As a business owner, you know what an increasingly important role technology plays in your company’s success. Businesses of all sizes rely on network technologies to accomplish their most important functions. The day when a business could afford to ignore the Internet, smartphones or social media is far behind us.
You also keep a close eye on the bottom line, and you are more than aware of how expensive upgrading and maintaining your technology can be. You would like to spend more of your company’s budget on your network technology services, but that isn’t always possible.
For many businesses, big or small, the question they face increasingly is choosing between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) or third-party maintenance (TPM) providers to maintain and service their networks. It’s an important question because how you make this decision will affect your upgrade schedule, your regular maintenance schedule, your ability to solve network problems quickly and efficiently and your company’s bottom line.
OEMs Versus TPMs
At first glance, choosing an OEM seems like a straightforward choice. If money is not a concern, then an OEM’s support team offers detailed knowledge and maintenance experience for the network solution you have chosen from them. An OEM will also offer you advice on when to upgrade your network.
Another apparent advantage to choosing an OEM is that they look to be reasonably priced when you first work with them. This reasonably priced model often lasts for the first few months of your contract with an OEM.
However, these apparent advantages can often vanish before you utilize the benefits.
OEMs’ support contracts tend to rise in price after those first few months. During those initial months, you may not even use the service. You’re more likely to need it as your equipment ages, and when prices are higher.
While OEMs would like for you to use their products for all your networking needs, the reality is most companies work with more than one OEM. You might contract with one company for your network security, another for your routers and switches and a third for your LAN equipment. That’s a lot of potentially high-priced maintenance contracts to keep on the books.
Then there’s the question of upgrading your technology. OEMs manufacture hardware, and it’s in their best interests for you to continue upgrading that hardware on their schedule. But most companies don’t need to upgrade as often as OEMs suggest. And not every piece of equipment needs to be upgraded at the same time. Top IT analyst firms, like Gartner and Forrester, have driven this point home recently in their research.
This is why TPMs are playing an increasingly important role in companies’ business decisions.
- TPMs typically don’t make their own hardware. They are all about service. As a result, they can offer a much better price on a maintenance service plan.
- Because you likely use products from various OEMs, using OEMs for service requires multiple contracts. A good TPM will be able to provide third-party network management and maintenance for all your hardware at a much lower price than you would pay for a separate contract with each OEM.
- Companies once avoided TPMs because they were worried that they only had access to low-quality replacement parts. But that is not the case anymore. TPMs now have access to many of the same replacement parts that OEMs do. In fact, some OEMs use TPMs to get their replacement parts because they are less hindered by bureaucracy and other delays.
How to Make Better Business Decisions With TPMs
The growing importance of third-party maintenance providers means that businesses can make better and smarter decisions about the technologies they use. Previously, companies were only able to use solutions offered by OEMs. This meant they had no choice but to pay maintenance fees for all of the components of their network and upgrade them on the OEMs’ schedule. This business model did not give companies choice.
The emergence of TPMs means that companies now have a freedom that did not exist in the past.
- Companies are no longer tied to OEMs for maintenance or upgrades.
- Companies can now move at their own speed and make decisions that better reflect their needs.
- Companies that work with TPMs, whether they hire them to support their entire network or select parts of it, report considerable cost savings.
Advantages of Third-Party Network Maintenance
Research shows that there are at least two conditions that should prompt you to explore using TPMs instead of OEMs.
- Upgrading regularly is not a major concern. If you’re using technology that is two or three releases behind the most current one but is providing the services that you need, then using a TPM for maintenance makes a lot of sense.
- Your software needs are all set for several years. If you know you’re not going to need new software for five to 10 years, then why commit yourself to an expensive OEM maintenance contract? Once again this is a situation where working with a TPM makes a lot of sense.
When you decide to use third-party maintenance providers for your business, you are giving your business several key advantages.
- Save money: All businesses want to be successful and offer their customers and clients memorable service and products. At the same time, you need to keep an eye on your bottom line. Using a TPM is one way that you can do this. When TPMs customize and streamline your maintenance plans, you can reduce costs by 50 percent or more in many cases.
- Be more efficient and flexible: Companies tend to use equipment from several different OEMs. This happens because of cost factors or because your IT staff prefers using a particular vendor for a particular need. Regardless, this can be expensive and can potentially cause problems. If some part of your network experiences problems, but you’re not sure from where the problem originates, you can spend a lot of time talking with a variety of OEM customer service people while you try to pinpoint the exact issue. Working with the TPM eliminates these issues because TPMs can service all the components of your network.
- Innovate strategically: In the past when a business worked only with an OEM and a piece of hardware reached its end-of-life (EOL), the OEM encouraged you to replace that piece and many other pieces of the network to stay “current.” TPMs changed all that. When you work with a TPM, you can innovate strategically and selectively. It enables you to replace one piece of your network when it is needed and leave other pieces that are functioning well alone. TPMs enable you to innovate on your schedule and save money at the same time.
- Keep your equipment in service for longer: If you already know you don’t need to upgrade regularly and you’re all set for your software needs for several years, why agree to an upgrade schedule determined by an outside provider? If your equipment is working well and services all your needs, there is no reason that you cannot keep using it for an extended lifespan. TPMs aren’t interested in selling you new hardware, only in keeping the hardware you have in good operating condition.
- Find a maintenance plan that fits your business: OEMs lack flexibility. They charge a flat rate for specific services. If your problem falls outside the boundaries of those services, you will pay extra. Or, on the flipside of the coin, you end up paying for services that you never really need. Also, what you pay for maintenance service increases as your equipment ages. TPMs offer customization and let you create a plan that focuses on the exact services that you need.
- Create an OEM-TPM network hybrid model: Sometimes you want to work with an OEM. Their upgrade schedule and maintenance service plan works best for a specific piece of technology. But other components of your network, like VoIP or firewalls, don’t need to be upgraded as often and don’t require an OEM maintenance service plan. What you need in this situation is a hybrid model. Hybrid models are a major development made possible by TPMs.
- Freedom: The OEM business model requires them to constantly sell you new versions of hardware or software to remain profitable. This works for them, but it doesn’t always work for you. When you work with a TPM, the decision-making power remains in your hands. You decide when an upgrade is needed. You decide when a component of your network needs to be scheduled for maintenance.
How to Select the Right TPM Service Provider for Your Business Needs
Working with a third-party maintenance company is an integral part of determining how to make better IT decisions for your business. But you want to make sure you choose the right TPM. Not all TPMs are equal, so you’ll want to invest time in finding the perfect partner for your business.
- It’s in the contractual details. When you negotiate a contract with a TPM to provide maintenance support, make sure that the agreement explicitly defines the responsibilities of the TPM. It should also include details about what costs are incurred if a problem escalates, whether the TPM needs an on-site office and what happens if the TPM can’t solve the problem.
- Knowledge of a variety of hardware and software. Businesses didn’t work with TPMs because of the misconception that they were limited in their ability to deal with diverse sets of hardware and devices. This is just not true. However, before signing a contract with a TPM, ensure they have the skills and knowledge to work with the various components of your network. Remember, working with a TPM makes sense because they don’t make hardware. Instead, they’re all about service and maintenance. Make sure your TPM can deliver in that area.
- How fast do they answer support calls? When you’re all about service, you should also be all about speed. One reason businesses move away from OEM maintenance service plans is the lag time between the original phone call and when the service takes place. Talk to other businesses currently using TPMs you are considering and ask about their response time.
- Are they logistically capable? If you need to replace a component of your network, can your TPM do it with minimal downtime for your business? A good TPM works with large volumes, has strategically placed forward stocking locations (FSL) and has the necessary licenses to deliver replacement parts.
- Do they give good advice? A good TPM not only provides third-party maintenance services but also acts as a kind of consultant for you on important matters related to your network. They can help you determine when it’s time to replace a network component, how much longer a part will function correctly and whether your maintenance schedule needs any changes or revisions. If you’re going to buy a new piece of hardware, they can help you choose the best option. A good TPM will have the knowledge and experience to help you with all of these decisions.
When choosing a third-party support provider, you shouldn’t gamble. A little research goes a long way and will help you find the partner that enables you to make the best decisions for your business.
Work With Worldwide Services for All Your Networking and Service Needs
Worldwide Services has the technical expertise and the broad experience to help you make better business decisions.
The over 14,000 businesses with which we partner recognize us as a premier networking equipment provider. We pride ourselves on providing superb customer service regardless of where our customers are located in the world.
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