How to Write a Managed Services Agreement

A Managed Services Agreement (MSA) is a contract between a managed service provider (MSP) and a client that outlines the terms and conditions of the services provided. This agreement is essential for defining the scope of services, responsibilities, performance metrics, and other crucial aspects to ensure both parties have a clear understanding of their obligations. This article will guide you through the process of writing an MSA, explaining important clauses in detail, and providing 15 frequently asked questions (FAQs) along with their answers.

Key Clauses in a Managed Services Agreement

1. Parties Involved

Clause Explanation: This clause identifies the parties involved in the agreement. It includes the full legal names and contact information of both the managed service provider and the client.

Example: “This Managed Services Agreement (‘Agreement’) is made and entered into by and between ABC Technologies, Inc. (‘Service Provider’), with its principal place of business at [address], and XYZ Corporation (‘Client’), with its principal place of business at [address].”

2. Scope of Services

Clause Explanation: The scope of services clause details the specific services that the MSP will provide. It should be comprehensive and clearly define the tasks and responsibilities to avoid misunderstandings.

Example: “The Service Provider agrees to provide the following services: network monitoring, data backup and recovery, cybersecurity management, helpdesk support, and software updates as detailed in Exhibit A.”

3. Service Levels and Performance Metrics

Clause Explanation: This clause sets the expected service levels and performance metrics, such as uptime guarantees, response times, and resolution times. It ensures that the MSP’s performance meets the client’s expectations.

Example: “The Service Provider shall ensure a network uptime of 99.9% per month. Response times for critical issues shall be within 30 minutes, and resolution times within 4 hours.”

4. Payment Terms

Clause Explanation: The payment terms clause outlines the fees for services rendered, payment schedules, and accepted payment methods. It also includes details about late payment penalties and billing procedures.

Example: “The Client agrees to pay the Service Provider a monthly fee of $5,000. Payments are due on the first of each month, and a late fee of 1.5% per month will be applied to overdue invoices.”

5. Term and Termination

Clause Explanation: This clause specifies the duration of the agreement and the conditions under which either party can terminate it. It includes notice periods and any penalties for early termination.

Example: “This Agreement shall commence on [start date] and continue for a period of one year. Either party may terminate this Agreement with 30 days’ written notice. Termination by the Client before the end of the term will result in a termination fee equivalent to one month’s service fee.”

6. Confidentiality

Clause Explanation: The confidentiality clause ensures that any sensitive information shared between the parties remains private and is not disclosed to third parties. This is crucial for protecting proprietary data.

Example: “Both parties agree to keep all information exchanged during the term of this Agreement confidential and not to disclose it to any third parties without prior written consent.”

7. Intellectual Property Rights

Clause Explanation: This clause defines the ownership of intellectual property created during the term of the agreement. It clarifies whether the MSP retains ownership or if the rights are transferred to the client.

Example: “All intellectual property rights to the materials developed by the Service Provider during the term of this Agreement shall be owned by the Client upon full payment for the services rendered.”

8. Liability and Indemnification

Clause Explanation: The liability and indemnification clause outlines the extent to which each party is liable for damages and provides for indemnification against third-party claims. It protects both parties from potential legal issues arising from the services provided.

Example: “The Service Provider shall not be liable for any indirect or consequential damages arising from the services rendered. The Client agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Service Provider from any claims arising out of the use of the services provided.”

9. Dispute Resolution

Clause Explanation: This clause specifies how disputes will be handled, such as through mediation, arbitration, or litigation. It ensures that disagreements are resolved in a structured manner.

Example: “In the event of a dispute arising from this Agreement, both parties agree to first attempt mediation. If mediation fails, the dispute shall be resolved through binding arbitration in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association.”

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10. Force Majeure

Clause Explanation: A force majeure clause protects both parties from liability if they are unable to fulfill their obligations due to events beyond their control, such as natural disasters or other unforeseeable circumstances.

Example: “Neither party shall be liable for any failure to perform its obligations under this Agreement if such failure is due to a force majeure event, including but not limited to natural disasters, war, or acts of terrorism.”

11. Governing Law

Clause Explanation: This clause specifies which jurisdiction’s laws will govern the agreement. It is important to choose a jurisdiction that is convenient for both parties and has relevant legal expertise.

Example: “This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of California.”

12. Entire Agreement

Clause Explanation: The entire agreement clause states that the MSA represents the complete and final agreement between the parties, superseding any prior agreements or understandings.

Example: “This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties and supersedes all prior negotiations, understandings, and agreements, whether written or oral.”

13. Amendments

Clause Explanation: This clause outlines the process for making changes to the agreement. It ensures that any modifications are documented and agreed upon by both parties.

Example: “Any amendments to this Agreement must be made in writing and signed by both parties to be effective.”

14. Signatures

Clause Explanation: The agreement should conclude with the signatures of both parties, along with the date of signing. This formalizes the contract and indicates that both parties agree to the terms.

Example: “Signed by the duly authorized representatives of the parties as of the date first written above.”

**Client Signature: _________________________ Date: ____________

Service Provider Signature: _________________________ Date: ____________

15. Service Level Agreement (SLA) Addendum

Clause Explanation: An SLA addendum details specific service level commitments and metrics not covered in the main agreement. It serves as a reference for performance standards and accountability.

Example: “The attached Service Level Agreement (SLA) outlines the specific performance metrics, including response and resolution times for various service levels. This SLA is an integral part of this Managed Services Agreement and is subject to the same terms and conditions.”

Conclusion

Writing a Managed Services Agreement involves carefully considering various clauses to ensure both parties’ interests are protected. By clearly outlining the scope of services, payment terms, confidentiality, intellectual property rights, and other key elements, you can create a comprehensive and effective agreement. This not only fosters a clear understanding between the service provider and the client but also helps prevent potential disputes and misunderstandings.

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