Benefits of a Software Support Contract
Remember Clippy? How many versions of Microsoft Office have you purchased since you saw Clippy?
If you are of a certain age, you most certainly do. For those who don’t know, Clippy was our guide to using Microsoft Office from 1997 to 2003.
Why am I talking about Clippy in an article about the benefits of software support contracts? Simply, it is to show how software changes over time. If you bought a version of Microsoft Office in 2000 and you don’t currently see Clippy in the version you are using today it is because you have since re-purchased a current version.
Often times software companies offer a support (sometimes called maintenance) contract that will help protect your software investment from the inevitable changes. People often wonder though, is it really worth it? I’m going to go over the benefits of purchasing a support contract from your software vendor and then hopefully you will be able to decide for yourself.
It is an ever changing world that we live in, and that holds true for the software you are using to support your business functions. Every year or two most software vendors come out with a major release that has significant changes from prior versions.
You experience this with the software on your mobile phone. Every year Apple makes a big deal about the new update to their iOS. These updates typically provide major enhancements and new features and sometimes remove outdated features – like when we said goodbye to Clippy with the release of Office XP.
New hardware capabilities often times drive enhancements in software upgrades. In your business operations when you upgrade your hardware you want to make sure that the software you are using takes advantage of the capabilities of your new hardware. Three years from now if you purchase new equipment that has a faster chip-set you want to be able to use software that is able to support that faster chip-set. You don’t want to be using software optimized for the equipment of 2017 in 2020. With a support contract you are able to upgrade to the latest release when it comes out. You don’t have to worry about missing out on improved functionality that can make your business run more effectively.
While it is typical for software to have a major update every year or two there are additional updates that happen periodically throughout a release cycle. (Apple has already released two updates to their iOS 11 that came out less than 2 months ago.) While these updates typically don’t change the software drastically, they do provide performance or security enhancements, fix bugs or add new minor features that may improve your productivity. Again, a support contract makes sure you have access to every update and the improvements that come with them.
Software is complex. Even very well designed software is going to perplex the end user now and then. Being able to contact those that are most familiar with the software can be invaluable. You will have far fewer frustrations when you don’t have to muddle through to find a solution on your own when a problem arises. Talking to an expert can often resolve problems in minutes where it might take you hours with blind troubleshooting. Often times the cost of the support contract will pay for itself upon the first opened ticket.
Software companies typically have a customer portal that provides valuable resources to customers with a support contract. In the portal you will have access to restricted content that would otherwise not be available to you. In addition to the portal providing an easy way to download the most current version of the software, other features include the ability to open new and review past support tickets and read knowledge base articles. Sometimes there will also be a community aspect where you can chat with other users to find best practices.
Now that you know the benefits, do they justify the cost? A support contract is usually between 15-25% of the initial fee for the software. Take an example where you purchase 15 seats of software for a total cost of $15,000. If the support contract is 20% of the software license, your annual support cost would be $3000. That seems like a lot of money, so you opt out of the support contract. Consider in two years a new feature is introduced that would significantly improve your employee efficiency. You now need to re-purchase the software in order to get access to the new feature, spending another $15,000. Had you purchased support you would have paid $6000 up to that point. You would have access to the beneficial new feature, plus any other added features or enhancements that occurred during that time, plus tech support and access to all of the resources in the customer portal. Technology changes so quickly these days, it is hard to imagine a scenario where you would not want or need updates for 5 or more years that would justify not purchasing support.
Support and maintenance contracts are typically available when you purchase software outright, known as a perpetual license. When you purchase a perpetual license you can use that version of the software indefinitely, but there is the cost of the support contract to consider. A lot of software now is available in a software as a service (SaaS) or cloud model. Typically in this model you pay for the software either monthly or annually. Updates and support are included in the price, but once you stop paying you lose access to the software. I recommend that you do an analysis to see what model would suit your business operations and financial situation best when you are making your purchasing decision. If you are interested in learning more about SaaS, read our blog post, 5 Reasons Why Over Half of IT Spending is about to be Cloud-based.
Currently an IndySoft customer with a support contract? Are you taking advantage of the upgrade benefit included with it? If you haven’t already upgraded to version 11, what are you waiting for? Read our post about all that is new in version 11 then login to download the latest release. If you are interested in a support contact, but do not currently have one, please contact sales@IndySoft.com.
If I got you feeling nostalgic over Clippy you can follow the snarky and likely non-Microsoft approved @TheClippy on Twitter.
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