How to Choose an ENS Solution, Part 5: The Critical Feature that Many Providers Ignore

Last month, we kicked off our “how to choose an emergency notification system” series by examining a basic truth: the ENS market is largely commoditized. Evaluate five emergency notification system vendors, and you’ll likely hear the same story five times.

Dig deeper, however, and you’ll find pretty dramatic differences in everything from pricing models to capabilities to feature sets (explore our Buyer’s Guide for an in-depth comparison.) We’ve looked at three of those differentiators so far: personal privacy protection, mobile-friendliness, and hotline functionality. Today, we’ll finish strong with a feature that’s incredibly important yet strangely absent from many ENS providers’ offerings: service level agreements.

A service level agreement, usually shortened to SLA, is “a contract between a service provider and the end user that defines the level of service expected from the service provider.” In other words, it’s an agreement that the service that the customer is paying for will be available when they need it. For most software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, like AlertFind, SLAs typically center around uptime. The service provider promises that the software will be available for a certain percentage of the time and agrees to compensate the customer if that’s not the case.

SLAs are industry standard, and it’s easy to see why; a SaaS product won’t get you very far if it’s never available. For emergency notification systems, reliability is especially critical. Your ENS must be available at the precise moment that you need it – during an emergency or other unplanned event – or it is quite literally worthless.

Given these circumstances, you would assume that SLAs would be front and center on every emergency notification system contract. Bizarrely, you would be wrong. In our recent analysis of publically available contracts from six leading ENS vendors, only two even mentioned SLAs. At the other end of the spectrum, a separate ENS provider promises 100% uptime. Both of these scenarios – ignoring SLAs altogether and making promises you can’t keep – are serious red flags.

When choosing an emergency notification system, ensure that the service level agreement is not only included but closely specified. Start with these questions:

1. What is your exact agreed-upon uptime?

Get the number in writing. AlertFind, for instance, offers a guaranteed SLA of 99.5% availability.

2. How do you support your SLA?

What makes the provider confident in its reliability? At AlertFind, we feel secure in our 99.999% SLA because we are deployed on the highly-available Amazon Web Services.

3. What happens if you don’t meet it?

It should be clear how the ENS vendor will compensate you if they fail to support their stated SLA. We put our money where our mouth is by offering prorated monthly refunds to any customers impacted by unanticipated downtime (not including service upgrades or Internet-related downtime outside AlertFind’s control.)

For emergency notification systems, SLAs aren’t a nice-to-have: they are an in-writing guarantee that the service will be there when and where you need it. The lack of a service level agreement suggests a lack of confidence in the provider’s availability and reliability. If you only ask one question to distinguish the capabilities of one ENS from another, make it about SLAs. When disaster strikes, you’ll be glad you did.

You are well on your way toward protecting your staff and organization.

Take the next step toward protecting your organization by learning more about emergency notification systems and the vital role they play in your emergency preparedness plan.