The survey, which questioned 1,000 organisations worldwide, found that the UK lagged behind the US and other European countries in using SLAs.
More than 40% of UK-based respondents admitted they did not use any form of SLA to check the performance of their IT systems.
The survey examined the take-up of SLAs to measure processing performance, system availability when needed and restoration times following outages. Almost 60% of companies worldwide said they had introduced SLAs covering at least one of these areas. The US had the highest use, with 70% of companies surveyed adopting SLAs.
Without adequate methods of measuring IT service levels, users are at high risk of their systems failing when under stress.
In fact, the survey, which was commissioned by Veritas Software, found that performance degradation had an impact on 93% of the UK organisations questioned, with 34% of companies reporting that systems had crashed as a result of heavy demands placed on them by end-users.
None of the IT managers in UK organisations responding to the survey said they were able to detect the initial stages of performance degradation 100% of the time. Some 32% admitted they only detected potential problems for 50% of the time or less, and 13% admitted to making no effort to detect performance degradation at all.
The survey also found that IT departments were struggling to stay one step ahead of degradation problems. In 68% of IT departments surveyed, staff only learned of performance degradation when end-users notified them. Some 28% of those surveyed in the UK said they only became aware when the systems crashed.
Worryingly, 25% of respondents said business managers had no input on SLAs.
James Mullock, a partner at law firm Osborne Clarke, said those companies looking to introduce SLAs should define services, set targets, and measure delivery.
He said, "Contracts and SLAs should not be in the same document as they address distinct and separate areas, and confusion can occur between legal and IT areas."
Organisations should also make sure that SLAs are flexible enough to meet changing business needs, Mullock added.