Explain service level agreement (SLAs) concepts


It's vital that organizations know that the products and services they're using are reliable and secure. Microsoft 365 services guarantees level of service for your organization. Level of service is detailed in a legal agreement referred to as a Service Level Agreement (SLA). The SLA describes Microsoft's commitments for uptime and connectivity for Microsoft Online Services. You can view and download the current and archived editions of the SLAs for Online Services at Licensing Documents (microsoft.com).

In addition to the Microsoft Online Service Level Agreement, y our organization can also take advantage of the Service Level Agreement with your Cloud Service Provider. The guarantees of service provided for Microsoft 365 services will vary between Cloud Service Providers.

Microsoft's Online Service Level Agreement introduces several concepts:

Concept Description
Service level The performance metric(s) set forth in the SLA that Microsoft agrees to meet in the delivery of the Services.
Incident A set of events or single event that results in downtime.
Uptime The total time your services are functional.
Downtime The total time your services aren't functional, but what is considered downtime depends on the relevant service, which is defined in the SLA. For example, for Microsoft Teams, any period of time when end users are unable to see presence status, conduct instant messaging conversations, or initiate online meetings is considered downtime.
Scheduled downtime Periods of downtime related to network, hardware, or service maintenance or upgrades.
Claim A claim raises information about an incident. Your organization is responsible for submitting a claim on an incident. The organization should provide the details about the experienced downtime, affected users, and how it was attempted to resolve the incident. Microsoft is responsible for processing the claim.
Applicable monthly service fees The total fees paid by you for a Service that are applied to the month in which a service credit is owed.
Service credit The percentage of the applicable monthly service fees credited to you following Microsoft's claim approval. Service credits are submitted by your organization's admin through a claim. If the claim is successfully approved by Microsoft, your organization will receive service credits. Service credits apply only to fees paid for the particular service, service resource, or service tier for which a service level hasn't been met.
Uptime agreement The uptime agreement is defined by the monthly uptime percentage. This percentage is for a given active tenant in a calendar month and the calculation varies depending on the product or service. For example, the calculation could be as follows: (𝑈𝑠𝑒𝑟 𝑀𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑡𝑒𝑠 − 𝐷𝑜𝑤𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒) / 𝑈𝑠𝑒𝑟 𝑀𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑥 100.

Microsoft is confident in its commitment to service levels. The percentage of service credit your organization can receive is linked to your monthly uptime percentage. For example, if downtime has resulted in a monthly uptime percentage lower than 95 percent, your organization could receive a 100 percent service credit. The monthly uptime percentage and corresponding service credit depend on the service, which is defined in the SLA. The following table describes an example of monthly uptime percentages and corresponding service credits:

Monthly uptime percentage Service credit
< 99.9% 25%
< 99% 50%
<95% 100%

To learn how and when to request a credit from Microsoft, visit Request a credit from Microsoft.

Your organization should always review all Service Level Agreements and ask questions, including the following list:

  • If you're using a Cloud Service Provider, how do they determine service levels and whether they're achieved or not?
  • Who is responsible for reports? How can your organization access reports?
  • Are there any exceptions in the agreement?
  • What does the agreement say about both unexpected and scheduled maintenance?
  • What does the agreement say about what happens if your infrastructure goes down because of an attack? What about natural disasters and other situations outside of your control?
  • Does the agreement cover non-Microsoft service or system failures?
  • What are the limits to the Cloud Service Provider's liability in the agreement?