Web hosting and maintenance contracts
Web hosting takes many forms, from single-site hosting arrangements between a web professional and a customer, through shared hosting, cloud-based hosting and virtual private servers, to the provision of high-end dedicated servers and co-location facilities. Hosting is usually packaged with a range of ancillary services, such as domain name registration and email services, but the range and nature of these services will vary from host to host.
There are many legal issues common to all web hosting arrangements. For instance, all hosting companies need to be protect themselves from the abuse of hosting facilities by customers. Nonetheless, different types of hosting - and different packages of ancillary services - need different terms and conditions. There is no such thing as a universal hosting agreement.
Web hosting is usually bundled with some level of support service, but support may also be supplied as a discrete service. Web support and maintenance services are as diverse as hosting services. Support services providers range from small businesses serving a small business client base, to large scale suppliers of remote support for the consumer and SME market, to specialist consultancies supporting the bespoke systems of major institutions.
Although we have grouped our web hosting and web maintenance contracts together in this category, there are as many differences as there are similarities between these types of contract.
Web hosting agreements
The standard web hosting agreement templates we have currently available are suitable for use in relation to relatively straightforward hosting arrangements involving shared servers. The premium web hosting agreement templates cover not only shared hosting, but also a range of related services: dedicated hosting, co-location services, domain name registration, SSL certificate provision, support services and email services. The two "terms" style documents broadly favour the interests of the host over the interests of customers. The two web "agreement" style documents can be easily adapted to favour either party, or indeed to balance the parties' interests.
Information about some of the key sections of the web hosting agreements is set out below.
Implementation and transition: A host may be responsible for transferring a website from its own development servers, or for assisting with the transition of a website from a third party's servers. These optional provisions, including in both the standard and premium hosting contracts, are designed to account for these possibilities.
Services: standard agreements: In the standard hosting contracts, the services consists of the hosting of one or more specified websites or web applications, plus ancillary services. Various optional sections are included in the templates:
Services: premium agreements: There is a fundamental difference in approach to the definition of services in the premium hosting contracts. Unlike the standard documents, which provide for the hosting of a website or websites, the services in the premium documents are defined in terms of resources made available for hosting. They do not specify that those resources must be used for hosting a particular site or application. Different types of hosting may be supplied under the premium documents. Separate sections cover shared hosting, dedicated hosting and co-location services. The premium hosting contracts cover all the ancillary services referred to above in relation to the standard documents, but in more detail. They also cover a wider domain name registration and the provision of SSL certificates.
Availability and maintenance: The hosting contract may provide for a guaranteed level of availability - for example, 99.9% availability during each calendar month or part thereof during the term. All the hosting contract templates provide that the host may suspend the hosting services to carry out scheduled or maintenance or repairs. Optionally, emergency maintenance may also be permitted without impacting any agreed availability service level.
Web maintenance agreements
We supply two different web maintenance documents. The "agreement" document should be used where the document will be signed in hard copy by each of the parties. The "terms" document is designed to be incorporated into an online order process featuring some kind of registration form.
The "terms" document has been drafted to favour the interests of the services provider, while the web "agreement" document can be amended to suit the interests of either party, or indeed to balance their interests where appropriate.
Services: The basic obligation under these contracts if for the service provider to make available, perhaps during specified periods, a helpdesk facility to enable the customer to make requests for maintenance and technical support services in relation to the supported site or application. The service provider must (or must make reasonable endeavours) to respond to request within a specified period. Maintenance services may include some or all of the following: adding new content to the supported site; making minor changes to site design; making minor changes to any software or database used by the site; answering technical queries relating to the site; and, last but not least, resolving faults and errors in the site. Optional back-up obligations are also included. The services may be subject to specified limits (e.g. calculated in person-hours per month) which when exceeded may result in the payment of supplemental charges.
Customer responsibilities: The provision of support and maintenance services will required some level of assistance from the customer. Under the customer responsibilities clause included with this template, the customer undertakes to give the service provider access to the supported site or application, and to give to the service provider "all other co-operation, information and documentation" that is reasonably required. The customer may also be made responsible for procuring third party co-operation relating to the provision of the services (e.g. the co-operation of a third party hosting company).