Cleaning 03 large

8. Change your network manufacturer

Time for a change?

All network systems manufacturers are not the same. While this may not be a startling revelation, a key consequence does often go overlooked: changing your network manufacturer, or even simply considering doing so, can save you significant amounts of money.

Different manufacturers invest different amounts of effort in technology research and development. As a result, your current network systems vendor may well have missed a trick or two on the platforms you use.

Upgrade or replace?

If your current network systems have been in place for some time and you are considering upgrading to a newer platform from your existing manufacturer, it's worth casting your net a little wider. It may be less expensive to replace your entire network, or a segment of it, with one from an alternative manufacturer.

The savings can go further still. By switching manufacturers you can drive down not only your equipment purchase cost, but also your ongoing costs. As well as providing additional and enhanced features, newer technologies can also deliver reductions in hardware size, power consumption, and cooling and maintenance requirements. All of these translate into reduced costs, and reduced carbon footprint, which can be a key PR benefit for your business.

It's clear that all of these savings can be realised by switching to a more appropriate network systems manufacturer. What is perhaps not so obvious is that significant savings can be secured without moving at all.

Chaos on the network

Picture the scene. Part of your network is down. Maybe a power supply has failed, or perhaps a card has died. Either way one of your main routers is out of action. Traffic is being diverted over the rest of the network but, nonetheless, the entire network is running well below its normal speed. All manner of unexpected knock-on problems are arising. Web access is painfully slow, for example, and emails are not getting through. Inevitably, the phones are ringing constantly, with disgruntled and stressed users on the other end.

Into the eye of this storm drops a call from your network systems manufacturer. It's your account manager, chasing his monthly numbers: "What are you ordering this month? Where are you buying it from? Can I have a list of what you bought last month please? Can you email me the details today please?" You find yourself wondering who the customer is in this scenario, and whether there may be a bit of tail-wagging-the-dog going on.

Proactive, not pestering

Now, distant, detached network systems suppliers are of little use. Manufacturers design and build their products for specific tasks, so accurate, detailed and up to date product knowledge is key to successful network device specification. I am all for a proactive approach to assisting and supporting customers – helping them build the network most suitable for their needs.

There is a thin dividing line, though, between proactivity and pressure selling, with constant focus on sales numbers and pestering for orders. The key to making sure your suppliers stay on the right side of this line is to ensure that they always know that you have the option of taking your business elsewhere.

My very first network systems customer, back in the 90s, was an expert at this. He kept all his suppliers on their toes, and at the first sign of any of them trying to push him, would make it quite clear that if they didn't back off, he would be recommending a switch of suppliers at the next network refresh. It never failed. Manufacturers should work hard to win your business, but in the right way. Don't let complacency set in. Make sure your suppliers stay absolutely clear on who the customer is. They will quickly get the message that you won't be at their beck and call, and that you are likely to be the sort of customer who will very carefully scrutinise quotations when it comes to ordering new equipment and services.