4 Reasons You Can't Take IT Maintenance for Granted

As companies adopt more flexible work schedules and allow employees to work outside the four walls, the demand for videoconferencing and unified communications solutions is skyrocketing. In fact, according to research from Global Market Insights, the global UC market (which includes videoconferencing) is projected to grow from $34.8 billion in 2015 to $96 billion by 2023, representing a 13.2% compound annual growth rate.

Whether your company is currently using or investigating these technologies, don't neglect building a sound maintenance strategy into your planning and budget. That would be a mistake, as a maintenance plan can protect your company in several ways.

Here are four reasons why you need to make maintenance a planning priority.

Reason #1: Minimize Downtime

Let's face it, at some point your technology is going to malfunction or break. A managed services agreement will cover some problems, but oftentimes it won't cover hardware or software failures. A maintenance contract with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or an authorized service provider can help minimize downtime while waiting for parts and services. Working with an OEM or service provider enables you to get the right replacement parts, get them faster than you could through regular sales channels, and it reduces the burden on your internal IT staff, which is likely already overwhelmed with other projects.

Reason #2: Lower Total Cost of Ownership

Without a maintenance contract, your communications equipment and software is covered only by the manufacturer's warranty, which typically ranges from 90 days to one year. After that, you're on your own. By contracting with an OEM or service provider,you can extend the benefits of the manufacturer's warranty by several years. In addition, a maintenance agreement that goes beyond break-fix and includes preventative maintenance activities (e.g., clean/replace filters and screens, system performance tests, adjust camera, and monitor alignments), can help extend the life of your equipment.

This concept can be taken a step further for those that combine maintenance agreements with used equipment. Companies like Curvature, for example, run highly successful businesses selling used Cisco equipment because organizations worldwide, including the Global 1000, turn to the secondary network equipment market for big savings. One key to the company's success is its IT maintenance program, which provides patch updates and other maintenance services on data center hardware that's outside the manufacturer's warranty, so its customers don't have to sacrifice reliability and security for cost savings.

Reason #3: Improve Security

The connection between a maintenance agreement and security may not be readily apparent, but consider the following trends revealed by security firm Duo it its 2017 report on the state of enterprise endpoint security. In analyzing 4.6 million endpoints across multiple geographies, Duo discovered that between 2016 and 2017 the number of endpoints running outdated versions of Flash increased from 42% to 53% (i.e., an increase of more than half a million). Duo also found that among the 3.5 million phones included in its research, only 27% of Android phones and 73% of iPhones were running the latest major OS version.

The above stats point to a trend that companies as a whole are failing to keep their software and systems updated. Further confirmation to this came earlier this year when the worldwide WannaCry ransomware hit the National Health Service in the U.K., and went on to infect computers in 150 other countries -- all of which were running Windows XP even though it's been out of support for more than three years.

One of the benefits of a maintenance agreement is that software patches and firmware updates happen on a regular schedule, which keeps equipment running smoothly and securely.

Reason #4: Improve IT Innovation

Even if your company is fully staffed with IT professionals who are knowledgeable about your videoconferencing, A/V equipment, and UC technologies, is it really the best use of their time and skills to maintain everything? A Spiceworks-commissioned study of 150 IT decision makers in the U.S. and Canada revealed that IT workers are spending too much time on maintenance, leaving little time for innovation, especially around security. The workers are aware of this problem, too, citing malware, phishing attacks, and ransomware as their top concerns. Many indicated they're "not fully prepared to handle these security threats."

The study found the daily activities consuming the majority of IT workers' time include: deploying or maintaining hardware, networking, email, data storage, and backup and recovery systems. They're left with only 11% of their time to spend on "IT planning and strategy," and 13% on "modernizing technology."

The IT infrastructure at most companies involves a complex interplay of hardware and software from multiple manufacturers. Adding to the complexity is the fact that part of the IT ecosystem is on premises and other parts are deployed in various public, private, and hybrid cloud environments. While your MSP and/or internal IT staff may be the first choice for day-to-day frontline support, don't forget about the importance of maintaining IT warranties, service contracts, and support agreements covering critical equipment and applications.