21. Use a dealer that's less than 4 hours away

It's not that small a world

I'm a big fan of ebay. My wife isn't so enthusiastic, though. Despite the fact that I've used the site to buy loads of great things and only had any problems on two occasions, it's those occasions she's quick to remind me about whenever I mention it. I know the value of a quiet life, and both of the less-than-straightforward transactions happened to be with overseas suppliers, so I now make a point, whenever possible, of only dealing with UK ebayers.

If you're a regular reader of these tips, it probably won't surprise you to learn that there's a parallel here with network infrastructure purchasing. Let me make one thing clear right away, though. I'm certainly not making a blanket statement ruling out all overseas or long distance purchasing. Indeed, right here at Go Communications we have a large number of very happy Cisco maintenance spares customers right around the globe.

If it's mission critical, keep it local

What I do want to say, and say loud and clear, is this: for mission critical network support, your key suppliers should be local. The world may be smaller today than it was a decade or two ago, but shipping parts still takes time: generally it just isn't feasible to get network components from a supplier in one country to a customer in another in less than a day or so – and that's when everything goes smoothly.

Almost all networks have one or more mission critical segments, demanding four hour or perhaps eight hour coverage, whether that be from phone call to fix or to initial response. Whichever of the various permutations apply, your maintenance supplier will have made arrangements with a local courier depot, broadly speaking centrally located between you and their other customers in the area, so that it can meet the demands of its SLAs with all those customers.

Local engineering and warehousing

That sounds good – and it is good. But it's not enough. You need a supplier, for those mission critical parts of your network, which is actually based near to you. More specifically, you need them to have local engineering and warehousing facilities, not just admin and sales offices.

It's all very well having spares couriered from a local depot, but when the spare itself proves faulty or incorrectly configured for your needs (and, yes, it does happen) the backup unit or engineering resource being at the other end of the country can spell serious downtime for that mission critical network segment. Unless you feel like stumping up for helicopter deliveries.

Build your defences

Of course, selecting a supplier with local warehousing and engineering facilities doesn't guarantee that they'll have a second spare in stock when you need it. It does at least make it possible, though. It's a tick in a safety box, and when it comes to mission critical network segments, you want as many ticks in safety boxes as possible. Each one increases your defences against network failure and downtime.

As well as reducing the chances of serious network outages, using maintenance suppliers who are local to you may well get you a better deal financially, because of their lower shipping costs. And it will all go to help make for a quiet life and reduce the danger of your being smacked over the head, verbally or otherwise, for going with the wrong supplier. In my book, that's got to be a good thing.