Yep, this is a good question that confuses a lot of Technology Professionals.

Service is reactive: You need “service” because something is not working, and you need it fixed. Depending on your staff or vendor, service can be provided only during business hours or 24/7. You can’t predict it, and you can’t budget a rate because you will NEVER know how many times a year you will need service. This is one of the reasons Technology Pros are afraid to make a yearly flat rate based on a percentage of the price of the job: they can be trapped and lose money if they must come back over and over. And they are right; service should be charged at the hourly rate of of one’s general terms and conditions. Period, end of the story.

Maintenance is related to all schedulable tasks. The word “maintenance” means “maintain something working”. When you pay for maintenance, everything is supposed to work. It’s like the maintenance of a car, a plane, an elevator. You proceed to a yearly maintenance visit to check and change parts BEFORE they break. Normally, there is no way to get trapped during a maintenance visit. Maintenance costs can easily be predicted based on how long it will take to check the system as well as how many times per year the checks should come. And if you need to come back to fix something, this is a chargeable service. From my point of view, you should come at least twice a year on any job for maintenance. As you can predict how many times and how long it will take, you can make a yearly flat rate based on your hourly rate. By the way, the price of the parts you will change during the maintenance are NOT included in the price.

Here is a list of all the tasks you can schedule during maintenance:
–               Software updates
–               Virus detection, prevention and removal
–               Adware/Spyware detection, prevention and removal
–               Temporary file removal
–               Equipment health monitoring
–               Audit of the aging and obsolescence of equipment and proposal to replace equipment that no longer complies with electronic and software security standards or that no longer meets your new requirements and needs