5 steps to establishing a flexible hardware maintenance plan

Developing hardware maintenance strategies may be a somewhat new requirement for IT managers. In many cases, companies have long depended on the OEMs for support and, when extended warranties got too expensive, would turn to a hardware refresh. This made maintenance tactics fairly unimportant as the entire process was a fairly straightforward endeavor. The industry is changing. IT managers face increased fiscal pressure to get the job done as inexpensively as possible. At the same time, third-party hardware maintenance options have become more pervasive, providing cost-efficient alternatives to traditional OEM support.

As more IT managers explore alternatives to OEM maintenance plans, organizations need to start developing long-term hardware maintenance strategies that can guide operations moving forward. These steps can help IT leaders get started in developing an ongoing support framework:

1. Start keeping track of warranties
Carefully identifying which systems are on their initial warranty, when those support plans run out, which solutions are covered by an OEM extended warranty, those termination times, what infrastructure is supported by a third party and what the details of those plans are is integral to getting off to a good start in managing maintenance plans. IT managers who want to establish effective maintenance plans need to make sure they are able to effectively track when systems go off of different warranty types and make sure they have a solution in place for the next support contract.

Managing warranties can be overwhelming, but some third-party hardware maintenance providers offer specialized services in helping clients handle warranties and avoid a gap in service.

2. Make sure you understand all of your support options
Third-party hardware maintenance services are still relatively young in the marketplace, and different alternatives to the OEMs are emerging to meet industry requirements. However, many IT managers are not familiar with all of their support options because OEMs tend to make arguments that sound like any alternatives will not be able to get the job done. This is not the case, however, as third-party specialists are often able to offer benefits that OEMs cannot match. Understanding the current alternative support options, and keeping track of the market moving forward, is key for IT leaders trying to make effective support plans.

3. Take a close look at the budget
Most IT budgets are split between capital and operational expenses, but maintenance issues touch on both areas. On one hand, a decision to not support systems and refresh hardware creates considerable new capital costs. On the other, turning to extended support plans creates more operational fees to deal with. Regardless of which type of support plan IT teams prefer, understanding the relationship between how maintenance decisions impact every phase of the budget is critical to ongoing success.

4. Be ready for unexpected issues to arise
Anytime an IT manager is trying to make plans for hardware that has reached legacy status, he or she needs to be ready for surprises. At this stage in a hardware item’s life cycle failure could happen at any moment and significant changes could become necessary. Having a hardware maintenance plan in place that is flexible and adaptable is key.

5. Understand how long hardware can last
Different types of systems have different life cycles. Furthermore, some individual components are easier to repair or replace than others. A storage array may be capable of functioning well for 10 years or longer, while a server may be too limiting from a performance perspective to last longer than four or five. Incredible variance is possible in this sector, and IT managers can maximize value if they understand how long systems can be used and maximize their value.

IT maintenance planning can be complicated, but the right partnerships can end up creating incredible value for IT leaders.

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