Ideally, when you invest in new hardware for your business, it will last for years before requiring repair or replacement. However, with most hardware, you’ll need to invest further in ongoing maintenance if you want to sustain the longest possible lifespan—and you’ll need to be proactive with repairs when they come up to prevent downtime.
Most pieces of hardware come with an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) contract that covers various repairs and maintenance. It’s simple, reasonable in cost, and effective, but many businesses don’t realize there’s another alternative in the form of third-party contracts. Instead, they stick with their expensive, “default” OEM contracts, and miss out on the potential advantages that third-party maintenance offers.
Advantages of Third-Party IT Maintenance
These are some of the most important benefits that third-party maintenance contracts offer:
- Reduced costs. Though there are exceptions, for the most part, third-party contracts are less expensive than new or renewed OEM contracts. You’ll be able to secure a higher level of service for the same money, or pay less for the same amount of service—which could be highly beneficial to a small business looking to make the most of its investments.
- Multiple options for EOL devices. For understandable reasons, many technology developers have strict standards for how they sell and support EOL (end-of-life) hardware. Once a piece of hardware is no longer being manufactured, manufacturers don’t want to waste any more time supporting it with repairs—they want you to buy new devices. Third-party providers, on the other hand, simply want you to get the most life out of your investments, regardless of what new pieces of technology are available on the market. You might be able to squeeze another year or two out of your data center with this approach, and avoid the path to obsolescence until you’re ready for the transition.
- Dedicated support. Third-party service providers exist exclusively to service your equipment. That means you’ll have a dedicated level of IT support, often 24-7, to ensure that your hardware remains operational at all times. OEM contract help will likely support you, but you may be required to wait a longer period of time—especially if they have a long queue of people who need help. Third-party contractors want to keep your business, and will work harder to keep you satisfied.
- Better-trained engineers. Many manufacturers do employ highly skilled engineers, but their maintenance contracts are more of an afterthought than a primary consideration. Their main goal is selling you new hardware, and the service is just an additional necessity. Third-party contractors, on the other hand, specialize in providing direct service, and oftentimes hire the best talent they can find, with a range of skills, to support their customers.
- Personalized contracts. Finally, most OEM contracts come standard with the hardware you’re purchasing. You’ll get a finite number of years of protection, with a firm list of guarantees, and a firm list of services that may or may not be covered. These contracts aren’t negotiable, and are given to every business that buys this piece of hardware. With third-party contract providers, you’ll have more wiggle room. You can negotiate with your service provider and come up with a plan that works for your business.
Finding the Right Fit
Third-party IT maintenance contracts are a viable and, in many cases, advantageous approach to ongoing hardware maintenance. However, that doesn’t mean they’re a perfect fit for every business. For example, some companies have high-tech data center demands, and frequently invest in new, upgraded technology; for these companies, OEM contracts may be better. However, if you’re trying to save money and get the most value and life out of your equipment, third-party maintenance is definitely the way to go.
If you go with a third-party contract, your next step is finding the best provider—and that warrants an article of its own. On a basic level, you’ll need to consider costs, level of service, the experience of the provider, and the working relationship you can expect, so make sure you do your research and review multiple options before landing on a final decision.
Edited by Alicia Young