After months of struggling with this, I have switched from manufacturer maintenance (support and upgrades) of my network gear to third-party. I was resistant to this because I have seen nightmare situations with third-party maintenance providers of enterprise products. In large companies, it is simply not worth it to risk the enterprise to save a few bucks.
However, now I am with a small company and in a recession, original vendor maintenance looks like a high-cost luxury insurance policy.We have only accessed the service twice in two years and there’s significant savings to be had by going third-party. This savings is not without risk: as expected, the competitor’s service does not have the support resources of the original manufacturer; and the manufacturer threatens to make it painful for customers who leave their service and come back, forcing a “recertification fee”. And of course, saving money right now makes me a hero, but if we don’t have the right support in place when there is a threat to the enterprise, I will be a goat.
I performed my due diligence on vendor selection. I checked references provided by the particular vendor as well as some I found on my own. In the end I decided to move just switches and routers to the new service saving around $20K. Their firmware is relatively static and we can do without the next release. Firewall software upgrades are a different story. There is too intellectual property there that needs TLC from the manufacture.