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Reading the fine print within a contract is time-consuming and for many of us, frankly, mind-numbing. However, when it comes to a broadband agreement, there are certain sections that deserve your attention, whether you're about to sign on the dotted line or the ink has long-since dried out.

Your broadband provider is required to advise you what minimum standards of service you can expect from them on an ongoing basis, and depending on your provider and the type of solution you have, these can vary wildly.

Your service level agreements (SLAs) are in many ways like an insurance policy that is included within your broadband service, and regulate what will happen in the event of a problem.

There are four key SLAs that it’s important to be familiar with:

1. Contention ratio

This refers to the number of broadband users sharing your local infrastructure and the supplier’s network. The more people that share it, the slower and more unpredictable your internet speeds will be. If neighbouring houses or businesses participate in high bandwidth activities, such as streaming videos, video conferencing, hosted voice, or the cloud, this may slow your speeds down as your shared infrastructure becomes overburdened.

If your service is uncontended (1:1) then your local infrastructure is private, so you alone use it and therefore have complete control over what it is used for.

For more information about contention ratio, read our Beginners guide to connectivity and Beginners guide to downtime.

2. Target fix time

Should your broadband cease to work, your target fix time refers to the timescale that, once a problem is reported, your supplier will work to try and fix it. It is important to recognise that this is not a guarantee that it will be fixed within this timescale, only that your supplier will use best endeavours to fix the problem within that timescale.

If your target fix time is 48 hours, this means that your broadband supplier is under no obligation to attend to the problem before those two days are up. Whilst it does not necessarily mean you will have to wait this long, those customers with a shorter fix time than you will be able to “queue-jump” in front of you to get their issues attended to first.

It is therefore particularly important for businesses who rely on the internet to function, to have a same day target fix time.

3. Monthly site availability

Your monthly site availability is essentially the minimum amount of time you can expect your broadband connection to be working. It does not, however, constitute a guarantee. It refers to the amount of downtime you can expect before your supplier elevates the importance of your issues to become a priority which needs to be dealt with.

Whilst 95% sounds like a reasonable amount of uptime, it’s important to consider that most businesses operate within the standard working day and only use their broadband 25% of the time, and issues are more likely to occur at this time.

This could, therefore, mean that your broadband doesn’t work for more than one day each month and your supplier is under no obligation to improve the situation, as it is working 95% of the time (95% of uptime equates to 1 day and 12 hours of downtime within a single month), so it’s important to consider how much that could cost your business.

4. Service Guarantee

As you might expect, a service guarantee, is an assurance from your supplier that you will get a minimum uptime, and failure to deliver this will result in you being compensated.

Many broadband providers do not offer a service guarantee for cheaper broadband packages like ADSL.

At first glance, one broadband connection may seem much like another with the only difference being price. However, when you start looking at the SLAs that accompany broadband packages, the difference soon becomes clear. In most cases, the cheaper your broadband is, the less protection you are likely to get from your SLAs.

Businesses using residential broadband may benefit from a cheaper connection, but can have as much as a fortnight to wait to get any issues attended to. Businesses with an Ethernet connection, on the other hand, can expect an uptime of as much as 99.9%.

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. If your business relies on its broadband to function, check your SLAs to see what the worst case scenario could be and consider how much this could cost your business in terms of financial loss and reputation damage.

This should help you evaluate whether the service levels you are buying are appropriate or whether an upgrade, and the SLAs that come with it, is required to give your business the protection it needs.

To speak to someone about upgrading your SLAs call 0808 223 2876

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