Service Level Agreements Explained

The formal agreement established between a web hosting provider and a customer is known as the Service Level Agreement (abbreviated as SLA). This complex written document is a virtual contract; it may or may not be legally binding. The agreement clearly defines the parameters and expectations between the customer and the provider. Virtually all ISPs (Internet service providers) offer a public Service Level Agreement to customers. In imitation, the IT departments of some large enterprises have published service level agreements to the users of all departments.

The Service Level Agreement will enumerate and define every service to be provided as well as the level of service (in numerical terms). Additional clauses will address outage penalties/reimbursement, support options, customer duties, disaster recovery, performance metrics, failure management, dispute resolution and termination of the agreement.

Web hosting providers typically offer a money-back guarantee to clients. Another important promise is the uptime guarantee. Such guarantees are part of the Terms of Service (TOS).

The web host’s Service Level Agreement will precisely specify what will be and will not be provided. The SLA will specify the refund or reimbursement in case uptime falls short. The SLA will detail the exact support available for each service. The SLA will list any impermissible content or file types. The SLA will describe the cancellation policy. The SLA protects the provider in the event a customer misuses the service, promulgating hate speech, for example. The SLA will inform the customer of the availability of dial-up access. The SLA will detail the provision of usage statistics. Additionally, the SLA will detail: usage limits; acceptable payment methods; notice requirements; refund conditions; termination conditions; and customer promises. One thing to think about when it comes to an SLA is whether or not you have a way to enforce it. In order to make a claim against the terms of your agreement, you’ll need to have some third-party statistics, and this generally means working with a company that deals in SLA management. Keep in mind that many of these services may be paid, but if you’re dedicating the time to running a website, it’s something that might be worth it to you. Without having a third party report of your uptime, you’ll likely be stuck at the mercy of your web host.

The Service Level Agreement may also mention exact metrics including: service uptime or availability; hardware uptime (including power and HVAC); maximum simultaneous users; disk and/or network IO benchmarks; notification window for service changes or interruptions; response time of support staff.

Some providers will credit the customer’s account a certain percentage of the regular monthly fee for each minute of downtime — potentially waiving the fee in case of significant downtime. This is specified in the SLA.

Buggy Web Applications—Avoiding Problems

There are several common mistakes that web developers make—mistakes that can usually be avoided. When it comes to deploying web applications, the most common mistake by far is not testing enough. Developing apps can be a fun process, and people are often eager to see their creations come to fruition, but one of the problems with that is that they often skip important steps just because their excitement gets the best of them.

While on the surface this might not necessarily seem like a bad thing, it can actually be disastrous for your web application, and harming to your site’s reputation. One thing that you need to understand is that users really have low tolerance for buggy web apps that don’t work well. Think about this for a moment: if you go to a site to play a video and the video player doesn’t work, how long will it be before you leave and search for the video on another site? Probably not long, that’s for sure! If you want to make sure that your users are happy, you need to go ahead and be thorough with your testing phase because it can really eliminate a number of problems.

On top of that, you need to be diligent about responding to bug reports once your web app is live. This way you can narrow down and fix some problems that aren’t apparent in the pre-release phase (and not all problems will be). The reason for this is because there just aren’t enough users (usually) in the pre-release testing phase to encounter every possible problem with your app. However, once your web app is live and anyone can use it, the sheer volume of users interacting with your app increases the likelihood that all possible problems that can arise, actually will. This isn’t to say that you won’t have some problems that don’t come out later, but in general, most of the big problems with any web app will be brought to light once it’s available to the public.

Obviously it’s a good idea to adhere to a schedule and not get too stuck in pre-release (or post release) testing, but you need to balance that with the fact that if you don’t have a web app that works properly, no one is going to use it. As long as you take that into consideration, and are diligent about the time you spend in both development and testing, you should be able to create a web application that’s both usable and enjoyable for everyone who visits your site. One final thing to consider is that if you aren’t monitoring what’s happening with your web applications after their release, then you’ll have no way of knowing whether or not they are even online. By making sure that you have a policy to manually check your sites and combining that with web application monitoring (which is available from a number of third-party vendors), you can be sure that you that you’re keeping tabs on the things that need to be watched. That way, when (not if) there’s a problem with one of your applications, you won’t have to hear about it from an angry user.

Is Your Hosting Dragging Your Site Down?

When it comes to your website, it is very important for you to properly monitor it and ensure it is working at its full potential. While there are different elements that you are able to monitor and work on, there are other issues that might come up that have nothing to do with what you are actually doing with your website. In fact, your web host might be dragging down your performance and preventing you from reaching your available clients and possible visitors. That is why you need to know what to look for and what issues your host responsible for when it comes to the performance and usability of your site.

Slow Loading Times

There are different reasons why your website might take far too long to load. You might just have too many plug-ins running that force websites to slow down. If that is the case, you need to alter the appearance of your website in order to correct this situation. However, on the other hand, if your website is just loading slowly, regardless of what content you put on it, chances are this is because your host is dragging you down. Some hosts just have poor connection speeds and this is going to ultimately cause you all sorts of problems. Because of this, if you are losing visitors because of the poor loading time, it might be time to dump your current host and look for someone else.

Downtime

There really is nothing more damaging to your website and the ability to grow your name brand than your website being offline. All hosts are going to have downtime on occasion in order to correct issues and to upgrade the servers. However, this should not happen on a regular basis, and it really should not take place during peak traffic hours. If you are suffering from problems with your website being constantly down, this is a sign it is time to move to a different host and to use the assistance from a new service provider. If your website is down all the time there really is no purpose of actually having a website. You are paying a good deal of money to keep the site up and running and to update it, so when it fails to stay online, it may be time to move elsewhere.

Limited Space

As your website grows, your host should be able to accommodate this. While this is usually possible, there are some hosts that just are going to struggle with this and ultimately cause your website to crash or to run into errors all the time. Regardless of why this is the case, you need to look for a different host that can provide you with the service you need.

Page Load Speed and User Attention Span

There’s just no doubt about it: today’s society wants things to be fast. Our culture of instant gratification wants things now, and doesn’t like waiting. Today’s average attention span for adults is not what once was, and children’s and teenager’s attention spans are even shorter than those of adults. If your audience is going to have a favorable first impression of your website, one thing is for sure—it will need to load quickly.

To many people, there is nothing more frustrating than a slow loading and lagging website. It seems silly to think that a few seconds here and there can make a big difference when it comes to retaining visitors, but it really does. Big companies go to great lengths to ensure that their websites load quickly because seconds can mean thousands of dollars when it comes to large online retailers. Think about it for a second: there’s probably been a time when you went to buy something online and ended up just leaving the site or visiting a competing site when you weren’t able accomplish what you had intended to do. Now imagine if someone like that is on your site: what would that mean to your business and your reputation? The bottom line is that it’s not good, but there are ways that you can mitigate the damage.

If you’re concerned about the speed of your website for your visitors, or if you’ve experienced issues yourself, there are several tools that will allow you check on the speed of your website. Most of them are free and readily-available online, although if you want an in-depth analysis you could pay to have access to a tool that’s a bit more robust. If you’re just looking to run a simple website speed test, you should be able to do that online for free in a number of places. There are also some subscription services that

The important thing to take away here is that you understand it’s important to make sure that your pages not only display correctly, but also load quickly. If you don’t keep an eye on that, you could have the most beautiful site ever—but no one is going to wait around to see it load, and that’s just the simple truth. Taking the time to be diligent about all aspects of your site (not just some of them) not only makes you a complete webmaster who cares about their visitors, but it also makes your site an enjoyable place to spend time. In addition to that, a fast-loading website can be good for your bottom line as well.

Fixing a Slow-Loading Website

Given the free market that currently exists on the internet in the form of e-commerce and e-news, which includes blogs, the competition for daily online traffic has never been more heated! While back in the 1990′s it wasn’t out of the norm for a webpage to take a long time to load, in today’s high-tech society things are different. If your page takes longer than 5 seconds or so to load, you may have lost your visitor’s attention!

Internet users today are impatient, agile, and have the ability to use the resources of the internet to quickly locate and pull up your competitor’s site in seconds. The main reason why users will leave a page in search of an identical page is if you make them wait too long. So it’s critical that your website loads as fast (or faster) than your competitors. There are a number of free tools available online that you can use to see how long it takes for a website to load. Once you find out how long it takes for your site to load, you might want to check the load speeds of your competitors, because it never hurts to know what you are up against.

So what slows down a web page? Well, the main culprits are large images and lengthy videos. The typical household has an internet speed of between 5 and 10 mbps, while the average business or government agency has a connection speed of 50 and 70 mbps. So you need to factor this into your web page construction plans. Take some time to think about whom are you marketing your site to? Are you marketing it towards businesses, or the average person at home?

If your market is businesses professionals or people stuck at work, then the size of image and video files may not be as big of a factor for you. However if your market also includes people sitting at home then you might want to spend some time on deciding how to cut down on these bit hogs. Either way, it’s probably a good idea to make sure that your site loads quickly on all devices and in all locations because you never know where your target audience may be accessing your site from.

If video and image files aren’t the problem then you might want to look at your HTML coding and your website hosting. Don’t confuse poorly constructed text with bad code. While bad writing might annoy your reader and cause them to go elsewhere, it won’t affect your loading speed. Code is the hidden process that your users don’t see, but their computers do.

When a person visits your website their computer browser reads and then interprets your websites code. Based on how it reads and interprets the code dictates how fast your site will load, and more importantly what will load. Now most bloggers and businesses owners don’t code their own sites, in general they hire programmers to do it for them. Or in the case of WordPress sites, the coding is done for you. So if images and videos aren’t the issue you might want to contact a developer to help you cut out bloated code and speed things up.

Lastly you need to ensure that your web host is reputable and that they provide you with a good connection. Be wary of smaller hosting companies because they tend to have fewer servers and are prone to squishing customers into already over stuffed servers where everyone is battling for resources. This can lead to downtime, and your site not just loading slowly but being completely inaccessible.