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SLAs Important for Monitoring QoE in Media Content Delivery

July 6, 2020

When the screen goes black, freezes or pixelates, who are you going to call? First, contact your internal technical support team familiar with the required standards written into SLAs.

What is an SLA?

An SLA or service level agreement is a contract between a service provider and a customer that documents what service is provided and its required standards. SLAs are mutual agreements that define customer expectations for performance issues while establishing the service provider's responsibilities and specific metrics to meet.

If an error was caused by a regional power failure, the SLA might state it does not cover outages caused by equipment or events not under control of the service provider.

What are the repercussions?

If a service standard is not met, SLAs spell out any fines or penalties that will be incurred. If your service becomes unavailable for a period beyond the allowed percentage, for example, the client could receive a credit based upon the length of the outage. An essential component written into SLAs are regular reports and formal reviews with key contacts. Otherwise, making sure the criteria of the service delivery has been met and enforcing the agreement are difficult.

Who are you going to call?

The content provider's next call might be to its content distribution network (CDN). The CDN checks on its multiple distribution points to determine what went wrong. The challenging issue is the many distribution points along the delivery chain where faults can be introduced. An SLA should outline a service provider's responsibilities from ingress to delivery.

The purpose of your SLA is to ensure direct to consumer (DTC) quality with key metrics such as allowable video and audio errors and delays due to latency. An SLA might also include analytics about delivery errors and download speeds at the viewer level to help with customer retention.

How to monitor?

An end-to-end monitoring system with specialized software probes at points in the distribution chain would provide a true picture of QoE for content providers and CDNs. Alarms can be triggered based on thresholds set according to SLAs with regular reports for risk assessment and analysis.

Qligent Vision monitors DTC and CDN streams to ensure negative issues affecting user experience are identified and mitigated prior to creating audience churn. Qligent Vision gathers metrics such as HTTP server and client errors, buffer errors and playlist errors, among others.

By monitoring, measuring and reporting critical standards, improvements can be made to customer retention, cost efficiency and competitive advantage.