Software maintenance contracts usually include the right to technical support, bug patches, and version upgrades. However, a shop can decide they really don’t need to provide maintenance on one or more of their third-party software packages and drop maintenance for a particular product.
This can happen in stable production environments where the software has been running for a long time and very few changes occur. The administrator or management may decide that it’s too expensive to maintain a piece of software, and that they are never going to upgrade the software or the operating system. These shops may decide that it’s just not worth it to pay 15-20% a year on software that’s been rock solid for years. Especially if it’s a big-ticket item, like ERP software maintenance.
(updated on 11-2-13)
While dropping software maintenance can be a valid business decision, the problem comes in if you legitimately need maintenance from the vendor that you just cancelled maintenance on, perhaps for an operating system upgrade or a software bug that’s solved with the latest release.
If you want to reinstate software maintenance, many vendors will charge you back maintenance to bring you up to date with all the years you didn’t pay maintenance. There may also be a penalty to reinstate maintenance. I’ve generally found that the bigger the vendor, the more intransigent they are about people dropping maintenance and then wanting to reinstate it later on. Vendors don’t want customers paying maintenance only when they need it. They want you to be current so that they are able to cover their costs and make a profit supporting you and their other customers.
If you drop third-party software maintenance, you may have problems getting that product to run on upgraded hardware. Many vendors key their software to a specific serial number and if you want to upgrade, you may need to get a new hardware key for the new system. And you won’t be able to get that key unless you’re current on maintenance. Worse, the software may not run on new hardware unless you update to the most recent version which surprise, is only available if you are current on your software maintenance.
The same goes for running software under a new operating system. You may need to get the latest version of your 3rd-party software to run under a new OS. Again, this may only be possible if you’re current on maintenance so keep that in mind, as well.
An alternative to dropping expensive vendor maintenance is that there are some organizations that will provide maintenance for other company’s products, at a lesser cost. This can help reduce costs but you may still have problems with hardware or operating system upgrades or running the software on an a new machine.
So while dropping software maintenance may seem like a good idea to cut costs, you need to be aware that it can burn you later on when you may need maintenance services from a vendor.