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Simon Dearlove, Major Account Director at NCE Computer Group, suggests some key points for any organisation considering using a Third Party Maintenance (TPM) provider

With the ever-increasing demand to make constrained IT budgets stretch further and still maintain comprehensive and robust services, reducing expenditure has become a vital strategy. That said, ensuring interruptions to service are kept to a minimum is essential and that presents a challenge for most IT managers and IT directors.

The lifecycle option to refresh hardware every three to five years is no longer the simple choice it used to be, and with most vendors support pricing escalating dramatically for continuing hardware support past its End of Life (EOL), this raises the question of what alternative options are available.

The current economic climate has seen a significant increase in the use of Third Party Maintenance (TPM) providers who offer extended support solutions at a greatly reduced rate compared with the vendor. But how do you decide which TPM to depend upon to deliver the level of service you require? What assurances can you obtain until the moment you need to put their services to the test? The following are a few key points to consider when selecting a reputable and reliable TPM.

• Contract Flexibility - Most TPMs will offer support services on short, medium or long-term contracts with simplified and flexible billing options across a range of service level agreements (SLAs). Having flexibility in your contract will ensure that you can select the best option for your business, dependent on your economic constraints. Other benefits could include the ability to pro-rata and co-terminate multiple support contracts into a master contract for a simplified contract management process. This process prevents accidental lapses in service when renewing support contracts with varying end dates.

• No Time Limit - A TPM has no predefined rules as to when support for a system will cease to be available. The likely determining factor will be the availability and expense of replacement parts, which will still be available for many years after the vendor has stopped support. Having the option and ability to maximise the potential life from your hardware, brings additional benefits including lowering the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and providing the option to redirect allocated capital expenditure elsewhere.

• Multi-Vendor Support - Having a single point of contact when you have a service issue can greatly simplify the process of receiving quick and efficient support when required. This is especially true if you have a multi-vendor IT environment with interconnected systems from various vendors running critical applications. Having a master contract in place provides an easy and manageable process and ensures the smooth running of your business. 

• Dedicated Engineers - The ability to provide engineering capability without outsourcing, while delivering engineering continuity and control quality of service (QoS) is an area that most vendors find difficult to match. TPM engineers who are familiar with their customers' IT environments and systems may be able to determine where an actual fault lies and resolve the fault significantly faster. Even the simplest of things - for instance, knowing where a system is located within a data centre, or that a TPM engineer is already registered with site security - can save you significant time and expedite the fault resolution process.

• Billing Options - Probably one of the most contentious areas for the customer and the supplier is billing. Many customers will have value for money high on their agenda followed by accessing ongoing operational risk and service delivery. The supplier, however, wants to deliver a service that is financially viable to them and one of the easiest ways to do this is with a flexible billing program. A TPM provider should work with the customer to provide numerous options that allows for operational expenditure to remain in the business for the longest period possible.

With many IT departments having to provide a greater range of services while dealing with reduced resources and smaller budgets, securing the maximum value from any third-party solutions provider is essential. 

The priority for many IT managers today is to obtain the correct level of service at the most competitive price. That said, it is just as important to have these services in place as quickly as possible, as the most expensive and valuable resource today is time. 

Read the full article in Storage Magazine


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