What is an IT Support Contract?

An IT support contract is an agreement between two parties in which one party will provide IT—or information technology—services in exchange for payment. Contracting IT support means you will be hiring an outside service to ensure the technological aspects of your business continue to run without mishap. Or, if they do encounter technical difficulties, these difficulties will be fixed in a timely manner.

By going without IT support you run the risk of wasting your money, resources, and time trying to fix technology problems on your own. Having an IT support contract can ensure you a safety net against such problems.

What is in an IT Support Contract?

Although specific details will vary from contract to contract, some areas commonly covered in an IT support contract include:

  • Items covered. This will detail what hardware, software, and services will be maintained by the IT maintenance contractor.
  • IT support exclusions. This will set out what technology or scenarios will not be covered by the contract. For example, spilling coffee on your hard drive, a power surge disabling your server, unauthorized modifications, or natural disasters might not be covered. That said, you may still be able to receive help for these problems, but you may have to pay extra.
  • Activities covered. This will detail what work the IT contractor will do to maintain your technology. This could include checking security software, testing backup systems, installing software updates, and administering general technical support.
  • IT support contract tiers. The majority of IT support providers offer a tiered system for administering assistance. A contract should lay out the system the IT support provider uses, if they use it, and what their response time to problems may be. Response time should not be confused with resolution time, as that can vary due to the problem at hand.

What an IT Support Contract Requires of You

When considering an IT support contract, you should be aware of your responsibilities for upholding the contract on your end. Such responsibilities may include:

  • Maintaining the payment schedule.
  • Fixing certain system problems prior to the contract coming into effect.
  • Getting IT approval before making system changes.
  • Having a designated IT liaison on staff.
  • Meeting minimum security standards.

IT Support Contract Costs

When contracting IT support, knowing what you will be paying is of the utmost importance, as well as how you will be paying it. Some key questions to ask include:

  • Will support price be calculated per day or per incident?
  • Will there be a fixed monthly bill, or will there be pay-as-you-go credits?
  • If there are credits, how long will these credits be valid, and how much support time is each credit worth?

Difference Between an IT Support Contract and an SLA

IT support contracts may often be accompanied by something called an SLA—or service level agreement (and also master service agreement)—which should not be confused with an IT contract. An IT contract is the legally binding agreement between you and the IT contractor that sets out the services and cost to be agreed upon. The SLA is a document separate from the contract that outlines in more specific detail the level of service you will receive.

An SLA will state what level of service is considered acceptable and what will happen if such a level is not met. An SLA may also be revised without requiring a contract revision, meaning you can change the service level you wish to receive as your need changes.

How to Choose an IT Support Contract

Because there are many different IT support contracts, service providers, and service levels, choosing the best one for you may seem like a daunting task. Ultimately, the best way to find the right fit is to start researching service providers, finding out what services they provide and what clients have to say about them. A good service provider will be happy to answer any questions you have and be willing to accommodate your unique requirements. Before you sign any contract though, you should be sure to double check all the provisions and terms to make sure they are set out the way you want them to be.

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