Questions to Ask When Considering Third Party Maintenance - Part 2

Have you decided to go with Third-Party Maintenance (TPM) for all or some of your maintenance needs in your data center, but you don't know where to start your research to find the best independent support vendor? Then this blog series is for you. In the first installment (Part 1) of the series we discussed how important it is that the vendor of your choice supports multiple OEM brands. We discussed a single portal to manage all maintenance contracts. We also talked about questions surrounding parts availability and service level flexibility. Today you'll learn the questions you should ask to gain clarity on your actual maintenance agreement.

What Does the Support Process Actually Look Like?

When researching TPM vendors it is important to understand exactly how the vendor will support your data center. So, if a problem occurs, getting it fixed as quickly as possible is the highest priority. This means taking into account the vendor's process to open a support ticket yourself to get the problem fixed? Is their process/system closed-loop meaning you have consist, real time access to the status of your support request? How long would it take to speak to an engineer? Do you have a direct contact?

A large factor in getting problems within your data center fixed quickly is checking with the potential vendor to see what information is needed prior to opening a ticket. Having all the necessary information before a problem arises is key to reducing downtime in your data center. Better yet, if your TPM vendor has a central repository for all you pertinent information, you'll able to always access necessary information immediately. Also, make sure to get clarification on that vendor's escalation procedures, so you have a clear understanding of that process prior to the point at which escalation would be required.

Is the Maintenance Agreement Simple to Understand and Manage?

Maintenance agreements can be complex documents, but that complexity should correlate to the complexity of the data center itself. If the maintenance service agreement seems overly convoluted or complicated, it may be hiding some hidden language that could alleviate some of the responsibility from the vendor and place it on your staff, instead.

A maintenance service agreement should also be flexible when it comes to adding, moving, changing, or deleting equipment from your agreement. Can this be done by your team from a central maintenance management portal? It is important to choose a support vendor that can keep pace with the changes within your data center environment. You should also find out about the available SLAs for your equipment as it ages. We warned earlier to beware of overly complicated service level agreements, however you also want to make sure the maintenance agreement isn't too simple. A "one-SLA-fits-all" approach from your support vendor can cause issues down the road. Different aspects of your data center may require a different SLA. Do you need the same level of coverage for your testing or development system as your production environment? While some organizations may want the downtime wiggle room of having everything under one SLA, you may want some flexibility in choosing which coverage level is the right choice for your requirements. Even if you don't need the flexibility of putting individual systems or groups of systems onto different SLAs now, you may want to consider that option in the future. It's worth asking up front in case the need may arise.

The third installment of this series will be released in approximately 2 weeks.

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