When you have a lot of technology assets, they need regular care. You rely on the devices for many functions, and in many cases, they are critical to the operations of your business.
How do you take care of them?
The best way is with a maintenance contract. You can hire experts to regularly look after your equipment and ensure that everything is working. In the case of enterprise-scale IT, there are two versions of maintenance contracts that come up more than most: OEM and third-party maintenance.
Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) maintenance is hardware support provided by the people who built the hardware. A classic example is Cisco. If you purchase Cisco networking equipment, that equipment comes with a warranty. Additionally, you can purchase a service contract from Cisco, and that will expand the services that they offer.
Clearly, this type of support comes with specific advantages, but there are downsides to consider too. We can explore both in the sections below.
The most obvious selling point of OEM maintenance is that warranty support comes included with the cost of many hardware purchases. These warranties typically last from one to three years, but there are exceptions to that, and extended support contracts are often available. If the support is effectively free, that’s compelling.
OEM contracts come with varying service level agreements (SLAs) that allow you to try to choose an agreement that provides the service you need for the price range you prefer.
Most of all, OEM maintenance is directed by the manufacturer, meaning you have access to the highest levels of expertise regarding your hardware. While experts do exist who don’t work directly for manufacturers, you’re guaranteed a high level of knowledge and capability with OEM maintenance.
If OEM maintenance was all pros, then everyone would choose it, and that’s simply not the case. There are a couple of key downsides, and the list starts with servicing multiple vendors. A Cisco maintenance contract will not support Dell servers, for instance. This means that you need a separate OEM contract for each hardware vendor you utilize. That can get expensive quickly. It also makes maintenance much more complicated.
Another issue with OEM support is that it is typically time limited. OEMs schedule end-of-life dates for their hardware, and they will not support legacy systems once those dates pass.
Third Party Maintenance (TPM) outsources hardware maintenance. This is where you find a service provider and contract them to take care of your hardware. The specific agreements vary pretty widely, but TPM support is similar to any other outsourced IT support. You’re trying to find a company that does the work you need in ways that work for you.
With that in mind, let’s look at the pros and cons of TPM.
The most compelling reasons to consider TPM support are costs and simplicity. You can service all of your hardware with a single TPM contract. That makes support so much simpler to manage, and in data centers and enterprise systems, TPM contracts are usually considerably cheaper when compared to OEM maintenance.
Flexibility is another pro. TPM providers have the freedom to offer greater flexibility in their service agreements. You can opt into short-term contracts when that suits your plan. Longer contracts are also available. It’s also possible to renegotiate and adjust contracts with most providers.
On top of that, TPM providers are often able to provide faster and more comprehensive support when you need emergency services.
What are the downsides to choosing TPM?
The biggest is vetting. Most OEM contracts are tied to massive, widely trusted brands in the tech world. The same is not true for TPM providers. Ultimately, you have to vet your TPM providers yourself, and that can add stress and uncertainty to the process.
Even assuming you find a high-quality TPM provider, this level of support is less regulated and standardized when compared to OEM agreements. As a result, if there is a dispute with a TPM provider, the outcomes are far more variable and less certain.
The Final Verdict
Let’s recap what you can expect from each type of maintenance contract.
|OEM Contracts||TPM Contracts|
|1-3 year standard warranty||Additional service agreements available|
|Locked to a specific manufacturer||SLAs range from 24/7 to next business day response|
|Flexible contracts||One contract for all equipment|
|Variable service levels||Monitoring and alerts|
|24-hour helpdesk typically run by certified engineers||Significant cost savings for larger systems|
So, which is best?
Overall, the decision between these two usually makes itself. If you have robust in-house IT, OEM support is fine. Your own IT will handle most maintenance and service, and they can call in warranty support or replacements as needed. Additionally, if you have small enough IT resources, OEM support is often more affordable and more than capable of servicing your business.
It’s when things start to scale up, such as with data centers and enterprise networks, that TPM gains start to shine. As your systems increase in complexity, the cost savings of TPM multiply, and the benefits become more compelling.
It’s worth remembering that you can also utilize both. By all means, take advantage of standard warranties while you find a TPM contract that fits your business model. Make the best of both worlds, and you’ll be in good shape.