How to structure pre-paid professional support for an Open Source product?


I'm offering professional support for an open source product, with the blessings of the team behind it.

What is a good way to structure support to make this good for my clients AND worth my while?

  • pay per incidence?
  • minimum hourly blocks? or 15-minute blocks?
  • what else?

The specific product is the H2 open source database. It's normally used as an embedded database in Java applications, or as a unit-testing replacement for Oracle, etc.

Open Source Support

asked Aug 18 '11 at 14:29
Steve Mc Leod
118 points
  • why not offer a choice? Since you are not sure yet what is the best way to provide value and pay yourself decently - state that the terms are subject to change. Just treat people as you would want to be treated. Give them a choice - then also offer to swap to the other plan(s) if it is more advantageous to the customer. – Tim J 13 years ago
  • It could be quite important what the product is. People will be able to offer more informed advice if you provide more information. – Chris Morgan 13 years ago
  • Tim, I'm definitely flexible, but IMO it is good to start with a specific, proven model. – Steve Mc Leod 13 years ago
  • A proven model may not be appropriate for you. Ones you know about are likely larger organizations that have ended up with one pricing scheme that may have changed many times since they started. What is appropriate in the beginning is not always appropriate later... – Tim J 13 years ago
  • Tim, I still need a starting point - or at least choices to offer. That's what I'm searching for. – Steve Mc Leod 13 years ago
  • Steve... Tim's right. But also what do you customers say? Have you spoken to them? Ask them what they want and so long as you're making a good enough margin, it's win win. – Sunil 12 years ago

2 Answers


First, talk to you your potential customers (i.e. the current users of the open-source product) and find out answers to the following questions:

  • How often do you find yourself needing technical support?
  • How much do outages/problems impact your business?
  • How quickly have you resolved your outages/problems?
  • How quickly do you want your outages/problems be resolved?
  • How complicated have your outages/problems been?
  • Where did you get technical support?
  • How good was the support received?
  • How do you budget for technical support and outages?

With answers to these questions, you'll be able to craft your UVP and figure out the value (not the price) of your service to businesses.

Then you'll know enough to pick your pricing model from the typical ones: flat rate per incident, flat rate for the first X hours then hourly, only hourly, retainer (monthly/semi-annual/annual with/without incident limit).

answered Dec 31 '11 at 11:10
1,963 points


I think you are best in the early stage of development where the systems of service and suppport are largly being developed and the expectations are only just emerging to make your support the pre-purcahse of time in blocks, billed in defined blocks. Make three purchased time blocks available with increaded value the more time that is purchased. Don't have an expiration on the use of the time. Provide monthly billing on actual time used against their pirchase. The billing block- 15 min, 30 minutes needs to match your market expectation. I think 30 min is reasonable.

The advantage to this is you get prepaid, people are more likely to use time they have purchased, you can build projections of when people will need more. You can throw an hour here or there to paid customers to build satisfaction and loyalty.

answered Sep 2 '11 at 06:56
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points

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