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May an agency participate in a free trial program (ie, 30 days) for cloud services? I have not found much guidance on this - I know of nothing in the FAR discussing this type of free trial. There are two OFPP memos that discuss the need for early, frequent discussions with industry (which seems to point toward allowing this type of free trial). As I think about this, the primary issues that come up in my mind would be ensuring that the agency takes proper steps to avoid any OCIs, as well as ensuring that any applicable IT regs are followed.

Are you familiar with agencies that participate in these types of free trials? Are you aware of any issues that have arisen?

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From the limited information provided, it is not clear if this is a free trial period as part of a contract or not.  You might want to check out GAO Red Book, Chapter 6, Section C (The Antideficiency Act), 3 (Voluntary Services Prohibition) and see if that helps you.  

Also, if the requirement is something that would otherwise be subject to competition, you might want to consider whether or not testing one firms product and not another's provides an unfair competitive advantage.  The FAR does discuss pre-award testing at Subpart 11.8, but I'm not sure if it applies to your situation or not.

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I have no experience so not aware of any issues from a hands on view but I do have some thoughts. 

I am almost there with regard to it being market research but .........

Is the "free" really free.   By my experience free trials with regard to the Cloud in many cases imply some kind of monetary connection.   Something like you get $300 in value in using the trial or get $500 in credit if you extend the trial to a full subscription.  So is the latter case especially it seems a exchange of a promise that involves value.  Does not fit the  FAR definition of a contract but still has an uneasy feeling.

Add on the Competition in Contracting Act  ideals and you may have some effort ahead of you to ensure that you are not giving one firm a leg up over another (offer all you might review or contact in market research an opportunity to let you try their product for free?) if you decide to go to a competition to get your need.   If the idea for the trial is to check out an entity before acquiring on a single or sole source basis then that is a different matter.

Hope these thoughts help.

 

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On ‎8‎/‎6‎/‎2017 at 8:46 AM, C Culham said:

Is the "free" really free.   By my experience free trials with regard to the Cloud in many cases imply some kind of monetary connection.   Something like you get $300 in value in using the trial or get $500 in credit if you extend the trial to a full subscription.  So is the latter case especially it seems a exchange of a promise that involves value.  

 

On ‎8‎/‎4‎/‎2017 at 3:25 PM, Todd Davis said:

From the limited information provided, it is not clear if this is a free trial period as part of a contract or not.  You might want to check out GAO Red Book, Chapter 6, Section C (The Antideficiency Act), 3 (Voluntary Services Prohibition) and see if that helps you.  

Culham and Davis appear to hit the nail on the head.  May I also add that many "free" offers involve an automatic charge at the end of the "free" period (i.e., if you do not affirmatively cancel, they continue your subscription and bill you).  What happens at the end of your proposed trial period?  Under fiscal law, you should have positive legal authority that allows you to proceed.  If the services have any value, you may run afoul of impermissibly augmenting an appropriation by signing up for that "free trial".  I recommend you consult with your agency's fiscal law counsel.

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If a company starts automatically charging you for something that you were only testing to see if you actually wanted to purchase it in the first place, would the charge thus make you determine this would not be a company you would want to get into a contractual relationship with? For me personally it would say a lot of that particular company's business practices and would scare me away.  I'll leave the ADA questions to the experts.

KA20003, you may find this link useful.  18F, via cloud.gov, just rolled out a free sandbox for Federal Agency's use.

 

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I'm seeing symptoms of analysis paralysis.The big concern seems to be whether the trial is really free. Let's assume that KA20003 is not an idiot, has done his or her homework, and has confirmed that the trial is free. Okay? That being the case, I say that a tryout is market research. That's why the agency would be trying it, to find out about it. No one has identified a valid fiscal law issue.

 

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I used to know a professor who had the perfect rejoinder to the direction in which this discussion is headed: "Stop questioning the hypothetical!!!"

It's market research, assuming they can abandon the trial at any time with no consequence to the agency, financial or otherwise.

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9 hours ago, REA'n Maker said:

"Stop questioning the hypothetical!!!"

Also known as "Don't fight the hypothetical." Google that.

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Thanks everyone! My ultimate advice was that it is a market research tool. I did advise my concerns with the anti-deficiency act (but everything appears to simply turn off once the trial is over), as well as any OCI concerns that the CO may need to address in a subsequent solicitation and any IT certifications that the end user will need to confirm are met (ie, Section 508, NIST, FedRAMP, etc.). Thanks everyone for all the great resources - extremely helpful reading. I appreciate it.

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