Quality rules: Don't take risks with your IT infrastructure

October 29, 2018 Ant Newman

Whether it’s home insurance or car servicing, it’s always tempting to go for the cheapest option. I’ve done it myself: why pay the premium for a main dealer service when there’s an independent down the road at half the price?

But when it comes to your IT infrastructure, there’s a lot more at stake. Whether you’re considering a hardware purchase, re-evaluatingexisting infrastructure with security updates in mind or renewing support contracts, it pays to think carefully about your options. If you want to make sure your infrastructure continues to deliver the performance and security you expect, here are three things to consider.

1. Security updates and patches

Every piece of equipment in your infrastructure is there for the long term. So you should ensure you get access to the latest software updates from the vendor’s website so that newly discovered bugs and vulnerabilities are closed promptly. (You can find ours here). Patching your products is an important foundational step in maintaining effective security and compliance. 

The only reliable way to get access to software updates is to make sure you have a legitimate software license and support coverage through to the original manufacturer.

Most vendors are pretty clear: software licenses are non-transferrable between owners. So if you’re buying refurbished, used or grey-market equipment, you probably don’t have any entitlement to the software running on that hardware, or updates to it, unless you’ve separately bought a new software license.

The same holds true if you’re buying a new support package from an unauthorised reseller for your existing devices. Your hardware and software is still genuine, but without a vendor-approved support contract you’re not entitled to those regular updates.

If your seller says it can get you vendor software updates but it isn’t an authorised partner — watch out. Even leaving aside issues of legality, you’ve got no guarantee that the updates they are providing to you are current, appropriate for your equipment, or genuine.

2. Authenticity and the risks of counterfeit products

There’s an ocean of counterfeit, poorly maintained, and end of life equipment floating around out in the grey market. Some of it has been refurbished. Some is new, and some is used. Some of it has even been altered or reverse engineered in hardware and software.

If you’re getting new or replacement hardware from an unauthorised or grey-market reseller, you have no way of knowing what’s in the box. It’s not just a question of reliability. Do you really want to plug a switch or router into your network, carryingyour sensitive data, without being absolutely sure of its authenticity? Can you trust it?

Don't risk counterfeit equipment. To make sure, insertan authenticity clause into any contracts you take out with a supplier. If equipment arrives and you have any doubts about it, you’re protected.

3. Access to quality hardware and software support

So you have a problem with your access point or router. It happens (especially if you’re stretching the lifespan of an end-of-life device). Who do you call?

If you've got the right support control from the vendor or an authorised resellers, you know they'll stand behind their products with the support they promise, when and where you need it. 

That might be in the form of replacement hardware: vendors maintain a massive global stock of genuine replacement equipment inventory if you need an RMA.

Or it might be in the form of advice: vendors have huge technical support and engineering resources to bring to bear on solving your problems, with labs available for testing, historical data sets to help diagnose issues, and thousands of talented support engineers that know the products inside out.

And increasingly, vendors are offering “smart” support services that use analytics and automation to remotely monitor the health of your products and offer proactive alerts and help to prevent problems occurring. (Our Smart Net Total Care support service does this, for example).

When you get grey-market hardware or a support contract from an unauthorised supplier, you don’t get any of this. You don’t even get the basic manufacturer’s warranty.

In most cases, the grey-market reseller will do its best to help you, but most lack the resources and expertise to do the right job. They have only their own inventory for RMA. They don’t have access to vendor support knowledge bases or the ability to escalate to vendor engineers. If your issue can’t be solved with a simple hardware swap — for instance, if it relates to a configuration or integration issue — they’re likely to struggle. Is that good enough?

Choose wisely, with security and compliance in mind

The reliability of your IT infrastructure is critical to your business. And as SMBs are increasingly being targeted by security threats, you can't afford to take chances with risk, either.

So when someone offers you a 90% saving on a support contract or 75% off hardware prices, ask yourself what that means.

Buying genuine equipment from an authorised reseller with a vendor-approved support contract may not always be the cheapest option, but it gives you the reassurance that you’ll get the security patches and support you need, when you need it. And peace of mind? That’s priceless.

 

 

About the Author

Ant Newman

Ant has been writing about the intersection of business and technology for nearly 15 years, working at companies large and small: from five-person marketing agencies to enterprises like Gartner and Cisco.

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