Web Hosting SLA, Part 2: Lack of SLA, Breaches & Examples

This is, as you can imagine based on the title, the second in a two-part series on the SLA. SLA, if you haven’t heard (where have you been, buddy?), is short for “service level agreement.” Hosting companies typically offer SLA’s to their clients, both to cover themselves legally and to let clients know what they can expect from the relationship. Hollywood actors also sometimes sign service level agreements, as with the 700-page, rosewater-scented document between Michael Douglas and Matt Damon for Behind the Candelabra.

Part 1 covered core components (specific expectations for client and host) and why the SLA is so important to the hosting service you choose. This article, Part 2, will get into what to do if there isn’t an SLA for a particular hosting company and what to do in the event of a breach. We will also look at two examples of service-level agreements:

  1. Ours (If you’ve got it, flaunt it, said J-Lo)
  2. Cornell University IT Department.

We will also review some of the stipulations set forth to ensure that Michael Douglas and Matt Damon had the most warm, open, mutually-satisfactory relationship throughout the filming of Candelabra, despite Damon’s raging amphetamine addiction.

What if There Isn’t an SLA?

It’s unusual for an SLA not to be present on a hosting company’s site. The reason SLA’s are so prevalent is because their purpose is fourfold:

  1. Clarity – Delineate the relationship between host and client so that there are no misunderstandings
  2. Efficiency – Pointing to the SLA can help to quickly and smoothly resolve disputes
  3. Client Protection – Your rights and responsibilities are stated explicitly
  4. Web Host Protection – Host rights and responsibilities are laid out as well (amounting to legal protection).


In other words, you are not the only one at risk without an SLA – the host is too. You might think that is okay because both parties are assuming risk. However, it leaves everything unnecessarily vague; better to spell everything out than to chance ending up in a heated debate – as when Douglas accused Damon of stealing his favorite purple bathrobe.

Breaches: Transparency & Monitoring

Transparency is crucial in the event of a breach. As Okta CSO David Baker states, “It’s important for the vendor to update customers throughout the disruption, whether an outage, a breach or a service interruption. Transparency is essential … to build trust that the problem is being addressed … and what work-around steps can be implemented.” Similarly to the content of an SLA, the behavior of a company following a disruption in service or other breach gives you a sense of professionalism of the organization.

You can determine if and when an SLA is being breached by using SLA management tools and uptime monitoring software, similar to the GPS chip that Michael Douglas had installed in Matt Damon’s right buttocks during filming of Behind the Candelabra.

Two Sample SLA’s

Superb Internet (um, that’s us)

We recently improved and expanded our SLA. Note that as described on our SLA summary page (and as is true with any legal contract), the official SLA form must be signed by both parties in order to go into effect. Here are three highlights:

  1. 100% uptime guarantee: any hour of downtime experienced results in a full one-day credit, double that for premium clients
  2. No loss of packets to Tier 1 backbone: every 1% of packets lost to the backbone results in a full one-day credit, double that for premium clients
  3. Two-hour parts replacement: every additional two hours for infrastructural repair results in a full one-day credit, double that for premium clients.

Cornell University

Below are specifications from an SLA issued by the Cornell University IT department. This SLA is interesting: it’s on a completely different end of the spectrum from our model at Superb because it’s extremely small-scale and housed at a nonprofit facility. Here are a few basics:

  1. Two-hour weekly maintenance: Rather than guaranteeing a certain percentage of uptime, Cornell IT notes that it will conduct maintenance for two hours each week. Beyond that, notice is provided prior to any scheduled downtime.
  2. Unforeseen circumstances: A list of circumstances that might create unexpected downtime is provided, including natural disasters, defective infrastructural components, and malicious attacks.


Michael Douglas accused Luciana Barroso, Matt Damon’s wife, of launching a malicious attack on Behind the Candelabra when she was seen embracing Damon on the set of the film. Douglas pulled some strings and had her arrested and sent to Gitmo.


As you can see, service level agreements are fairly straightforward. Make sure you look for them and understand what your rights are. Also understand what your responsibilities are, so you’re not caught off-guard. A hosting company never wants to be forced to terminate your contract for breach of the SLA.

I will get into terms of service (TOS) in a future article. Those are similar in many ways to the SLA, though much lengthier and thicker, allowing them to dive much more deeply into the subject.

Michael Douglas: “Come again?”

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

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