Choose and manage your IT supplier

Negotiating the contract for your IT system

Make sure you're completely clear about exactly what the contract with your supplier includes. Hidden extras can be expensive.

Check whether you'll receive:

  • on-site service calls - a certain number may be included or charged at a reduced rate
  • preventative maintenance, eg the use and regular updating of anti-virus software and firewalls to protect your system
  • remote monitoring and diagnosis of system problems - if included, check whether you will have to purchase any extra equipment or communication links
  • telephone support - there may be a limit on the number or length of telephone calls
  • warranties - check what warranties, if any, are included
  • software upgrades - check if upgrades are free, or whether you have to purchase new versions as they are released or pay an annual software subscription
  • software support - the ability for you to report problems and receive help, patches and bug fixes
  • user training - some suppliers include a limited amount of training in the system's purchase price, but others will charge extra
  • manuals - you may need them if you end the relationship with your supplier in future

When purchasing IT services, you should draw up a service-level agreement (SLA) with the supplier, which specifies precisely what you expect from the supplier. A typical SLA should cover:

  • scope - details of the hardware and software that is to be covered
  • range of services - the services that the supplier will be required to provide
  • service availability - when the service should be available
  • response times - an important aspect of the SLA - usually the faster the response times, the greater the cost
  • escalation procedures - an agreed series of actions used to ensure problems are dealt with quickly: responses are intensified until the problem is resolved - eg moving from off-site diagnosis through to on-site support
  • record keeping - problems and solutions must be properly documented, and records maintained for dispute resolution
  • performance review - to maintain acceptable levels of service over time
  • supplier obligations - such as the provision of spare parts, the qualifications of support staff and the need to meet response times
  • customer obligations - your responsibilities, eg providing information about changes that affect the scope of the contract, and the cooperation of staff with the supplier
  • termination of agreement - a formal process which defines the specific terms and conditions under which the contract may be terminated

Subjects covered in this guide


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