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What is a Software Support Agreement?
When you buy a software product from a software owner (or enter into a licence to use the software), the contractual relationship does not end there… well it shouldn’t end there. Why? Because most of the time the software will need fixes and technical support for your to be able to continue to use it efficiently and effectively.
A Software support agreement is an agreement signed between a software user and a software support service provider (which can be the owner of the software or a third party) requiring the provision of software support services.
What sort of Support Services are included in a Software Support Agreement?
Generally, a software support agreement includes:
- bug fixes
- patches, technical support and remote troubleshooting capabilities
- installation of new updates or features
- adding new functionalities to the software.
The software support service provider can be the software owner, a reseller of software, a licensor of the software or it can also be an expert third party such as a consulting firm.
Why do I need a Software Support Agreement?
You need to have access to bug fixes, patches and updates:
All software has problems and are not effort free. On that basis it is likely that the software will have errors and bugs. Such problems occur so frequently that you may need immediate software support, provided by an expert, to resolve those issues.
Imagine that you are using an e-commerce software to sell cosmetic products and when you purchased the licence for this software, it was only to serve an expected volume of 50,000 customers.
However, your video of J. Lo wearing your lipstick when viral and you business grew so fast that millions of customers need to use your software to purchase that red lipstick but your software is simply unable to process that many payments at the same time.
This is when you would hope that you have a good software support agreement in place. Seriously no one wants to be kept waiting for their lipstick.
New features added to the software:
A software product is not a thing consumed or a thing that is static; it is dynamic and new features are introduced all the time.
For example, assume that you are running an e-commerce software program on your website and the software owner added a new feature to allow faster check-out for customers. This means that the customer satisfaction will increase significantly but you will need the support of software owner to apply this new feature.
What sort of clauses should be in a Software Support Agreement?
- Scope of support services: It is important to clearly name the scope of support services. What does the software seller have to do? Does it have to provide additional hardware or what is the time frame to provide support?
- Obligations of the customer: When the software seller provides help or maintenance services such as fixing bugs or updating the software, you may have to cooperate with them. This cooperation may include allowing them to access your computer networks and providing them any information they need.
- Confidentiality: What if the software seller has to fix a bug your database and your database includes your trade secrets and some personal data? You can include a provision to prevent disclosure of this data to third parties.
- Charges and payments: Are the support services covered by the licence fee or do you pay to pay extra money to get those services? Will you make a yearly fixed-payment or you only pay for each support service? Defining payment terms will be useful to eliminate any bad surprises in terms of costs.
- Warranties: In terms of the quality of the support services you get, it may be better to define certain standards to ensure that a high-quality support is provided.
- Support Services time: While some agreements state that support services should be available for 24/7, some agreements limit support services to a certain hour of the day or to only weekdays or 8am to 6pm in a specific time zone.
- Limitation of Liability or Disclaimer: When will the software licensor disclaim any liability for damages when it provides support services or even look to limit its liability?
- Termination: It may be useful to require a notice period for termination of the agreement so that you have time to transition out and find a new software support provider.
Considering that you may need 24/7 urgent support related to software, unexpected termination of contract may leave you vulnerable.
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