Understanding Service Level Agreements (SLA)

Service level Agreements have been used for a number of years in a wide range of different industries and business sectors. Telecoms providers (following the denationalisation of the sector) were the first providers to publicise the acronym “SLA” There’s even a (very good) Wikipedia entry on the subject.

Not many people would challenge the need to have a formal, often legally binding, document that defines and provides a reference point for the “soft services” being provided.

In the managed print world the incidence of clear, unambiguous SLA’s is amazing, and notably, absent. An SLA is not to be confused with a generic “contract” which incorporates liabilities – for example, an obligation to settle invoices within a period of time, or various provision concerning insurance requirements.

No, a proper SLA, is a specific summary of the service pledge between the service provider and the customer. Here are some essential pledges, and some lesser-discussed pledges


  • Commitment to respond to a telephone query IT support (in minutes, if not on receipt of call)
  • Commitment to have trained engineer on-site as necessary. Time in hours from the original incoming telephone call.
  • Commitment to remedy issues on-site, at the first time of asking
  • Agreement for loan hardware to be supplied in lieu of a delay in fix
  • Commitment to provide detailed accounts support (eg Invoice copy). Time in hours/days.
  • Description of goods provided in the case of managed print service contracts. Clear definition of parts included and excluded
  • Consequences of a failure to provide goods and services as agreed. Financial penalty and/or termination rights

Helpful extras

  • An immediate loan provision in the aftermath of a business catastrophe (Fire, Flood, Explosion). Cover in the interim period while loss adjustors carry out due diligence
  • Specific definition of machine life expectancy
    • Each model to have a declared, qualified minimum number of prints assigned. (Normally coupled with a stated period of time)

The selection of SLA pointers here is not exhaustive by any means. Ask yourself how many times the sales company representative has volunteered a SLA, for collaborative scrutiny, at the same time as pitching to supply the hardware and/or software? It’s rare, and while the headline proposal may look attractive, as the saying goes… “the devil is in the detail”.

Do you want a view of your existing MFD SLA? PBS are experts in the field and can provide advice and suggestions on what to enshrine in your service support contract.

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