A Linux support contract is quite complex to negotiate and many factors need to be considered. This article discusses 10 tips that you should absolutely consider before signing on the dotted line for commercial Linux support.
Get a screen like this and you might need to call on support!
1) It’s not all about price – service counts too!
Many companies are tempted to think let’s just go for price. This is important, but service is probably more important. Companies buy support contracts for times when they are in need and require support. Good support does come at a price, bear this in mind. When deciding between short-listed companies try and score them on service, if a significant scoring difference between companies occurs on service you should not use them, irrespective of price.
2) Read the small print
As with any contract read the small print. When you sign-off your contract get all necessary parties to properly read it, (CEO, IT Director, IT Support, Legal, Sales Director, etc). Give staff the proper time to read, don’t give it them on a Friday evening and say we need it back Monday morning! The contract is really important, terms can be changed. Revised terms could reduce price and/or improve service standards.
3) Buy only what you need
Never be tempted to buy more support than you need. For example don’t buy 24×365 cover if your business closes 2 weeks for Christmas/New Year or is closed every weekend, or you don’t need evening/weekend cover. If you don’t need a sub 1 hour response then don’t buy it. Conversely if you do need these type of terms, make sure they are included in the price and that there is no ambiguity.
4) Negotiate, negotiate and then negotiate again!
Don’t be too quick to sign a deal. Make sure that all of the commercial discussions are fine tuned as much as possible. The support company will expect some haggling/negotiation – so don’t disappoint!
5) Negotiate penalty clauses for non-delivery
If support isn’t delivered to the agreed contract be prepared to enforce penalty clauses. It’s preferable not to do this upon the first instance or regularly. If an event costs your company a significant amount of money or customer irritation then compensation sounds fair and reasonable. Enforce this selectively, but do be prepared to enforce this.
6) Be referenceable/case study
If the support company would like you to be reference able and/or a written case study, include this in the support contract and the price! This concession is very valuable to the support company and is a bargaining chip.
7) Talk to an existing support customer
It’s always advisable to talk to an existing support customer, preferably make an “un-chaparoned” site visit. Talk openly to the customer about their experiences and opinions on the support contract/service. Factor this experience into any decision making process.
8) Ensure your support company has local technicians
Access to local support technicians can be critical at times, particularly for hardware issues. Understand exactly where technicians will be based from, how long it will take them to respond to call-outs and decide whether this is acceptable to you.
9) Ensure the support contract is exceptionally well documented
It would be lax to enter into a support contract unless it is exceptionally well documented. Ensure that all the appropriate clauses are in place, make sense and will actually be legally and ethically valid to use.
10) Make sure the contract is win:win
As penalising as some of the above terms may sound, both parties need to negotiate a win:win contract. If signed in such a way that the contract is heavily slanted in favour of one side then ultimately the contract may flounder. Attempt to be fair and seek fair support contract value for a fair price.
Practice the 10 tips above and any company should be able to successfully negotiate a contract support for Linux. There is a lot more detail to consider than this short article can discuss, but most of the principles required are discussed.
Image Credit: mangee.