The rising costs of maintaining vital corporate networks is forcing more and more organizations to gamble on how much protection they realistically can provide for what is arguably one of the most crucial aspects of any business. The growing reality of constrained IT budgets, however, is that many IT managers have to pick and choose where to spend their limited dollars while constantly looking for new ways to solve old problems.
Recent industry reports reveal continued cost-cutting and slowed IT investments that make it increasingly difficult to protect all business-critical network elements, especially networks with dispersed locations. As a result, it's become common practice to keep only core network elements under OEM maintenance contracts while leaving equipment on the network edge exposed and vulnerable to risk.
Hard Times, Difficult Decisions
OEMs' maintenance contracts are extremely pricey — sometimes costing more than the actual equipment that's being protected. So, is there any benefit to safeguarding previous generation and end-of-life gear or should restricted maintenance budgets be focused only on the most mission-critical areas? Adding to the support conundrum is the fact that the leading manufacturers of networking equipment constantly accelerate timetables on product updates and introductions, leading to vendor-forced, often premature, equipment upgrades.
As the world's leading source for preowned networking equipment, Curvature viewed this reality so often that it became readily apparent an alternative to standard OEM maintenance contracts could deliver much-needed relief. Called NetSure, this hardware maintenance program provides around-the-clock technical support with next-day hardware replacement. While targeted primarily for the huge installed base of Cisco equipment, NetSure is available for other leading brands of networking gear, including Juniper, Extreme and Foundry—even if the equipment was not purchased from Curvature.
A survey of 400 Curvature customers nationwide revealed that nearly half of the respondents sought to augment their SMARTnet with complementary technical support. More than one-third of those surveyed also revealed they only covered core equipment under SMARTnet while nearly 40 percent expressed interest in finding more affordable, flexible technical services for remote offices and edge routers. More judicious use of SMARTnet, coupled with an alternate maintenance program, delivers the ideal blend of network security for companies of all types, sizes and budgets.
Price Comparison: SMARTnet vs. NetSure
NetSure debuted in late January 2008 to provide an alternative to being locked into OEM maintenance contracts. The 50-to-90 percent savings vs. Cisco's SMARTnet provides a welcome security blanket for previously unprotected gear. For a price comparison, the yearly cost for Curvature's NetSure 24x7xNBD (Next Business Day) replacement is average 60 percent less expensive than Cisco SMARTnet 8x5xNBD replacement coverage.
Besides the obvious budget savings, embracing a lower-cost alternative for maintenance helps organizations avoid OEMs' forced upgrades. For example, choosing NetSure lets end-users extend the lifecycles of viable equipment that has reached OEMs' end-of-support status and therefore can no longer be placed under their maintenance. Users of Cisco's 6500 Series Switches, of which there is a reported installed base of more than 350,000 units, now have a viable and affordable maintenance option for equipment that is no longer eligible for new SMARTnet support contracts, such as the popular Cisco Catalyst 6509.
NetSure also offers an enhanced level of support, which includes installation assistance, configuration review and advanced troubleshooting for rapid issue resolution on a variety of platforms. In addition, NetSure provides a single point of contact for multi-manufacturer networks, including highly-trained experts on Cisco, Juniper, Foundry and Extreme technologies. NetSure is priced on a per-module basis, which allows companies to specifically tailor support for different locations or portions of their networks.
Secondary Market Delivers Budget Relief
In seeking greater returns on their budgetary investments, organizations of all sizes also are looking beyond new maintenance options to consider more flexible procurement opportunities. Specifically, the secondary market for pre-owned network equipment is gaining market momentum as increasing numbers of companies continue to embrace this alternative channel to reap equipment savings of up to 90 percent off OEMs' list prices.
Whether companies are looking to extend network capacity, configure next-generation services, plan for disaster recovery or acquire network "spares," the secondary market has emerged as a significant option for exceptional savings and response time. The opportunity to buy a full range of used, new-surplus as well as new-in-box network equipment at a fraction of the OEMs' prices is yet another way to safeguard mission-critical networks with cost-effective spares.
The ability to obtain all kinds and types of gear in a matter of hours or days provides ample time in most cases to replace non-essential network equipment and quickly restore operations. In contrast, obtaining replacement equipment from OEMs, especially if the gear is previous generation or nearing end-of-life, often takes weeks or months—if the equipment can be obtained at all.
While leading providers of pre-owned equipment offer one-year warranties on all their goods sold, knowing that extended options over OEM maintenance are available should bring even more buyers to the preowned market. Economic necessity alone is forcing more and more organizations to make hard choices about their future maintenance contracts. Knowing that innovative alternatives exist—and that they offer up to 90 percent savings over OEMs' offerings—goes a long way to providing IT management with increased peace of mind and improved network protection.