Alternatives to Cisco SMARTnet Maintenance

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Jonathan Coleburn, Director of Field Operations


The Cisco SMARTnet maintenance program provides support for networks with features like access to their Technical Assistance Center, replacement and service options, online knowledge base, operating system support, forums, and a multitude of support documents. SMARTnet delivers the most value during the first few years of a product lifecycle, however, for hardware outside of that term the lofty price tag opens up areas for businesses to save money.

Cisco SMARTnet maintenance

Today, the market is seeing organizations extending the operational life of networking hardware. This is where the cost management challenge comes in for businesses.  SMARTnet on these older devices gets more expensive and delivers less value each year as the IOS (operating system) becomes more stable and Cisco’s engineering efforts move to newer, replacement technology.

NorthSmart recognizes these challenges and takes steps to find new opportunities to provide valuable support for networks. We do this by strategically analyzing the IT assets of businesses and the support required to maintain the highest level of performance utilizing a unique process called “Lifecycling” to decide the best and most cost-effective support method for every piece of hardware.

Three Lifecycle Categories

The increasing cost of SMARTnet combined with the diminishing returns on the investment for the support is a problem faced by many businesses.  By performing a Lifecycle Analysis NorthSmart helps our clients make the best decision on what support is best for their equipment.

The Lifecycle process begins by accessing the entire inventory of a business’s IT assets. Once each asset is evaluated, the piece of hardware is listed in one of three categories. Each category explains the best course of action and support measures for that item:

Category 1 – Generally Available

You’ve recently purchased a new piece of Cisco hardware. It’s during these first few years where we recommend you purchase SMARTnet from Cisco and embrace the benefits until the IOS is stable.

Category 2 – End of Life

Cisco announces a six month notice of the affected product’s EOL date. You may be thinking you have two options – either make a significant investment and upgrade your device or risk not having support on your network. However, EOL is not the end of the road for your Cisco hardware, you do have another option. Leveraging a third-party maintenance alternative extends the life cycle of your hardware, keeping your network up and costs down.

Category 3 – End of Software Support

You are notified that your equipment is approaching its EOS date meaning Cisco will no longer develop, repair, maintain or test the software. At this time, Cisco wants you to abandon your old hardware and refresh with their newest offering. Just because Cisco won’t support you doesn’t mean your budget should be wasted on new hardware if your network is still running smoothly. Instead, find an alternative maintenance partner who will support your legacy hardware for as long as you need.

Lifecycle Benefits

The NorthSmart Lifecycle process benefits organizations by efficiently distributing the best support for IT assets while maintaining the lowest support cost for that business. Lifecycling reduces spending on IT assets by maximizing the length of time a single piece of hardware can be used. It also minimizes risk for business disruption and provides a quick and effective solution to IT issues.

Additionally, NorthSmart has a quick response time because all the engineers have pre-assigned values according to their skill set. When a ticket is logged through the business’s portal, an algorithm identifies key words in the ticket and automatically routes it to the correct engineer. All NorthSmart engineers have a minimum of a CCIE certification, which is considered Level 3 or Expert. This network, along with the “direct to expert” (CCIE level) support model, gives the client a 2-4 minute response time, 2 hour restore time, and 24 hour root cause resolution time. (Averages)

Compare that to Cisco support and their vertical organization. In that siloed environment, a problem is passed from person to person until it reaches someone qualified to handle the issue. This sort of vertical support model adds time to the process – time that could be costing the business money if a system is down.

The NorthSmart Lifecycle process is not just an alternative to Cisco SMARTnet, but a program for businesses to restructure and as a result more effectively manage their IT hardware maintenance. If you’re interested in learning more about the NorthSmart Lifecycle, call today to talk to one of our experts.


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