Genuine, OEM or third party?
In these economically challenging times, savings must be made. As costs are driven down, though, risks often rise. Lose control of those risks, and those hard-won savings – and more – could be wiped out.
If you could buy the same piece of memory, for example, through two different channels, one being twice as expensive as the other, which would you choose? Get the choice right, and you could make great cost savings. Get it wrong and not only could you damage your network, but you could also jeopardise the warranty that's in place to protect you against failures. Conventional wisdom says that genuine or OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) components are the safe but expensive options, while savings are to be had, at the cost of increased risk, by going for third party products.
In keeping with the tradition we've built up in this series, consider a parallel from the motoring world. When you buy a brand new car, it will come with perhaps as much as a three year warranty. Typically you'll protect yourself against unexpected expensive repairs by having it serviced at the official dealer you bought it from, in line with the warranty contract – all part of generally taking care not to invalidate the warranty.
This extends to any additions you make to the car. While there is a huge range of performance and comfort enhancing upgrades available, the manufacturer will require that you have any work done at an authorised dealer to keep your warranty intact.
Main dealer labour rates being what they are, this will almost certainly not be the cheapest option, of course. However in the good old days of plentiful money supply this was the norm, and independent dealers were left somewhat out in the cold, having to explain to potential customers how money could be saved here and there by using genuine parts sourced through independent channels: as long as proof of the parts' origin was retained breach of warranty terms could be avoided.
Have your cake and eat it
Those days are of course long gone. Today money is tight and the situation has as a result been turned on its head. It's almost as if customers have an even greater desire to save money (safely!) than the independent dealers have to sell to them. And the good news is that you don't need to throw caution to the wind and take wild risks in order to make worthwhile savings. With a little careful research, you can have your cake and eat it.
I've gone through this process with my faithful old Range Rover. I've owned it from new – eight years ago – and I still love it. So, do I take it to the main dealer for service and repairs? Absolutely not! I'm not about to be stung with main dealer prices. Instead, I've done my homework and found a local independent Land Rover specialist. They only work on Land Rovers and Range Rovers, and they don't get involved in vehicle sales, only servicing and repair. All of their customers are, like me, ex-main-dealer customers who have seen the benefits of using a specialised outfit like this, and the cost savings that can be made.
You have a choice
Critically, they have the resources to supply and fit both genuine parts and third party alternatives. I always get quotes for both, and if it's a safety-critical part that's needed, such as brakes, I'll usually go for the genuine item. If it's less critical, I'll probably go for the third party alternative.
Similar choices need to be made by network managers. From the smallest home network to the largest corporate infrastructure, the key is reliability. Life's too short to be sitting idle without access to critical applications or data. Time is, after all, money. To be able to decide when to go for genuine parts, when to choose OEM and when to go third party, you need to know your network – the age of every component and the nature of the support service it's covered by.
For components still under warranty, there are two alternative options when sourcing spares: OEM or third party. In the case of a very large network there is clear justification in conducting a close examination of all components that could be purchased as OEM, while avoiding invalidating the warranty. OEM gives you peace of mind that the product comes from the same source as that used by the manufacturer, and allows you be fully supported if any product failure issues arise.
It is sheer network size that makes this exercise worth undertaking: on a larger network the savings can be enormous. For smaller networks, with smaller numbers of devices involved, the potential savings are much reduced, making it less worthwhile spending the time involved. In either case, if your network is mission-critical and you want to preserve your warranty then OEM is the way to go. Such products will be manufacturer approved, and, indeed, identical to the manufacturer's genuine article, making sparing up easier.
I like chunky savings, though, so I always like to explore the third party option: that's where the best savings can be made. Most third party products will not be manufacturer approved, but lack of manufacturer approval has little or no bearing on whether a product will work any better or worse than an approved product. After all, no manufacturer has the time or inclination to approve every third party device that may or may not work with their own.
Do your research, then. Examine non-approved vendor's products. Is the spec the same? Has it been recommended by anyone else? Is it recommended by the supplier as good for use in your device? What warranty does it come with? All of this may well be spot on, even though the third party device hasn’t been officially sanctioned by the manufacturer of the component that you need to upgrade or spare up for.
The key to making savings by specifying OEM or third party devices is comprehensive knowledge. Know your network, know which network segments and components are mission-critical. Know the nature and extent of the warranty on each device. Then research the available OEM and third party alternatives for upgrades and spares. Assess the risks involved to the network and the business and weigh them against the potential savings. Arm yourself with the information you need to make the decision, and then go for it.