IT maintenance audit, Third party maintenance support for IBM, EMC, HP, Dell, NetApp

Today, functional technology is crucial to the success of almost any business, and that’s especially true for data centers or other service providers who rely on storage equipment, server racks, routers and other networking hardware. But technology often fails, and for that we need maintenance.

In the data center industry, a good maintenance strategy falls in line with its overarching Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) plan. Ideally, the two will be developed simultaneously and processes for ongoing maintenance will be set in stone.

In reality, the ambitions of a maintenance plan can fall short of real-world operations, and periodic audits are needed to keep standards effective, profitable and realistic. In this article, we’ll explain how it works and why you should conduct them.

The Goal of Maintenance Strategy

Ask a business owner what the purpose of IT maintenance is, and they’ll frequently respond that it prevents the need for repairs or replacement. But this is a misconception: repairs and replacement are themselves a form of responsive (or ‘unplanned’) maintenance.

More generally, the goal of maintenance – whether preventive or responsive – is to facilitate the alignment of system performance with business strategy in three ways:

  1. Maximize performance – maintenance allows businesses to extract maximum value for the lifecycle of a system’s operation
  2. Reduce downtime – maintenance prevents costly service outages, and the damages resulting from prolonged or frequent downtime
  3. Minimize repairs – a comprehensive maintenance plan aims to reduce (but not eliminate) the need for repairs and replacement since they are typically costly and labor intensive

Like so many things in business, choosing an optimum maintenance strategy means avoiding extremes. While pushing the lifespan of equipment to its maximum limit leads to greater expense for rapidly diminishing performance, eliminating repairs and replacement entirely can also increase a business’s overall cost.

The Benefit of Maintenance Auditing

The purpose of an IT maintenance audit is to assess the state a company’s maintenance strategy and identify key areas for improvement, leading – over time – to the ideal balance between cost and performance. Conducting audits on a regular basis allows mistakes to be noticed and rectified while shaping best practices to the unique needs of an individual business.

An audit may lead to the discovery of misplaced priorities: systems can either be over or under-maintained, depending on their history and susceptibility to failure. An audit may also reveal that corners are being cut where they shouldn’t be, and that steps of a maintenance plan are not being adequately observed. Depending on the size of a business and its IT inventory, even modest improvements discovered through auditing can save millions of dollars.

How to Conduct a Maintenance Audit

  1. Review documentation – to conduct a maintenance audit, a business needs a maintenance strategy to modify and review. There may be no single source outlining maintenance practices for the entire company, in which case relevant documentation should be compiled from different sources (departments, contractors, management, etc.)

This documentation should be referred to while assessing areas where maintenance is currently being conducted. Where there is no formal maintenance strategy, policies should be developed and implemented based on data gathered in the next steps.

  1. Benchmark and compare – if the point of maintenance is to minimize cost while maximizing performance, the current state of your IT operations must be measured and compared to ideal conditions. Record the efficiency and cost to operate your infrastructure, in addition to downtime, outage and cost for maintenance. Then compare it with:
    • Historical average and peak performance (for your organization)
    • Standards for your industry

This step will enable you to assess the overall efficiency of your maintenance strategy and set realistic goalposts for improvement.

  1. Interview relevant personnel – nobody is more qualified to speak on the maintenance needs of your organization than those who actually conduct it. Gather responses from upper management across departments, asking them to identify problems and areas for further investigation.

Based on those responses, conduct further interviews to ascertain what steps can be taken for remediation. Depending on the complexity of an issue, technicians and lower-level staff should be included in this conversation and it may be useful to consult sources outside the organization.

Consider Outsourcing

IT maintenance – while essential to business operations – is also time-consuming and complex. Disregarding or taking it lightly is not an option, but following best practices for auditing, inspection, cleaning, testing, monitoring and reporting is easy to neglect. To achieve the perfect balance of cost and performance, consider working with a third-party maintenance provider to bring your infrastructure the regular, professional oversight it deserves and requires.

Professional TPM Provider for Northern Virginia

Located near the booming data center corridor in Loudoun County, VA, Digital Tech Inc provides rapid response maintenance services including EOSL extension, spare parts, short- and long-term maintenance agreements, migration assistance and depot repair options. Our skilled engineers offer multi-vendor support, covering IBM, HP, Dell EMC, Cisco, NetApp, and many more.

To learn more, contact us today.

Multi-vendor IT Support, DTI is the leading provider of IT maintenance and support for data centers

When building a data center or enterprise resource plan (ERP), organizations inevitably have to make a simple but tricky decision: should they follow a single-vendor strategy, or use the best products they can find throughout the market without worrying about software or compatibility? As we will soon see, both methods have their pros and cons, and IT support looms large when choosing between them.

Deciding on a multi or single vendor portfolio is a relatively recent phenomenon. Before the age of “super-vendors” like Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, multi-vendor was the only game in town: no single brand produced all the products an enterprise could need for its information architecture. By the mid-2000s, the “one-stop-shop” model was pioneered by CISCO with its Unified Computing System (UCS), which it began to push heavily as an elegant alternative to the mix-and-match madness which reigned over data centers until that time.

CISCO’s argument was convincing, and to this day, it remains so:

  • Ease of implementation: a multi-vendor approach involves numerous device profiles encompassing multiple operating systems, user interfaces, APIs and more. Setting up a network this way is difficult and labor intensive.
  • Maintenance headaches: when multiple vendors comprise an IT portfolio, tech support can be a pain. Problems often arise which require overlapping skillsets that OEM technicians simply lack and coordinating service calls among different vendors creates inefficiency.
  • Licensing deals: CISCO – like other companies who have followed in its footsteps – offers a significant licensing discount to clients who will deploy its products extensively or exclusively. A multi-vendor approach generally lacks this advantage, requiring multiple, full-priced licenses across vendors and product types.
  • Compatibility: products from the same vendor are made to work with each-other, and frequently styled as “plug-and-play”. Today, organizations can expect high-level administration features from vendors which encompass and unify different equipment types.

In short, the single-vendor approach has been touted as the best way to simplify the process of building and managing a data center while significantly reducing costs. But when it was first raised, not everyone was convinced.

Choosing Best of Breed

Almost a decade ago, Gartner studied the difference between companies using a single or multi-vendor portfolio and found that some pretensions of the single vendor model fell apart under careful scrutiny. For instance, total cost of ownership (TCO) was lower for multi-vendor organizations, and operational complexity was not always found to correlate with the number of vendors operating in the enterprise.

More saliently, Gartner raised a powerful suggestion: not every organization benefits from a single-vendor model. Some organizations require power and functionality from their IT infrastructure that one vendor simply cannot provide. Choosing superior equipment regardless of its origin constitutes the “best of breed” approach to building enterprise architecture, and for some this works better, even if benefits of the single-vendor model are sacrificed as a consequence.

In any case, some time has passed since this debate was strictly relevant. By now, most organizations that want single-vendor IT have made the switch, and the rest have moved forward. However, not everyone agrees on the best way to service and maintain an IT portfolio.

The Benefits of Multi-Vendor Support

Multi-vendor maintenance and tech support is frequently superior to OEM support, and even organizations with a single-vendor portfolio can benefit from choosing a multi-vendor support team. Here are several reasons why:

  • Flexibility – in the real world, “single-vendor” is rarely unalienable. The needs of an organization or data center change with time, and vendors often take up new directions which alienate some customers. Multi-vendor support gives organizations the flexibility to bring in new vendors when necessary without sacrificing operational efficiency.
  • Lower cost – because they can handle a diverse IT portfolio, multi-vendor support can address more problems with fewer service calls. And since multi-vendor support is typically provided by skilled third-parties, competition reduces the price of labor. This translates to significant savings.
  • Reduced complexity – without the need to juggle multiple OEM providers or coordinate overlapping skillsets, multi-vendor support reduces the complexity of servicing equipment and managing assets.
  • Easier end-of-service transition – when equipment reaches the end of its service life, continuing operation can be difficult. Investing in multi-vendor support early on solves this problem through a single point of contact for ongoing maintenance and repair for all equipment no matter the warranty status.

Professional Multi-Vendor Support for Northern Virginia

Located near the booming data center corridor in Loudon County, VA, Digital Tech Inc provides rapid response maintenance services including EOSL extension, spare parts, short- and long-term maintenance agreements, migration assistance and depot repair options. Our skilled engineers offer multi-vendor support, covering IBM, HP, Dell EMC, Cisco, NetApp, and many more.

To learn more, contact us today.