Customer Rights with IT Providers

pirate-buttonWhat are my rights as a customer of an IT provider?

You own your data and all the rights to it.  Depending on your agreement you may or may not own the various components of your IT infrastructure, such as workstations and servers.

If I want to change IT providers, can my current provider hold my data hostage?

Technically the answer is no.  Your current IT provider must release any and all information required to access your data upon request.  Some IT providers may refuse to do this making moving to a new provider difficult or even possible.  In this case legal action may be required to resolve the issue.  When selecting an IT provider, due diligence is required on your part, hopefully in writing, to ensure you do not end up in this position.

What information could my IT provider have, that should be provided if requested?

Network Diagram or Drawing

Any information pertaining to how your network is laid out and configured

Password List

Any and all administrative passwords should be provided upon request.  This may be a support issue as your current provider may not want to release this data if they are actively supporting you.  There may be a liability release involved as you would have the ability to make changes beyond their control and compromise their ability to support you.  In any event if you request the information, it must be made available.

Licenses Certificates

You own any licenses you purchased, not the IT provider, unless there is some specific agreement in place to the contrary.  You should always have the details on all your licenses, especially in the event there is ever an audit by a software manufacturer.

Service Providers

Service providers, such as Web Hosting providers, Information Service Providers, Domain Registrars, etc., are your company’s presence as presented to the world via the Internet.  Any passwords associated with these providers on your behalf control your online presence.  These passwords must be made available to you upon request.

Your company name should appear as the owner with all of these providers, and the owner email address should be one that you directly control.  For example your Internet Domain should be registered to your company and the administrative address should be yours, not that of the IT provider.  If the domain is registered to the IT provider, they own your domain, not you, and in that event you could loose your domain if you want to change IT providers.

Current Contracts

You should always have copies of any contracts related to IT services available at all times.  This is critical in the event circumstances change and something different is required.  You need to know what your options are and what can be done to deal with changing circumstances.

When selecting an IT provider, ensure your data won’t be held hostage by them.  Make sure you have an agreement whereby upon termination they will release any and all information they have in supporting your site.  If you purchase something, make sure you own it and have the documentation to prove ownership.  Make sure that your online presence and all aspects of it are registered to your company, not the IT provider.