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24. Use serial number tracking

Protect yourself with serial number tracking

What factors do you consider when selecting a network devices supplier? Price? Product availability? Quality control? Good reports from existing customers? Those are all excellent criteria. There is another issue to check out, though, and while it isn't as immediately obvious as others, it is fundamentally important.

It is this: choose a dealer with robust, reliable and comprehensive serial number tracking technology in place. I cannot over-stress the importance of this. Only by tracking components at the serial number level can devices be identified precisely and thereby be dealt with appropriately. Product and part numbers simply aren't good enough.

How's your insurance?

To illustrate this point, consider what happens if your home or business premises are damaged by fire or flood. In such a situation, you make a claim on your insurance company for lost or damaged items. That's the point at which you discover whether or not you are under-insured. If you are, then you're going to come out of the episode with less than you had before, rather defeating the purpose of having insurance in the first place, which is, of course, to protect you from loss.

With the benefit of hindsight, therefore, you might decide to make sure you're adequately covered by listing everything you own, noting the value of each individual item. It you're anything like me, always shopping around for the best deal and therefore getting more for your money, you could well be surprised at just how long the list turns out to be, as well its total value.

Armed with this list, you'll be in a position to make sure that your insurance gives you adequate cover. Now, when disaster strikes, you won't be left short, on top of all the other inconvenience that such crises always involve.

Get a tracker

Good network specialists display the same obsession with detail when it comes to tracking the devices they supply. Rigorously tracking serial numbers enables them to provide swifter and more effective support: they know exactly what they are dealing with, right down to the detail of software versions and installed options.

They will also know immediately if they receive as a return from a customer a device that they didn't originally supply. That means they don't have to absorb the cost involved in such situations – cost which must, inevitably, be passed on to their customer base. Additionally, if they can track devices by serial number then they will be able to maintain a record of test logs for each device, further improving their ability to provide swift and effective service.

All network specialists have equipment spread out over a number of sites – their own and their customers. When devices fail, as of course they do from time to time, a supplier's ability to respond effectively depends heavily on how comprehensive and accurate their picture of the failed device is. In short, using a supplier with no serial number tracking is likely to mean longer periods of network downtime.

With comprehensive information and serial number tracking your supplier can maintain accurate records on order and delivery dates, warranty windows with both their suppliers and you, as well as a host of technical information on each device they have supplied to you. With all that information at their fingertips, they are in a position to make very swift decisions as to the best approach to solving any problems that may arise. That's good for you, because you suffer less downtime and enjoy a more productive network. And it's good for them, because happy customers tend to come back for more, and to recommend their suppliers to others.

Do it yourself

The same principle should be applied to your network: make sure you always know exactly what is installed on it, and its value, by tracking all network component not only by part or model number, but also by serial number.

Serial numbers are the key not only to swift diagnosis and remedial action when it comes to failed components, but also to knowing the true value of your network devices. Any given device model may be available over its lifetime in dozens of different variants. Assorted options and enhancements, as well as different hardware and software revisions can mean huge differences in value, whether you are considering replacing devices after loss or damage or selling them on as second user equipment.

Go Communications' business is entirely focused on second-user Cisco Systems devices, so it's no surprise that we are frequently approached by companies that have devices to dispose of. Sadly, in most cases all that the prospective vendor can give us is a list of part numbers. With the serial numbers, we would in many cases be able to make a better offer, and of course the potential vendor would be in a position to negotiate more effectively with any prospective buyer.

Protect yourself from future shocks and get the best price for your retired network kit. Track network devices by serial number, and make sure your dealer does the same.