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4 simple contract checks to see if you are dealing with Vendor Lock-in

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Contract check vendor lock-in

You have chosen for open source and against vendor lock-in, congratulations. But are you really free to expand your business, move your data and change vendors, as is promised if you have chosen for a ‘based on open source’ vendor? Probably not. But how do you spot the difference? We will reveal four hints given in the fineprint of licenses and agreements.

In a world as fast growing and shifting as ours, vendor lock-in is unthinkable. Don’t you agree? You need to grow, you need to expand, without spending tons of extra money on licenses or fees. We even live in a reality where we often have to innovate and automate our IT environment while working with smaller budgets. But apart from simply growing: your new needs might ask for a completely different IT infrastructure. Wouldn’t you want to move at will?

Companies increasingly do want to change at will and therefore embrace open source, as was reported in the Future of Open Source Survey, performed by open source vendor Black Duck Software and venture capital firm North Bridge. A staggering 78 percent of respondents said their companies run part of all of its operations on open source software. On top of that, 93 percent said that they increased their use of open source or remained the same in the past year.

Confusion? 4 hints to be found in agreements and licenses
But as we have read, some vendors might confuse the landscape by offering ‘based on open source’ databases or solutions. So how do you make sure that you are truly using open source? What do you need to look for in licenses and agreements, to see if you’re locked-in:

Check 1: ‘Destroy any downloaded copies of the software’

‘If Customer does not agree with the terms and conditions of this Agreement, Customer not licensed to use the Software, Services and Support, and customer most destroy any downloaded copies of the Software in its possession or control and/or cease all use of the Support and/or Services, as applicable.’ (Or anything similar.) – Can be found in either subscription, support and services agreements, and limited or full software licenses. Open source software can be used, even if any services or support contracts with vendors are cancelled.

Check 2: ‘Subscription restrictions’

This can be found in subscription agreement. Look for not being able to alter or remove ‘proprietary notices in the software’ and not being able to share or distribute anything without ‘prior written consent’ from the vendor.

Check 3: ‘Ownership’

If the license mentions that the software, any modifications, enhancements and feedback are owned by the vendor, you are definitely locked-in. Open source software has no owner.

Check 4: ‘Must uninstall all software’

‘Term and termination […] Customer must uninstall all software licensed and cease all use of software.’ – Wait, what? If this was open source, you would not have to be uninstalling or even removing the software. You would just be moved to the community edition.

Don’t be fooled by vendors who make ‘based on open source’ software, only to find out that you are locked-in anyway once you start using it. We live in a world of rapid change and expansion and if you want to be able to move on that, vendor lock-in is the last thing that you need.

Did you find yourself locked-in before? And did you notice it based on other remarks in the contract or agreements than mentioned above? We’d love to hear about it.

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