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Service Level Agreement Report

Not all T1 lines are created equal!

  As you're making your choice on a T1 service provider take the time to read the fine print in the service level agreement (SLA). "Why", you ask? Well, read on...
  • A typical SLA usually covers metrics such as availability, latency and throughput. The better SLA's may also include specifications for mean time to respond, mean time to repair and problem notification/escalation guarantees. The more comprehensive SLA's include requirements for installation lead times that range anywhere from 30 to 90 days based on geography; service changes ranging from five to 90 days depending on type of change; billing dispute-resolution timing requirements; and account management responsibilities such as training, documentation, and regular technology and product briefings over the life of the contract. Still other SLA's are more than 50 pages long and protect everything under the sun.
  • But now you might be thinking, "Does a comprehensive SLA really make the service better?" Surprisingly, no, they just provide you with compensation in case something goes wrong. "Huh?", you say. Well, carriers don't redesign their equipment to a higher standard simply because you as a Very Important Customer require a 99.999% availability guarantee. Instead, vendors determine the cost of not meeting the SLA and factor that into the overall price.
  • The purpose of an SLA is to protect your company against the worst case. Effective SLA's do more than get a nominal credit back - usually 5% to 10% of the cost of the service in the event the infrastructure fails. When written properly, SLA's give you a way to mitigate the effect of problems that harm your network.
  • Use the below table to review SLA details for many of the T1 service providers in North America -- just click on the "" sign to expand the notes to see how each of the providers will compensate you if something goes wrong. You can sort by any column by clicking on it's header.

(in days)
Network Availability
Network Availability
Data DeliveryMean Time to RestoreMaximum latencyMaximum packet lossThroughputScheduled MaintenanceTermination Options
AT&T Installed by Due Date 99.999% None stated 99.9% 3 hours 39ms See Data Delivery Guarantee None stated Yes, see notes See notes
BellSouth 100% 100% 4 hours 55 ms 0.5% Yes, see notes See notes
Broadwing N/A 100% Network Availability 100% 99.99% 4 hours 50 milliseconds or less <1% 100% Yes, see notes See notes
Cogent 40 days Please define further 99.99% 99.9% See notes 50 ms 0.1% See notes No scheduled maintanence See notes
Covad 30 days 99.99% 99.9% 4 hours 110 ms None None No scheduled maintanence See notes
MCI 45 Business Days 99.99% 99.99% 99.9% 4 Hour MTTR 50ms Round Trip .05% 99.9% No scheduled maintanence See notes
Netifice 30 business days 99.999 85 mil 0.3% None No scheduled maintanence See notes
New Edge Networks 40 Days 99.9% 99.9% 99.9% 4 Hour MTTR 55ms Rount Trip .05 99.9% %scheduled_downtime% See notes
NextWeb Inc. 3 - 7 Days, Not Weeks 99.99% N/A 100% 4 Hours 50ms <1% 100% N/A
Onramp Access 5-7 days 99.99% 99.5% 99.9% 4 hours 90 ms 99.9% 100% Yes, see notes See notes
Qwest 99.99% 99.99% 99.9% 4 Hour MTTR 50ms Round Trip .05% 99.9% No scheduled maintanence See notes
SAVVIS N/A 100% 99.9% N/A 200ms 5%
AT&T/SBC 30 Days from Technical Interview. 99.999% See notes 99.9% < 3 hours 39 ms 0.1% See notes Yes, see notes See notes
Sprint 30-45 days 99.9% 99.5 99.9 4 hours less than 55ms 0.3% 100 No scheduled maintanence See notes
TelWest No scheduled maintanence See notes
TelePacific Communications
Standard Interval is 45 Days Yes Yes 45 Day interval 4 MTTR 60 Millliseconds no > than 1% 85% Yes, see notes See notes
US Signal Yes, see notes See notes
WilTel None 99.999% None None None Peak 100 milliseconds 0.5% None None
XO Communications 30-45 days 100% Network Uptime 100% Network Uptime >99% packet delivery 4 Hours 65 Milliseconds <1% packet loss Yes, see notes See notes
Xspedius 99.999% 99.95% 99.99% 2-6 hours 60 ms 0.5% Yes, see notes See notes

  • Some terms can be tricky like this phrase, "mean time to restore" which is by definition an average.  If you've signed up for a "mean time to restore" of 60 seconds per 24-hour period (thinking you've gotten 99.93% availability), that doesn't automatically mean no more than 31 minutes of downtime per month!  The service provider could have 10 minutes of downtime 15 days out of the month, and two-second outages every other day in the month, and still average less than one minute of downtime per day.  Asking for a "maximum time to restore", a specific length the network can be down for a specified period, expressed as a daily or, perhaps, monthly figure would possibly be more helpful metric.  Keep in mind that no matter what a service provider promises, it can only give you what its network is capable of.  By contracting only for what a service provider can provide realistically, you can then implement measures to ensure availability via redundancy and fail-over.
  • Here's some tips for how to determine which service level agreement is good for your company:
  1. Identify service levels that your infrastructure needs so the SLA is comprehensive.
  2. Design the SLA so that it clearly defines the service provider's responsibilities.
  3. Negotiate the SLA with the service provider, paying particular attention to what services are being guaranteed, how they will be measured, the process for realizing agreed-upon remedies, and the amount of time the service provider has to correct problems.
  4. Implement SLA measurement and enforcement tools and processes to ensure that every SLA can be measured and enforced as soon as the service under consideration is installed.
  5. Enforce SLA compliance, and identify and resolve problems that arise.
What's the Difference?
Take a look at some of the distinctions between a carrier's standard service-level agreement and one that better protects you.
Standard SLA: Guarantee a certain level of circuit performance only over the carrier's core backbone that is consistently exceeded by its network (including availability, latency, throughput).
  Effective SLA: Guarantee a certain level of end-to-end service performance for applications.
Standard SLA: Compensation for prolonged circuit outages is a nominal credit usually 5% to 10% of the cost of the service.
  Effective SLA: Remedy for prolonged circuit outages is reimbursement of the cost of the back-up services used.
Standard SLA: The protection from repeated failures is a nominal credit capped at 50% of the total monthly recurring cost.
  Effective SLA: Protection from repeated failures is the opportunity to augment/replace defective services with more reliable services from another vendor or use a different technology at no additional cost.
Standard SLA: The options for getting out of a contract for failure over a prolonged period of time are nil.
  Effective SLA: Option for getting out of a contract for failure over a prolonged period of time is termination of the agreement without penalty.
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