Are You Taking Advantage of SMARTnet?

...or Is SMARTnet Taking Advantage of You?

Everyone has heard of Cisco SMARTnet. We all know what it is and what is does, and what resources are available to us, right? Well, not so fast. Sure, Cisco SMARTnet isn’t exactly rocket science, but the SMARTnet IQ of some isn’t quite as high as they think. Let’s say you purchase a bunch of Cisco 3750s. You’re thinking realistically. You want to cover your butt in case of unforeseen issues in the future. Things happen. So you purchase SMARTnet. You get it in case your hardware conks out. You can make a call and get the replacement hardware you need. However, there’s much more to it, and people don’t take the time to know everything available to them. Some of this seems obvious, but it’s worth covering. SMARTnet includes access to Cisco’s Technical Assistance Center (TAC), Cisco’s online knowledge base, support wiki, documents, a forum, operating system support and a variety of hardware replacement and optional onsite service oferings. Some people simply don’t know that these features are available to them. If you’re paying good money for SMARTnet contracts, are you getting value and making use of all these things? You should always use SMARTnet, right? Let’s face it, many people get SMARTnet to “put out fires.” What people are looking for is a kind of insurance program for hardware failures, issues, errors, questions and so on. It’s about getting the most from your Cisco hardware. Because of this, people most often cover mission-critical hardware. It makes sense. Downtime is the enemy and you want to have an airtight defense. Upgrades and other resources available with SMARTnet are also helpful for mission-critical operations. Hardware replacement times vary from Next Business Day (NBD), 8x5x4, 24x7x4 and 24x7x2. This means you can purchase coverage based on your specific needs. Then it’s all very simple. Get a Cisco switch. Get SMARTnet. Done. While this may be wise with your mission-critical hardware, there are certain times when spending money on SMARTnet may not serve you as well. There are plenty of people that still have switches and routers in their networks that aren’t exactly the latest and greatest, but serve their purpose well. Over time, there is less and less support for hardware. That’s just how it goes, so you have to weigh the costs. After all, SMARTnet is a recurring cost. You pay year after year (or every two years). At what point does the recurring cost outweigh the benefits? As hardware gets older, do SMARTnet resources still have the same benefit? In these cases, support is limited and more often than not people just want to know they have prompt hardware replacement available. The lesson here is that if hardware still has value to you, but the manufacturer feels differently, you need to examine your options. When SMARTnet services aren’t ideal No service works for all customers the same way. SMARTnet is no exception. Although it serves many people and many situations very well, there are some scenarios where you may be forced to seek other options that may serve your needs. Yes, there are options. There are quality hardware replacement services available through reputable, time-tested companies. No, you won’t get access to all the manufacturer resources, but you will get fast, reliable hardware replacement. The upside is that in cases like this, you probably don’t need all of these resources anyway. Furthermore, the cost is often much less. A bonus is that these alternatives to SMARTnet allow you to extend the life cycle of your hardware. The other thing you can do is an old trick, but it’s an old trick for a reason: it works. Sometimes the thing to do is buy some spares. Again, you do not want to be doing this if you are talking about the latest and greatest switching technology. The new hardware costs involved would make this highly impractical. If you conservatively calculate risk, you can get reliable spares ready to go. With plenty of high-quality pre-owned hardware choices, you could obtain spares at a low cost. Maybe a combination of alternative hardware replacement services and spares is the right solution for you when SMARTnet isn’t the ideal choice. You have to take the time to calculate your needs and decide what is right for your network. It’s time well spent. The Takeaways Analyze what kind of effect, in terms of dollars, unforeseen hardware issues would have on your network. Then choose the correct SMARTnet offering (from NBD, 4 hour, 2 hour or on-site) that will protect you and ensure performance and ROI. Really think about it. This seems obvious. So, why don’t more people do it? You can’t afford to take this lightly. Some people just don’t take advantage of everything they get with SMARTnet. They pay good money for this valuable service and don’t utilize it to its fullest. Others don’t take the time to consider how much value they’re getting from their SMARTnet. They pay for it when the costs may outweigh the value. In some cases, it may be wiser to seek alternative hardware replacement services or a conservative, well thought-out sparing strategy. The point is to know what value you can get from SMARTnet and make sure you are getting the most you can from it. SMARTnet is a business solution, so use it in a way that best benefits your business.

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