Internet service providers (ISPs) may face a bill for as much as £30m to compensate for breaches in service level agreements (SLAs), according to a report from internet breakdown services company Iowatch.
The company estimates that about 82 per cent of always-on business internet connections suffer enough downtime to breach a 99.99 per cent SLA in a month. This could add up to a total of over two million hours of downtime for the UK throughout 2001, or around 57,500 UK websites going down per day.
Iowatch said that on average, a UK company can expect about 97 minutes of downtime per month over 17 different periods. With over a third of internet connections suffering enough downtime in just seven days to breach a monthly service level agreement, Iowatch figures that ISPs could owe British businesses as much as £30m.
Heleen Kist, managing director of Iowatch, said that ISPs are being forced to offer unrealistic SLAs in a bid to keep afloat in an ultra-competitive market.
"Data shows that SLAs that are met are the exception not the rule. The results of our monitoring are disturbing - it's clear that businesses just aren't getting the service for which they are paying.
"It's going to be hard to convince businesses to get involved in the internet and ebusiness when people see just how fragile the infrastructure is."
She added: "Without independent validation of service, an SLA is worthless. As more businesses wake up to this fact, good ISPs will embrace independent monitoring and bad ISPs will be shamed into it".
Maxine Holt, senior researcher at analyst the Butler Group, said that under the most common SLAs offering 99.99 per cent availability, more than 8.5 seconds per day downtime is considered unacceptable. "The reality is quite different to what is on paper," she said.
But Holt added that ISPs aren't being over-ambitious in their offering. "It's a very competitive area and downtime is not always the ISP's fault. The service provider also needs some form of SLA with BT, the infrastructure provider," she said.
Holt believes that eventually customers will begin to recognise what constitutes a reasonable SLA and will be prepared to pay more for a higher level of service. This move could be driven by an authoritative body such as ISPA laying down industry guidelines, such as the requirement for ISPs to publish their uptime figures.
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