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Service Level Agreement

This is the Service Level Agreement for the NIH Central Email Service. Please send comments to Kevin Hobson via email

NIH has a significant installed user base on the Microsoft Exchange email platform. Exchange provides a robust, client-server based architecture for email and other messaging and groupware services. The NIH ARAC mandated email consolidation required that all NIH staff maintain a CES mailbox. This Service Level Agreement (SLA) defines the set of services that the NIH Central Email Service (NIH CES) offers to email users at NIH.

Goals (in order of importance):

  • Provide a robust and reliable messaging platform
  • Dependable support for a central Exchange email service
  • Provide an email, scheduling, and messaging platform that facilitates NIH business processes and communication
  • Timely response to problems, new users, and other service requests
  • Dependable and competent consultation in support of IC ITPro's
  • Lower per seat costs through standardized configurations and centralized support

Support Provider

CIT supports the NIH Central Email Service. The NIH CES has been in production since 12.7.96. NIH Remedy service tickets are the problem tracking and support assurance mechanism; the NIH Help Desk is the initial point of contact for questions and problems.

Support Recipients

The target audience for the NIH CES is the entire NIH. Many IC's have extensive experience in client configuration and mail server support; in light of this, administrative rights on the NIH CES, sufficient for IC ITPro support personnel to handle their own customers requirements is delegated to IC ITpro support staff upon request. These administrative rights include those required for maintenance of distribution lists, resource accounts/calendars, and user accounts; along with the delegation of rights, the IC support personnel will receive a set of procedures for utilizing those administrative rights.

Hours of Service

The CES servers will be in service and monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Telephone and on-site support for the Exchange Service will be available 7:30am until 5:00pm on business days. Off-hours problems can be reported via the NIH Help Desk off-hours voice mail system or (with authorization) the CES 7X24 support page. Regularly scheduled maintenance will be performed during a regularly scheduled monthly "maintenance window" (3rd Friday of the month). The planned activities that will result in an extended outage will be announced one week in advance. Emergency maintenance will be performed as needed, always with the attempt to minimize disruption to customers.

Service Infrastructure

The NIH Central Email Service is built with the goal of providing reliable "dial tone" email and messaging services, an appropriate capacity, and redundant components, all within a secure location. Each installation consists of high end enterprise class servers, Storage Area Network (SAN) storage, datacenter UPS backup power, and built-in monitoring software. Tape backups of the servers are performed nightly; backups are kept for a 7 day period. The servers are protected by anti-virus software, and email attachments moving through the server scanned for viruses and SPAM. The servers are located in an access and climate controlled environment. The CES systems are monitored 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, by trained operations staff with on-call support available in off-hours to handle problems.

Turnaround Times

Expected turnaround times for CES support:

  • Account Management – within 1 business day
    • New email account
    • Change account parameters (users can change most of their own data via a custom web interface)
    • Deactivate an account
  • In response to a problem or other support request, contact with the user by CES support person within 2 hours of creation of Remedy service ticket (by user or by the Help Desk). NIH CES customers will be able to track their Remedy service tickets via a web-based client.

Problem Escalation

Not all problems are emergencies, but some are. And some problems that are not resolved expediently become emergencies (such as an email account that can't be accessed for a second day). After pursuing the standard problem reporting mechanism via a Remedy service ticket submitted directly by the user or their ITPro through the Help Desk, the submitter will have a service ticket number that can be used to reference the problem report. Emergency problems can be progressively escalated by the user in this manner:

  1. Via NIH Help Desk, at user's request, call is forwarded to the NIH CES Administrators
  2. Call (via Help Desk) the NIH CES manager
  3. Call (via Help Desk) the EMIB Branch Chief.

Recognize, however, that a user who sets a pattern of problem escalation (attempting to circumvent the problem resolution queue) will be admonished to respect the service queues and established turnaround times guarantees.

Services Covered

Support for customers of the NIH CES service consists of installing, configuring, and troubleshooting the following software and services:

  • Creation of an NIH Windows 2003 Email enabled domain account.
  • Assistance to ITPro's in installation, configuration, updates, and troubleshooting of Email clients, connection to email service, and email delivery problems (such as attachment problems). This service can include an occasional support visit to a user desktop in conjunction with troubleshooting done for a local administrator, but the service is not meant to be a substitute for local IC desktop support.
  • A default storage limit of 200 megabytes of email per user can be stored on the server. Users will receive warning notices at the 201 megabyte level notifying them that they need to perform maintenance on their mailbox store. Users who exceed the 200 megabyte limit will not be able to send email from the Exchange server, but will be able to receive incoming email. In recognition of the fact that some users have special requirements, a higher storage limit can be requested on a case by case basis.
  • Organization wide scheduling capability using the built-in Microsoft scheduling clients.
  • Acquisition, configuration, and management of servers necessary to provide SLA-defined services.
  • Backup of stores on the Exchange servers and recovery of user mail as required.
  • An Organization wide implementation of a Shared/Public Folder infrastructure.
  • A wireless email client solution running on the RIM Blackberry service.
  • Directory synchronization with other NIH Directory services.
  • A central fax service for the sending and receiving of facsimiles via email.
  • Other services and features...

Additions and changes to the list of services and support will be made via the evergreening process described later in this SLA.

Limits on Scope

There will be requirements for which the standard desktop is not suited, such as the need for an application that only runs on another platform, the need to match some user computing environment for support purposes, or the desire to utilize an installed base of computers that don't or can't conform to the standard. The support defined by this SLA cannot cover all platforms, software, and services. Given the goals, the user population, and the service and support list, there must also be some limits on scope of support and a “Won’t Do” list. Here is a partial list of services that this SLA does not include:

  • Desktop workstation hardware support
  • Configuration of the desktop software beyond troubleshooting in support of local ITPros
  • Provision of a network connection on a LAN for the user PC
  • Support for client Software beyond those products that access information on the CES mailbox server.
  • Backup or recovery of files stored on a user desktop PC

Customer Responsibilities

Customers of the service, as part of this SLA in which the services they will receive are detailed, also have some responsibilities:

  • Report email problems, using the problem reporting procedures detailed in this SLA, including clear description of the problem, sample message, and other problem documentation.
  • Use the web interface links available to request creation or deletion of NIH Domain accounts
  • Provide input on the quality and timeliness of service
  • Use local IC support for primary client support, with requests only for more detailed or unusual support going to CIT
  • Recognize when software testing or non-standard software installation on their PC is causing problems that interfere with Exchange email functions and impede support.
  • Make judicious use of server disk space allotments
    • Periodically remove unneeded files from the Sent and Deleted Items folders
    • Save attachments to local or "Home Directory" drives
  • Make judicious use of backup/recovery services and other support services as a way to help ensure timely services remain available to all.
  • Obtain email client training as a way to enhance effectiveness in email use and to minimize questions or problems that require support intervention.


There is no direct charge for the NIH Central Email Service.

Service Termination

In the unlikely situation the CIT opts to discontinue the NIH CES, at least 12 months prior notice will be given to customers along with conversion assistance.


Computing environments and requirements inevitably change, and this SLA needs to define an evergreening process to ensure that the support agreement keeps pace with the reality of user requirements. CIT recognizes that this SLA covers a set of services that is not all inclusive of those that may be used by the a number of email users. Changes to the service level agreement and comments regarding fulfillment of the commitments of the SLA will be solicited from the customers of the Exchange email service and the ICs participating in the service.

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This page last reviewed: November 09, 2011