5 ways IT professionals can reduce network equipment support and maintenance costs

Maintenance costs represent 15 to 25 per cent of total enterprise IT costs each year* and IT professionals are increasingly under pressure to reduce and control these operational expenses. Related challenges include negotiating support and maintenance contracts with vendors, choosing the right level of service for various network components, and managing various vendor contracts.

In light of this, what can IT managers do to evaluate used-hardware resellers and third-party maintenance providers to reduce their business’ network support and maintenance costs?

1. Reduce costs via network growth projections, OEM support terminations and other areas

A comprehensive assessment of network assets and business objectives allows IT professionals to identify critical and secondary components. One can identify opportunities to reduce costs, plan for future applications and network performance requirements, as well as determine alternative support options and hardware and maintenance improvements.

Here it is important for IT professionals to have good documentation, inventory and a map of the network to assess the appropriate maintenance service level for each network component. IT professionals should also have a good network plan in place to enable their businesses to better meet goals with improved network design, equipment selection, and by obtaining maintenance contracts.

2. Seek existing maintenance and support contracts for relevant SLAs

In analysing Service Level Agreements (SLAs), IT professionals should rank network devices in order of their impact on the whole business. The most important devices require the highest service levels, while lesser components should be supported at a lower maintenance level—or no maintenance level at all if the company uses a sparing strategy to reduce downtime and costs.

Another point to consider is whether an OEM’s “best endeavour” service guarantees are helpful, especially when compared to other alternative support options, which comply with strict SLA guidelines such as penalties for non-compliance.

3. Review opportunities to extend equipment life

Up to 79 per cent of businesses refresh their wired network infrastructures every five years**, based on industry averages guided by OEMs. However, IT professionals can avoid both premature upgrades and change management costs by retaining effective gear in place for an extended lifecycle using an alternative support service.

IT professionals should take advantage of limited lifetime warranties for less critical or more stable parts of the network. It is often the case that lifetime warranties offered by vendors include hardware replacement or technical support. IT professionals who take advantage of these can also expect reduced support and maintenance costs.

4. Combine various maintenance contracts

The ability to manage multi-vendor maintenance contracts through a single point of contact simplifies the process of selecting and managing service contracts—regardless of OEM or service provider. Avoiding being locked in fixed multi-year contracts by vendors and instead opting for flexible monthly service agreements with a third-party provider enables IT professionals to tailor their support services based solely on business need.

IT professionals should negotiate with vendors to coterminate key contracts. Businesses with networks of more than 1,000 devices should invest in inventory and contract management tools (especially if their service provider doesn’t offer one) to acquire better control of contracts.

5. Assess advantages of hybrid support services

The rise in hybrid support services verifies a growing trend for companies to leverage both OEM and independent, third-party maintenance (TPM) offerings to offer the best value, capability, and affordability. IT professionals should assess hardware support from used-hardware and TPM providers in any of the following categories: non-critical, post-warranty and end-of-sale or end-of-support. Third-party support is also a good fit for devices with a high-product density as well as in situations when flexible terms and conditions are required.

Tackling the maintenance and support challenge

The challenge many IT professionals face is that businesses do not put the same focus on negotiating the best rates for support and maintenance contracts as they do when purchasing network equipment. To reduce network maintenance costs, it’s important to have a holistic approach to choosing the appropriate level of service for network equipment. By negotiating maintenance contracts, making the right appraisals, and coordinating with the appropriate third-party vendors, IT professionals can cut as much as up to 90 per cent on hardware maintenance and data centre support, and all without compromising network security, reliability or performance.

* Gartner, “Top Five Recommendations to Reduce Your Network Equipment Support and Maintenance Costs,” Caio Misticone, November 2012.
**Forrester, “Challenging the Status Quo on Maintenance Contracts and Refresh Cycles to Lower Costs,” a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Curvature, May 2013.

Glenn Fassett is the General Manager, International at Curvature.