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The value of upgraded technical support services

By Patrick Schmidt 

This week much of the upper Midwest is experiencing two words that we all dread: Polar Vortex.

I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and for the first half of our long winter the mercury had only dipped below 0 Fahrenheit once. Now, we will have 10 days of it, bottoming out somewhere around 14 below. But at least it’s not a repeat of January 30, 2019, when we had two days of 30 below. Yes, that really is a screenshot from my phone as I left for work two years ago. It felt like 52 below. Painful.

Needless to say, those of us who live in areas with brutal cold want to keep our heating systems in top shape and have them serviced very quickly when necessary just as much as those who live in warmer areas want their air conditioning the same. For this reason, when we moved into our very old house (built in 1875), we signed up for the ”Gold” service plan with a local home mechanical company.

Never was I so happy to have that plan with its 30-minute response time and low deductible as one morning in January 2017. Overnight our boiler had failed, and we didn’t realize it until we awoke with an indoor temperature falling below 50. We made a call at 7 am, and at 7:30 a technician was at our home, diagnosed the problem, and had a part at 10:30. Our heat was back on at 11. The part cost the service company $1500 plus the technician’s labor, but the call only cost me the $39 deductible.

I tell people all the time that our home service plan has saved us time, money, and hassles on many occasions. So, why do most homeowners not have one? The same reason many datacenter directors forgo upgraded technical support services; they don’t see the value. But maybe it is because the value has never been explained properly.

Often, when companies are evaluating new products to purchase, the support portion is put on the backburner because they may believe base warranty is enough. It almost never is, but even if the warranty is upgraded to a type 24x7 service, the service level agreement (SLA) may not be what you are expecting.

Unless otherwise noted, SLAs are a statement of response time, not time to repair. So, if you have 24x7x4 hour response time, your service provider has four hours to simply contact you. If you are in a high severity, machine down situation this is unacceptable. Downtime can kill a business.

According to IDC, downtime costs the average small business $427 per minute. Sound like a lot? It’s not. According to a study by Gartner, downtime costs an average of $5,600 per minute for medium to large companies – well over $300,000 per hour.

When downtime happens, it usually strikes at the worst possible times, adding a greater risk of substantial business impact. Because of this, datacenter managers are often chasing the sometimes-elusive goals of reducing the number of outages and their duration, and getting faster response time when needed.

This challenge is where upgraded and advanced technical support services can show their value. Some services offer faster response times or committed fix times. The best outage is one that never happens, but when an issue does arise, every minute of downtime is impacting your bottom line and company reputation. How does a call back in 30 minutes sound compared to four hours? Based on the cost of downtime, that really is a million-dollar question.

Other services remotely and proactively monitor your environment for issues before they occur. With this type of service, recommendations on when and how to perform system maintenance and upgrades can prevent unexpected performance impacts. Any data center manager can tell you horror stories about how an ill-timed code upgrade brought their systems down. With the increasing complexity of today’s environments, monitoring services can offer you peace of mind.

Some OEMs even offer upgraded services that assign a named technical advocate to your company on specified systems. Everyone in a datacenter has gone through the extremely tedious process of calling for service only to be put through a phone tree and land with a level one technician who will ask questions like “is the light on the drive red or green?” Assigned technical advocates are senior-level technicians who come to know your environment and speed time to resolution by not asking the basic questions but jumping right to the heart of the problem.

Every OEM offers some type of upgraded or enhanced technical services for their equipment. You can learn more about their value to your business by filling out the contact form below. One of our specialists will schedule a time to meet with you.

About the author

Patrick Schmidt is a Technology Lifecycle Management Specialist with LRS IT Solutions. For more than 20 years, he has been helping customers get a firm grasp on their asset and contract management with a combination of comprehensive service level analysis and lifecycle management best practices.