Software Escrow: How to streamline a potentially painful process
What do life insurance, dentists and software escrow have in common? No one is excited to do it but everyone acknowledges that it is a necessity. When faced with a necessary but potentially frustrating task, the best thing a software escrow provider can do is to streamline the process for you.
Software escrow often forms part of a software license agreement or a SaaS service agreement between a developer and their client. Under a traditional on-premise software agreement, the client, usually a larger company requests for the application’s source code and documentation to be deposited with a trusted third-party software escrow vendor.
With a SaaS agreement for an application hosted within Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform (GCP), the software escrow requirement is usually different as the client may require the developer to deposit the source code, deployment scripts, system images, databases and access credentials to the production environment.
Software escrow is often seen by developers as a necessary evil to secure a large account and to provide their clients with comfort that if they end up in bankruptcy or a serious failure in service, an independent party has a copy of the source code, database or operating environment.
From our experience in speaking with thousands of software developers, we have identified what has frustrated them with their past experience with other software escrow vendors to learn how to improve their overall experience and to turn escrow into a painless process.
- Sales cycle – as the majority of software applications have moved to being hosted within AWS, Azure or GCP, escrow has become more complex. Source code alone will not usually suffice for most applications being placed into escrow. A common frustration amongst software developers is being sold an escrow product by sales representatives that don’t fully understand the technologies they are tasked with selling. This usually requires a second or third call with a technical representative followed with a lengthy questionnaire to complete in order to prepare a proposal. Escrow London acknowledged this frustration and ensures that all sales representatives have extensive knowledge and understanding of the leading cloud hosting vendors and third-party integrations. We aim to keep our initial call to a maximum of 15 minutes with a proposal following the same business day. We will never make you work harder than us in order to become our customer.
- Legal review process – a software escrow agreement usually needs to be reviewed and agreed upon by three parties. Developers and their clients often amend the agreement to meet their specific requirements which then needs to be approved by the software escrow vendor. Delays in the review process and the inflexibility of the software escrow vendor often causes frustration with the developer and their beneficiary client. Escrow London identified this as a major pain point and by having an internal legal department, red-lined agreements are usually turned around by the next business day. In addition to this, Escrow London provides as much flexibility as possible as long as certain parameters are met. In this way we facilitate agreements rather than becoming another hurdle to overcome. Escrow London provides free sample agreements available for download by following this link.
- Old school deposit process – in a world of automated deployment from Git repositories such as GitHub and Bitbucket, software developers find the manual deposit requirements of some software escrow vendors antiquated and inefficient. In 2016, Escrow London identified this as a headache for developers and were the first software escrow vendor in the UK to provide automated deposits from Git repos integrating the source code deposit into the software development lifecycle. The set it and forget it 10 minute setup process is handled by the Escrow London technical team comprised of AWS and Azure cloud engineers who speak your language.
- Verification – verification is an independent test to provide assurance to the beneficiary that the deposited code or system (for SaaS environments) can be rebuilt and deployed in the event of a trigger. The verification is usually performed onsite at the developer’s office and software escrow vendors usually allocate 3 or more days onsite for this process. During a verification exercise, the developer will need to demonstrate to the escrow consultant the build process. Developers find the typical verification procedure frustrating as they distract their internal software developers from further development of their core products. To minimise the time required, Escrow London now performs verifications remotely using video conferencing. The verification consultants are empowered to keep the time required from the developers to an absolute minimum. For repeat verifications, the same consultants (wherever possible) perform the test to ensure that no new knowledge transfer is required.
Software escrow is an important component of any robust software or SaaS license agreement. It is vital that the developers are onboard and comfortable with the process. It is important to keep in mind that the decision of an escrow vendor should be mutual between the developer and the beneficiary as it is a 3-way agreement even if the beneficiary is paying the costs.
As a tuned in software escrow provider, Escrow London recognises that the escrow process is something that the developers find distracting from their core business and as such we aim to make the process as efficient as possible for the developer.
To learn more about Escrow London visit www.escrowlondon.co.uk