Everyone is talking about the “internet of things” and becoming entranced by the lure of technology. Imagine your refrigerator ordering beer when it senses that stocks are low and a big college football game is about to start. Pre-programmed drones would then deliver your favorite beverage without you even lifting a finger. Maybe your coffee maker could brew an extra-large cup when your sleep monitor knows you were tossing and turning the night before. Vacuum cleaners will know when Fido is in the house and will follow him around when air sensors know he is shedding. It all sounds great – but will I have to buy SmartNet?
SmartNet and other computer manufacturer maintenance policies protect your IT equipment – and protect the profit margins of the manufacturers even better. Once warranties run out, users are pressured to buy manufacturer maintenance. However, maintenance can be expensive, especially when savvy manufacturer sales reps convince you to buy the latest and greatest new widget since maintenance consumes such a large percentage of your budget. Over the past few years, customers have sought more price-effective means of maintaining their IT hardware, cancelling manufacturer contracts, and either maintaining the gear themselves or turning to third-party providers. They have been able to extend the life of IT purchases well beyond the typical 3-year warranty and continue to use perfectly good equipment for 2-3 more years.
When manufacturers started seeing sales decline, some of them changed policies to thwart customers from fixing products themselves or using third parties. Some started bundling hardware maintenance with software updates. Others blocked access to previously free firmware updates. Now, a user can be held hostage by software updates and machine code fixes and be forced to pay absurdly high maintenance costs for what some would consider bug fixes. Before buying any new network, server, or storage hardware, you should ask about post-warranty policies. Does the manufacturer continue to provide software updates without your buying their expensive maintenance?
So – back to the internet of things. My current coffee maker works perfectly, and it probably will continue to work for another decade. My toaster, for instance, was made in the 1980’s. We updated our kitchen 10 years ago, so our appliances are well past their original warranty dates. Nevertheless, I am not having to pay anyone for monthly maintenance! My local independent repair man can fix anything that might break. However, what if you bought all new appliances, and three years later, everything suddenly quit working. On top of that, the manufacturer then called you and suggested that you have two options – buy all new appliances or sign up for a monthly maintenance contract that costs $5,000 per month! Furthermore, if you don’t do one of the two, your vacuum cleaner may kill you in the middle of the night, your coffee maker may explode in a giant fireball, and your fridge may start ordering non-alcoholic beer!
The optimist in me says that the average consumer is much savvier than the average corporation. Enterprises across the country have allowed IT manufacturers to put the screws to them, and consumer choices continue to get restricted. Perhaps this has contributed to the success of Amazon Web Services. If IT manufacturers make maintenance so restrictive and expensive, maybe it is time to consider a move to the cloud.