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(December 3, 2020, By Chris Toepke, Trifecta Networks

In today’s economic environment, where business uncertainty, remote work, travel restrictions, and budget and staff reductions have become the norm, a company’s ability to be flexible and responsive while also driving savings and efficiencies will help determine its ability to not only survive but thrive.

IT professionals are being asked to do more with less and to increase returns on IT investments (ROI). Several proven strategies drive ROI, and there are technology partners out there that specialize in exactly that Let’s look at some of those strategies.

Selectively Deploy Pre-Owned Equipment

The pre-owned, or secondary, IT equipment market can provide significant savings on hardware, and reduce lead time with no quality tradeoffs. Enterprises that utilize secondary market hardware realize savings of 50 to 70 percent. They also enjoy greater abilities to standardize on legacy technologies and extend the functional life of their IT assets. The challenge is identifying when pre-owned equipment is appropriate for your infrastructure and finding the right partner to work with.

Not all partners are created equal — key differentiators are expertise and approach. Utilizing pre-owned gear is more art than science – you should deal with established companies that provide expert pre-sale engineering support; maintain robust ISO certified testing and warehousing processes; and offer an advanced replacement lifetime warranty. They should buy back your out-of-service gear to help offset costs, and, perhaps most importantly, be solutions-oriented and focused on finding creative solutions that work for you. The right partner will help you evaluate where pre-owned equipment makes sense.

Start slowly with non-critical post-warranty equipment. Edge layer networking equipment and telephones are areas where many companies deploy pre-owned equipment. Your equipment partner should take the time to understand your business and objectives and provide thoughtful recommendations.

You should ask for documentation of a secondary market partner’s testing and quality control protocols, and you should tour their test lab and warehouse facility if feasible. Ask for customer references, testimonials, and case studies and to speak with their engineers. Some hardware brokers don’t have any of that; avoid them.

Utilize Professional Services To Create Operating Leverage

As our reliance on technology increases and remote work becomes the norm, keeping your organization running efficiently has never been more important. Given travel restrictions and staff reductions, the burden on IT professionals is also at an all-time high. Utilizing professional services from a trusted, reliable partner can drive meaningful efficiencies when supporting widely dispersed network infrastructure. The right partner will help you with everything from architecture to deployment to decommissioning. That includes site audits, staging and configuration services, deployments, installations, on-site break-fix, staff augmentation, and even warehouse services.

These partners rely on fully vetted and credentialed field technicians in markets across North America and the globe who are experts in specific technologies and can be contracted for a variety of SLAs. Because they are already in-market, their cost is significantly lower than using internal resources when you factor in travel and out-of-office expenses. Their expertise means you will get the job done right the first time and won’t have to burden your internal staff with remote and/or complex projects freeing them up to focus on running your business. Make sure any prospective services partner offers end-to-end project management and has relevant experience. Ask for customer references, case studies, and testimonials.

Consider Third-Party Maintenance (TPM) As An Alternative To OEM Support Contracts

OEMs will always advocate using their support for all the hardware in your network, but that is not your only option. While OEMs offer replacement programs, with numerous options, you are likely paying a premium for features you don’t need, especially if your equipment is more than three years old. OEM support contract pricing is designed to push you to purchase new equipment well before what you have has reached the end of its useful life.

Maintenance and support costs can eat up as much as 15 to- 25 percent of an enterprise’s annual IT budget. That spending can be reduced by using a blend of OEM and third-party maintenance. Your partner should collaborate with you to determine the most efficient approach. A hybrid support strategy can reduce costs by 50 percent or more; can create more flexibility in contract lengths and SLAs and deliver a better overall experience. The best partners offer customized portals through which you can manage all your maintenance contracts (OEM and TPM) and IT inventory in one place. Again, ask for references, case studies, and testimonials.

Always Use Third-Party Transceivers

There is a misconception that transceivers are a small piece of the overall hardware spend. The truth is that OEM branded transceivers can account for as much as 50 percent or more of the cost of the actual piece of hardware they populate. This does not account for the replacement/additional transceivers that will need to be purchased due to traffic growth and subsequent higher data rates. 

Big-name OEMs such as Cisco, HP, and Juniper do not manufacture their own branded transceivers. They are purchased from global contract manufacturers, marked up, and sold to you at highly inflated prices. A fiscally responsible solution is to purchase third party compatible transceivers. However, not all third-party transceivers are created equal. There is a significant difference in quality, consistency, and price.

When choosing a third-party transceiver, be sure to question your supplier on the following points: Do they consistently source from the same partner? Is the manufacturing facility ISO certified? Under what conditions do they test their transceivers? Are they rated to extended temp ranges? Are they specifically programmed to OEM manufacturer’s equipment? You should also ask standard sales questions about availability, cost, and standard warranty. 

For non-biased confirmation, consider Gartner’s views on the subject such as OEM optics are the “biggest rip-off in networking” they regularly sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to steer customers away from lower-priced, functionally equivalent third-party transceivers. “We’ve observed that network OEMs and their channels use aggressive sales tactics to scare enterprises away from third-party optics, claiming it is “illegal” to use them, or that it will ‘void the warranty.’ “ 

This is simply not true. In fact, the use of non-OEM products/accessories are protected under the FTC’s Magnuson-Moss Act/Tie-in Sales Provisions and the Sherman Antitrust Act. The use of third-party transceivers cannot void the manufacturer’s warranty of a product. If the cause of a problem with a warranted device is found to be a third-party transceiver, the manufacturer does not have to replace that transceiver. It does not invalidate the manufacturer’s responsibility to support their device under a standard warranty or extended support contract.

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