Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Support – Insurance or Healthcare?

September 30, 2014

Jonathan Wagstaffe, one of our UK & Ireland Cisco Champions from Project Vision, gives us an insight into the importance of proper support

Some years ago, our house was burgled. It was a traumatic event, upsetting for all of us, and especially for the children, who were very young at the time. However, the trauma of the event was not nearly so great as the trauma of dealing with the insurance company in the aftermath. Our policy was with a major name, and by no means was it the cheapest on the market, but it was only at the point of execution – our point of greatest need – did we find out all of the “gotchas” and exclusions in there. The gap between the conversation at point of policy purchase, and the execution at point of need – was wide, and at our moment of greatest need, we felt more than let down.

So it is with network support and maintenance contracts. Many organisations treat their network support and maintenance like it is house or car insurance. Shop around and get the cheapest price you can. If you want to do that, that’s your right. The problem is, as many car insurance customers have found, that you only really find out what’s what when you make the claim. Then, if you’ve gone cheap, the experience is almost always disappointing at a point where stress is high and help is needed.

This approach to network support is a legacy of some form of maintenance being an afterthought for a long time, often based on a percentage of hardware cost, and born in the days when network hubs and bridges were fairly basic devices. Quite often it’s the purchasing department’s remit to renew this cover and they delight in shopping around for a cheaper deal that ticks the minimum compliance box. So then you end up with an agreement that somebody will turn up within an agreed time, replace a broken bit, and go. At least that’s what they promise. Is that really helping you to run your network? Are you really getting the best from the skills your network support partner ought to have?

Today the network is such a vital part of business that what is needed is much more like a family doctor relationship. This is about what is needed to optimise health, not to achieve minimum compliance. You need a relationship with an organisation that is capable of being your network family doctor, advising you on exercise and diet, monitoring your vital signs and weight, guiding you and intervening when problems occur.
What does that mean? Well, we can start with a move from reactive it’s-broken-fix-it to more proactive monitoring and predictive services. Cisco Smart Care is a good example and provides Cisco customers with a great tool to enable this.

A modern support partner should add value to those networks that it supports, by offering support services that include:

  • On-site engineering services; bringing specialist skills to bear, and making sure that specialist tasks on your network are addressed regularly. Attending to those network housekeeping tasks that are all important in keeping your network secure and operational, but which sometimes end up in the “must get around to” pile.
  • Remote monitoring; Using a service like Smart Care to provide up to 365 day remote monitoring of your network activity and device performance. Ensuring that the network is running smoothly as a whole, and providing advanced warning of components which may be failing, or may be reaching end of life and be ready for upgrade.
  • Remote hands-on support: An ability to allow access to support engineers under highly secure cover. This means that engineers can work with you almost instantly on network problems, troubleshooting, and remedial activity.
  • Performance Reviews; Your support partner should be in constant dialogue with you about how the service is performing, and how it should evolve. This should include a formal meeting with you on a quarterly basis to review the performance and levels of service you are receiving.

A modern enterprise class support service should include all of these items, and a modern network support partner should be capable of working with you like your family doctor does. The expertise of your partner, combined with the extensive tool kit that is Cisco Smart Care, should give you a pro-active support platform from which your network can grow.

As for those who buy cheap maintenance? Well, good luck to them! They may well get away with it. Until the day they don’t.

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