosting resources you’re going to get such as storage space, bandwidth, RAM, and number of CPUs.
It should also point out the service time period, response time, and problem resolution time frame. For instance, if you report an issue with your service to the provider’s technical team, an SLA will inform you how long you’re supposed to wait before receiving a response.
In addition to carefully reading an SLA, you’ll want to pay special attention to the small print, since it’s something that can make or break a deal for you – most of the time, an SLA will sound too good to be true until you read the small print.
Also, while thoroughly going through every point of an SLA, you’ll want to have a clear picture of what value for money you’ll be getting with a web hosting provider of your choice.
Let’s take Liquid Web as an example of this – yes, they seem pretty pricey at first, but after you look at the level of service you’ll get with them, the price will start looking rather reasonable. Liquid Web guarantees network uptime of 100% and this guarantee makes sure that major routing devices within their network are reachable all the time. Also, if Liquid Web fails to meet this SLA, their dedicated hosting customer will receive a credit for then times the amount of downtime – so, if you’ve suffered one hour of downtime, it means you’ll get 10 hours of credit.
On the other hand, most web hosting providers (such as Scala Hosting) offer a standard uptime guarantee of so-called three-nines – that is 99.9% of uptime. And then there are such providers as iPage that boast about having a 99.9% uptime guarantee but don’t back it up by an SLA or offer any compensation at all.
So, while searching for a web hosting provider don’t forget to carefully study an SLA while paying special attention to the small print.
What about Network SLA Exclusions?
In simplest terms, SLA Exclusions are one-time occasions where the agreement doesn’t apply, and network SLA exclusions are those related to network availability.
This permits web hosting providers to slip a single instance of network unavailability such as scheduled maintenance for hardware/software upgrades.
In addition to this, these exclusions may come into effect in case of force majeure or events beyond reasonable control such as acts of war, insurrection, labor strikes, riots, and pandemics like Covid-19.
The importance of a good SLA when choosing a web hosting service
An SLA can tell you a lot about a company and its attitude towards its customers – are they customer-centric, product-centric or fall somewhere in between? It also shows whether a web hosting provider takes its business seriously since an SLA is a prerequisite to professionalism.
Besides showing a commitment to customers, a good web hosting SLA will show you what exactly you can expect from the web hosting provider which will prevent any potential misunderstanding.
Also, by specifying all Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), an SLA will set up expectations about the provider’s performance – it will help customers to choose the right provider while helping the provider stay focused on customer satisfaction and keep their services up to the standard.
Since an SLA includes all critical information about the use and amount of hosting resources, it’s one of the first things you should check out when choosing a web hosting provider.
It won’t only cover a service time period, but also the reliability of that service, uptime guarantee, compensations, response time, and problem resolution time frame.
So, before signing up with a web hosting provider, remember to dive deep into their Service Level Agreement.
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Mirza Bahic is a freelance tech journalist and blogger from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the past four years, Mirza has been ghostwriting for a number of tech start-ups from various industries, including cloud, retail and B2B technology.