Key Considerations Before Buying a Storage Maintenance Plan

Posted by The Team at CXtec on Apr 4, 2022 3:12:54 AM

The unexpected failure of IT storage systems can bring multiple challenges for businesses, such as data loss and higher operating...

The unexpected failure of IT storage systems can bring multiple challenges for businesses, such as data loss and higher operating costs. Inability to resolve storage issues quickly can lead to long hours of business downtime, decreasing productivity, service quality, and customer satisfaction. With frequent monitoring and maintenance of storage hardware, you can keep storage equipment operational and prevent abrupt data loss. 

Storage maintenance helps improve the overall health and performance of storage hardware. It includes activities such as installation, monitoring, and replacement of storage equipment, data backup, and break-fix assistance. Investing in storage support services can also allow you to rectify and fix storage issues before it leads to the failure of the entire network. It also helps boost storage hardware returns by extending the equipment lifespan after the warranty period. 

TPM vs. OEM: Choosing the right partner for storage maintenance

Both third-party maintenance (TPM) providers and original equipment manufacturers (OEM) provide storage maintenance and support plans. Choosing one is often perplexing for companies as both parties offer nearly identical maintenance solutions.  

OEMs such as IBM, Dell, and EMC, offer quality maintenance support for their data storage units until the equipment warranty expires, usually 3 to 6 years. After that, they require you to sign up for extended maintenance contracts, often complex and costlier, to receive continuous support for your devices. Once the equipment ages 10 to 12 years, OEMs start sending end-of-life notices and force you to replace the storage arrays with new ones, even if they are working perfectly, by dramatically increasing the repair costs. The motive is clear: to sell new storage hardware instead of supporting long-term maintenance contracts. OEMs create complex agreements with limited coverage and customization options to achieve this. Those who accept plan customization requests charge penalties with an extended implementation timeframe. In addition, OEM engineers address their brand-specific storage equipment issues only, making it a less viable option for companies with a multi-vendor storage network. 

In contrast, TPM providers' primary objective is to extend the lifespan of your data storage devices by offering reliable, customized, and on-time maintenance support during and after equipment warranty expiry. They have a team of certified IT engineers who perform regular health checks on your storage arrays to detect any issues and remediate them quickly to enhance storage efficiency and performance. 

TPM providers also make it simpler to manage your multi-vendor storage network by offering vendor-neutral storage maintenance plans. Their maintenance contracts are flexible, allowing you to adjust the equipment coverage according to your unique needs. Moreover, third-party vendors don't impose penalties or hidden fees for plan customization, making them more suitable than OEMs for storage support services. However, TPM providers also have certain drawbacks. For instance, they cannot provide maintenance support for storage devices requiring frequent firmware updates for smooth functioning. To overcome this challenge, you can set up a hybrid maintenance strategy by leveraging both TPM and OEM support to get maximum coverage for your equipment, that too, at economical prices. 

Things to look out for when opting for a third-party storage maintenance plan 

The presence of multiple IT storage maintenance providers in the market makes it challenging for any organization to identify the right partner or plan that aligns with its business requirements. 

Consider the following aspects while outsourcing storage equipment maintenance to a third-party vendor: 

1. Service provider credibility 

Consider working with a highly experienced and reputable TPM partner with the specialized skill set, knowledge, and resources to maintain your storage infrastructure. To examine your partner's experience level, look at their certifications, quality assurance, and testing processes. Ensure that your service provider adheres to globally recognized quality and security standards and holds certifications like ISO 9001:2015. Additionally, inquire about their field service and L3 engineers' experience in storage hardware maintenance. Having access to support staff who can quickly diagnose and resolve storage issues is critical while relying on third-party maintenance support. 

In addition, reach out to the other clients of your partner, preferably the ones who have a storage infrastructure similar to your business, to make a concrete decision. High-degree of responsiveness, exceptional support, and professionalism are some key aspects worth evaluating while assessing the past performance of your TPM partner. 

2. Part replacement and delivery options 

Any breakdown in storage arrays and servers can lead to downtime and loss of business productivity. To mitigate long hours of interruption, prefer a storage maintenance provider with quick-to-field dispatch capabilities. Ask the service provider about the total lead time for replacement parts. In most cases, TPM providers can deliver high-quality, properly-tested replacement parts within 24 hours at your location, thanks to their extensive inventories and well-optimized supply chain.

TPM companies can also provide part replacement and on-site field assistance within 4 hours during emergencies. These providers have multiple service levels and customized support to meet your SLAs. If you're a global business, consider service providers with multiple forward stocking locations (FSLs) and sparing depots worldwide to get round-the-clock support. Having clarity on vendors' FSLs helps confirm whether they can deliver storage equipment quickly to your sites and meet the pre-agreed SLAs. 

Alternatively, you can also build some hypothetical situations related to shipping emergencies to test the delivery capabilities of your partner. You can also inquire whether they offer an on-site storage facility for mission-critical equipment like disk controllers to ensure maximum uptime. 

3. Testing and certification process

Third-party storage hardware support providers with well-optimized logistics functions can help you reduce system downtime with quick delivery of replacement parts. However, assure that the spare parts, such as hard drives and disk controllers, you receive are rigorously tested and certified by your partner. For detailed evaluation, ask your partner for the documentation related to testing and quality assurance processes for replacement parts. Ensure that the spare parts offered for your storage equipment have a failure rate of less than 0.5 percent and provide an extensive warranty. In addition, confirm that your partner uses secure packaging techniques to prevent equipment breakdown during shipping, such as foam-in-place packaging. 

4. Flexible contracts 

The maintenance agreement created by your storage hardware support provider should be easy to comprehend and manage. Ensure that it does not include any hidden terms that hold your staff accountable for the failure of mission-critical storage systems instead of the vendor. Ideally, your chosen partner should provide multi-vendor support contracts with a single point of contact. These contracts should be flexible and support multiple service levels such as standard next-business-day and 7X24X4 response. The vendor should also allow the addition or removal of equipment from your storage maintenance contract with minimum hassle. Even if you don't require flexible coverage for your storage equipment, it is better to ask whether the vendor offers such an option as you might need it in the future. 

5. Add-on services

It is vital that your chosen TPM provider offers the most comprehensive storage maintenance solution and provides multiple add-on services such as: 

Integrated service portal: If you're using a hybrid maintenance strategy, consider working with a TPM partner who provides a web-based, centralized platform to manage all your storage maintenance contracts, regardless of the vendor (OEM and TPM). This centralized platform should also support additional modules, such as ticket tracking and IT asset management, to help you track everything in one place. 

IT asset disposition: Third-party maintenance providers also deliver IT asset disposition services, including on-site/off-site data erasure, R2-compliant recycling, and asset recovery. Ask your storage maintenance partner whether they can assist in decommissioning your old and unuseful IT assets in a secure and eco-friendly manner.

Why choose CXtec as your preferred storage hardware maintenance partner

Collaborating with a reliable third-party maintenance provider can help enhance the overall health of your storage infrastructure. With over 40 years of long-standing experience in the IT maintenance industry, CXtec is well-positioned to manage all your IT storage data management needs. If you're looking for expert technical advice, well-tested replacement parts, and quick on-site field assistance to optimize your storage infrastructure, then CXtec's third-party maintenance offering, RapidCare®, can be the perfect option for you. Our RapidCare program also provides customizable, consolidated maintenance contracts that best suit your business needs. To know more about the RapidCare solution and how it can optimize your storage environment, visit our website.