IT managers spend ample time choosing network equipment that best suits their companies’ needs, but often make less-than-optimal decisions about the most cost-effective strategy to save money on network maintenance costs. However, the job doesn’t end with selecting and installing the equipment. Understanding which maintenance and support contracts to purchase, aligning their payments with other contracts, planning for the machine’s projected lifespan and taking advantage of new technology are only a few aspects of how you can reduce network equipment maintenance costs.
Network equipment maintenance is necessary to make sure your investments in equipment last as long as possible and keep your tools operating at the highest efficiency levels. Every internal and external device within a network plays a role in ensuring data is accessible, and all facets of the system are functioning properly. Without a properly working network, strategic decisions become more volatile and unpredictable. There are several ways to increase network availability, reduce maintenance costs and make your business run much more cost-effectively.
Review Projections to Reduce Costs
IT professionals should always keep thorough documentation of the inventory and map of the network. Doing so allows you to assess each network component, and assign it an appropriate maintenance service level. Implementing a good network strategy will make it easier to create and meet measurable goals while optimizing network design, making the wisest investments for necessary equipment and gaining maintenance contracts.
Conduct network growth projections two to five years in advance. Doing so will save you time by not having to establish different subnet designations each time you make a change to the network, and you can also find areas where you can save money by reviewing how critical each component is to the business. After deciding which elements are the most vital, IT professionals can better plan for network performance and alternative support options, and further improve hardware, maintenance and support.
Analyze Current Maintenance and Support Contracts
When reviewing existing maintenance and support contracts, the first step in measuring their effectiveness is to rank them in order of their importance. The more critical the device is to the business, the higher the service level it requires. Gear more toward the bottom of the list may not need any maintenance. When considering the application of maintenance and support in your networking software and hardware, here are some things to consider:
- Importance equipment has to the business
- Risk of having lower-level service
- Impact equipment failure would have on the business
For example, if a workgroup switch goes down and affects a dozen or so employees, it won’t be too detrimental to the company’s well-being, and the workers will likely be happy to have a bit of a break in their day. However, if a core router goes down and impacts many functions and individuals working throughout a network, significant problems could arise for the company.
Keeping spares on hand is a great idea, combined with spares management contracts for your equipment that will replace a faulty part upon its failure. Instate a sparing policy to determine the minimum total cost of investment and load curtailment costs, while classifying spares and failure rates. Using a sparing method can optimize your substation components to maintain network uptime and save your business money by helping you know what spare materials you have on hand and how best to use them.
OEM contracts have also earned a reputation for tacking on certain perks that aren’t necessary to gain access to a service or offering you may need. By bundling services, they appear to be offering more value, but in reality, they are just creating unnecessary coverage and substantially increasing the cost.
Maintenance contracts often include guarantees for replacements or repair if you have an issue with any parts. Frequently, the agreement encompasses more than just this benefit, and regularly releases software updates that keep routers and firewalls running optimally. IT managers often overlook these updates, so make a point to check equipment for software updates.
Worldwide Services customers save as much as 50 to 90 percent on network equipment preventive maintenance with NetGuard. NetGuard is Worldwide Services’ third-party maintenance program that allows IT professionals to add and manage any support contract. If you order a replacement, it will arrive within 24 hours, and come with expert-level technical assistance.
Extend Equipment Life
Once a piece of equipment is more than 10 years old, it is likely time to consider a replacement. When searching for equipment to purchase, always be mindful of limited lifetime warranties many manufacturers offer. These types of warranties are best for less critical parts of your network, and come packaged with technical support and hardware replacement. In addition to the benefit of not having to worry about your equipment failing prematurely, you also can save on support and maintenance costs. When deciding the best maintenance service level to purchase, a few elements should be at the forefront of your decision:
- Type of equipment
- Age of equipment
- Importance equipment has to the business
IT managers often choose the same level of service for all their equipment to save time and maintain uniformity among contracts. However, this isn’t the best practice, since it typically results in wasteful expenditures that would have been preventable with a little more research and time during the selection process.
Original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, get IT managers to spend extra money by building in a need for equipment replacements, or double-covering existing equipment. A strategy they use is to issue an “end-of-life” notice on equipment that may be at the end of its shelf life, but is still performing perfectly. Taking the OEM’s word for the equipment needing a replacement leads many customers to make new purchases unnecessarily.
Proper Management of Maintenance Contracts
Networks are always changing, with new parts coming in simultaneously as older parts are getting repurposed and swapped to other machines, or in some cases, discarded. While there’s such a vast variety of devices on different contracts from separate vendors and expiration dates, managing contracts and keeping track of equipment can be incredibly stressful and time-consuming.
Most IT professionals who deal with these challenges in their line of work use basic methods of contract management that may do a proficient job at keeping track of your assets, but ensuring with complete certainty your inventory is not causing any problems due to coverage gaps can allow you to create an even more successful maintenance strategy.
Aligning your contracts to terminate simultaneously can make for an easier renewal process going forward. Consolidating various maintenance contracts to tailor to your business’ needs, instead of a deal that spans multiple years or locks you in indefinitely, is a lousy option as opposed to a more flexible monthly plan. Avoiding automatic renewal clauses is good practice, because although these contracts ensure you’ll never lack coverage, they keep you locked into the same coverage and price plan, potentially prohibiting you from getting their best rate. By planning when your contracts will renew, you can enjoy increased network availability and reduced maintenance costs.
A good practice is to lock in your annual rate for three to five years ahead of time. Negotiating a set rate ahead of time will save you time annually because you won’t need to renegotiate budgets, which simplifies planning. You can use the time you saved to look further ahead in your business plan and figure out the best method of attack once the predetermined time you set your annual rates expires.
Be sure your contracts explicitly state a clear understanding of requirements, so no party involved can plead ignorance to fulfilling it. Any network maintenance contract should describe which services the agreement covers, what it does not, the role of both the OEM and the client within the deal, timeframes of service and specific procedures for resolving issues.
Many inventory and contract management tools have systems in place to help maintain your network equipment and develop better strategies without the added stress. If your network uses more than 1,000 devices, it is even more important to use third-party software to organize your inventory maintenance and renewal processes.
Consider Hybrid Support Services
Hybrid support services — the combination of internal and external services using both internal and public clouds to support a business outcome — are a growing trend that is transforming the role of information technology. These services are best for the following:
- Connecting several clouds
- Identifying and classifying data
- Implementing a more service-oriented architecture
Cloud computing comes with advantages and disadvantages. It offers significantly lower overhead through the transfer of services to cloud providers in exchange for a more volatile and dynamic market than traditional IT computing environments.
It may be a good idea to use cloud computing for less critical IT services like projects in the development phase or testing applications. There’s little risk in experimenting with hybrid support services in situations that prove less detrimental if anything were to go wrong.
When handling critical data and essential applications, several drawbacks make IT organizations more reluctant to embrace cloud services fully. Common issues include:
- Failure to meet security requirements
- Failure to integrate with enterprise management
- Hosting critical applications is not guaranteed
Combating these issues is where hybrid IT architecture can come into play. By using both the external cloud and internal methods, IT organizations can offer their customers the speed, price and capacity of the cloud while keeping the security the organization requires for its most critical components.
Be a Savvy Shopper
Limited research leads IT decision makers to succumb to marketing tactics, or arrive at a costly decision when there is a better one at a more affordable price right around the corner. Take ample time when choosing equipment and contracts, and always be sure to get quotes from multiple vendors to drastically cut costs from your IT budget.
Shopping around allows you to become more familiar with the market and make more sensible decisions on what a reasonable price is for the sort of coverage you are looking for. Also, be wary of deals that seem to be a steal, because you have very likely overlooked details in the fine print.
Once a potential vendor has informed you of their rate, make sure that is the best price they are willing to offer. Rates are always negotiable, and the vendor is likely to reduce their costs if they know it’s the difference between landing you as a customer or not. It never hurts to ask, even if you have to be assertive in your negotiations.
Third-party hardware maintenance providers are also excellent for finding coverage very similar to more expensive competitors while paying a fraction of the price. Compared to OEMs, third-party providers also generally operate more freely, allowing them to grant you more flexibility in a plan. Their business also usually follows fewer protocols compared to a large manufacturer, so they can tailor a plan specifically to you. It is important to research a third-party company to ensure you are not sacrificing quality, but most of the time, manufacturers use third-party providers on their own accord to handle maintenance coverages.
A used product is also an option if you are not looking to invest in brand-new equipment. Considering purchasing a secondhand device isn’t a bad suggestion if its function is less critical to your business. If a used product is significantly less expensive than its brand-new counterpart, a little research into the item to determine if it has any faults, or its projected lifespan, could prove to be cost-effective if it operates just as well as a new part.
Companies such as Worldwide Services provide millions of products that are available online and for immediate delivery. Worldwide Services offers 24/7 technical support, certified engineers for configuration support and system design and spare and repair services, all to the highest international standard. If you believe a third-party hardware maintenance company may not offer the same security in your purchases compared to a name brand, this is untrue for many smaller, reputable dealers. Worldwide Services provides a lifetime warranty, and we give value to our customers by offering information and assistance on our company blog that has industry-specific insights into the IT world you can use to optimize your career. You can also contact us directly here for any questions you may have.
Understanding the Market
Saving on network maintenance costs ultimately comes down to allocating your time and resources to the right actions. Projecting the rate of growth within your network, setting a standard for equipment and contracts years ahead, reviewing ongoing contracts’ efficiency and relevance to your business’ success, choosing the correct warranty for your equipment and exercising wise shopping practices are at the forefront of importance for how your business can reduce network equipment maintenance costs.