Broadband

What to include in your service level agreement with your wireless ISP

Many businesses, impressed with the performance of their wireless LAN, are considering a wireless connection to their ISP. If you are going the wireless ISP route, here's what you should include in your service level agreement.

So you’ve been impressed with the performance and speed of your wireless LAN. You only wish that your Internet service provider (ISP) were as reliable. Maybe you should consider going wireless for your Internet connection as well.

When you negotiate with an ISP for wireless service, you’ll need a comprehensive service level agreement (SLA). An SLA between a company and an ISP will be defined by two factors:
  1. Is the ISP’s pipe for transferring company data big enough?
  2. Will the ISP be able to provide you with the level of availability you need?

“Just like you can do with terrestrial networks, you can engineer your network to provide any level of availability you require,” said Charles Brown, vice president of sales and marketing for WaveRider, a Toronto-based wireless equipment manufacturer.

If an organization wants 99.999 percent reliability, you can do it in the wireless world,” Brown said.

The most crucial elements to include in an SLA with your wireless ISP are:
  • The level of availability you need and what you can afford. While everybody wants 99.999 percent availability, is it worth the extra fees you’ll pay to keep your connection up?
  • The level of throughput you need. Do you need 3 MB or 8 MB? While you might be tempted to get the biggest “pipe” into your business, is it more than what you need or can pay for?
  • The level of throughput needed during times of high traffic. There will always be times when you need the ability to handle high traffic. What can your ISP provide?
  • The response time of your ISP if a failure occurs. Is there an 800 number that allows you to reach a help desk worker 24/7? Is there a pager system that allows you to contact people directly? How long can you afford to have your Internet connection down? Will your ISP reimburse you for the time that you are down?
  • The level of redundancy your business needs to maintain service. What backup plan does the ISP have in place in case a connection goes down?
  • The level of security, if any, the ISP will provide. Does the firewall your ISP uses provide enough security? Probably not. What will you have to provide for your peace of mind?
  • Your ISP’s frequency rate of checking your performance. Will your ISP give you any kind of diagnostic tools to assess the performance of your Internet connection or will that be left to your network administrator?

Brown suggested that because wireless is still an emerging technology, many businesses try to establish SLAs that are more stringent than with terrestrial networks. “People are still trying to understand the technology, so they’re a little more focused on protection,” Brown said. “There’s really no reason; they just tend to be more cautious with new things.”
Are you using a wireless ISP? If so, what would you add to this SLA? Send us an e-mail or start a discussion below.
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