Breaking down the cost of Magento support.

So you went through the crazy process of building your Magento store and you have survived—possibly on a few nights of minimal sleep and far too many cups of coffee—but you did it. All that time, energy and money are finally paying off with your sharp new site, plus your customers are loving it. This bliss, though enjoyable, will not last forever. You need monthly support. 

Monthly support agreements are the bloodline that keeps your store alive. Whether it be account management, security patch updating, or emergency services, it is essential to partner with an agency that can consistently support your team month after month. This support can come in the form of hourly or fixed price billing, both of which are very distinct in their approach to handling monthly support agreements. Now, I know that you are still wondering what the cost and services associated with Magento support are, right? Keep reading we are about to break it down for you. 

Selecting a Magento support agency. 

Before you even start a monthly support agreement, you have to select your agency. This process can take time, but it’s important to remember that this team will be your primary resource for all items regarding your Magento store. That comes with a lot of responsibility, so here’s a list of questions you should ask a prospective agency partner: 

  1. What is your hourly rate for pre-booked hours?
  2. What is your minimum hours commitment for service agreements?
  3. What happens if we use more than our allocated pre-booked hours?
  4. Does your overage rate differ from your pre-booked rate?
  5. What is your minimum billing increment? In other words, if you complete a task that only takes 5 minutes, how much will I pay?
  6. On average, how much time is spent on Account Management each month?

The answers to these questions will give you a much better idea of what you can realistically expect to spend on support.

What does it cost?

The answer to this question is right here. When it comes down to support, agencies vary in cost but generally, the average hourly rate for certified Magento partners in the US falls between $125–$175/hour. As part of that, most if not all agencies require a minimum monthly commitment of 20–30 hours. With these numbers in mind, we can estimate that a typical minimum Magento support agreement will be priced between $2500–$5000/month.

Let us remind you that this is the base price. It’s doesn’t take into consideration overage, which is a common occurrence with hourly billing on a monthly basis. You should anticipate going over your pre-booked time and understand what happens when an overage occurs. You do not want to get stuck paying outrageous rates for overage. 

What does support entail?

Since the price is on the table, now you have to figure out what falls under the umbrella of support. Support can mean a lot of things. But when we are talking about your new Magento store, support means everything. From covering the day to day of your Magento store to handling sudden emergencies on a whim, one could call support the eCommerce first aid kit.  

Like we mentioned before, all agencies are different. Some offer hourly pricing while some lean toward fixed pricing. We choose to work within the fixed price model for a variety of reasons, which you could read in this blog post, but at the end of the day, this process puts our customers first in all the work we do. Though most agencies will offer similar services of account management, security patch updates, and emergency support we believe that the fixed price model benefits all three of these elements under monthly Magento support. Allow us to explain why:

Security Patch Management

Let’s say that your hourly agency offers 20 hours worth of support per month. Consider over the past five years, Magento has released an average of 4.6 security patches per year. Then, it is estimated the average Magento security patch requires more than 16 hours of effort to apply, test, and deploy. If you are operating with those numbers in mind, you will far exceed your hours, which are then charged as overage based on the hour. Because the exact timing and impact of Magento patches are unknown, budgeting for patches can be extremely difficult if you work with an hourly agency. 

Now flip the script and see how we handle security patches under a fixed price agreement. We recommend that you budget at least 80 hours each year for security patches—which equates to over 8 hours per month. Under a fixed price agreement, your support team can continue to work through patches and updates without you having to worry about the massive bill coming at the end of the month. This kind of transparency allows us to work through updates faster and you can be confident in the service you receive.  

Note: Magento maintains an archive of past releases if you’d like to learn more about the types of issues Magento resolves through patches.

Emergency Support

It is clear that hourly billing can be slightly unpredictable, and that is even more prevalent when it comes to emergency support. Maybe you have built a system around an seasoned team that can handle emergencies, but at some point, even the most robust systems experience issues. 

Usually, when an emergency occurs, your account manager will work with the team to identify the issue’s source, remediate it, and develop a plan for preventing the issue from occurring again. When you take all of these factors into consideration, it is not uncommon for a single large emergency to consume 16–24 hours. Now if you are working with an hourly agency, you again surpass your allocated hours for the month and your agency can overage charge you.  

For our team, emergency support means to support. Emergencies are stressful and need to be handled quickly and effectively, without you having to worry about how much it is going to cost you. While large emergencies should not occur frequently, we first suggest budgeting for two large emergencies per year— which is roughly 60-80 hours.  

In the case of emergency support, our practice is simple: multiple team members will work together to identify the issue’s source and sufficiently remediate the issue. During this time, communication from your account manager should also increase to provide frequent status updates until the issue has been remediated. Once the website is stable, an in-depth root-cause analysis is performed in order to strategize a plan for preventing the issue from arising again. 

This process is detailed and organized, without you having to keep track of how much time and resources are taken up during these situations. 

Account Management

When your agency tells you that you have 20 hours at the beginning of the month, you might assume that you’ll be able to complete 20 hours of development this month, but you’d be wrong. Hourly agencies send a reconciliation report at the end of each month which tells you how your money (their time) was used— it may surprise you to learn how much time is spent on tasks not directly related to development.

Consider how often you communicate with your account manager—if they’re tracking their time, you should see it reflected on your bill. Many agencies use a minimum billing increment of 15 minutes which means emails, phone calls, and status meetings quickly add up. Under hourly billing, once you realize that you’re being charged for communication, you’ll probably begin to think twice about sending an email or picking up the phone to speak with your account manager.

If you’re concerned about quality, you’ll want to make sure that your agency has a solid process in place for completing formal code review and quality assurance before being deployed to production. While these tasks are critical to ensuring a high-quality outcome, they are easily overlooked when discussing task estimates. These necessary development subtasks may increase the total time required to complete a task by up to 50%. Now you realize that the 20 hours of development you had planned for this month is actually closer to 6 hours, or less than two hours per week—which explains why overage is common in hourly agencies.

At Gauge, our account managers are the catalysts for all forms of support. Without them, the systems we have created to support our clients would fall flat. A fixed price agreement encourages communication between the client and the agency because you don’t have to worry about communication impacting your bill. Our account managers are your first resource for support and you should be able to communicate with them as much as you need. When the communication is successful, the relationship is successful. 

We have always been about relationships, hence why our clients are called our partners. As a brand that is driven by people, it is important that we provide our clients with the most interactions with our team as possible. We don’t think that should come at a cost. Relationships are all about communication and transparency, and our fixed price model allows for that to happen smoothly and effectively. 

In need of Magento support?

Our team of experienced Magento developers and account managers are here to help you. Reach out to us to create a support plan that’s right for you.

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Support builds success. 

We have been working with retailers for over a decade and if there is one thing that continues to hold true is that support builds success. Strong foundations are built upon support structures that ensure the stability of everything, and your Magento store needs that foundation. As you begin to grow and expand your business, it’s important to maintain the integrity of your foundation by partnering with an agency that has your best interest in mind. You spent all this time creating a brand and building a great store, now support it with a great agency. 

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