16 November 2022

Tech Warranties: why they matter and how to manage them

Tech Warranties: why they matter and how to manage them

At its core, IT relies on hardware to deliver value – from end-user computing (EUC) devices such as smartphones and laptops to on-prem PBX systems and production servers.

And every device your organisation uses has a warranty – whether from the manufacturer or a third-party reseller.

But what exactly does a warranty give you? How can you use it, and when? And what happens if you let your warranties expire?

What is a tech warranty?

You’ve probably heard the saying, “caveat emptor” or “buyer beware”. Designed to protect the seller, this commercial principle puts the duty of assessing the quality of a good or service before purchase entirely on the buyer. If a customer changes their mind after making a purchase, the seller has no obligation to offer a refund.

With a warranty, you overcome this barrier.

A warranty is a vendor’s promise to a buyer. It acts as a form of insurance that guarantees that a product will work as it should for a certain period. Should the device fail within that time frame (through no fault of the user), repairs or replacements will be made at no cost to the purchaser, up to a certain dollar amount.

Why do warranties matter in IT?

A warranty acts as a promise of quality from your vendor. This guarantee makes a big difference in IT, as a warranty means that you can trust your devices will work as promised. This is vital for modern businesses that rely almost entirely on IT for even the most basic of daily operations.

And if something does break, you can be sure it will be fixed or replaced.

How to manage your IT warranties?
  1. Read the fine print. It’s essential to read and understand the terms and conditions of your warranties, whether they’re on hardware or software.
  2. Know the cost difference between repair and replacement for your organisation. Many warranties require the damaged device to be sent away for repair. This requirement could be inconvenient, especially if the device directly provides solutions to key stakeholders.
  3. Check for maintenance requirements. Vendor warranties sometimes include sections relating to minimum maintenance requirements. Make sure these are documented and followed internally to keep these warranties viable.
  4. Who is responsible? If you’re buying something from a third-party reseller, it’s essential to check out who is responsible for honouring the warranties.
  5. Set reminders for expiry dates. Making sure you know when your devices reach the end of their warranties is essential, as this lets you know that it may be time to review your IT environment.
What happens when IT warranties expire?

By and large, you want to avoid a scenario where warranties expire for any piece of equipment which you rely on for day-to-day activities. This goes double for IT hardware that multiple people rely on to generate value inside your organisation.

It’s hard to overstate how large of an impact hardware failure can have on a business. One simple way to estimate the sliding scale of severity involved in managing warranties is to use a threat matrix.

On the low end, devices are a pain if they fail, but they are relatively easy to replace. This experience could include standard gear like smartphones, laptops, and office Wi-Fi routers.

In the mid-range, you’ve got equipment relating to business continuity. These include on-prem backup servers or dedicated infrastructure like firewalls and SD-WAN.

In the worst-case scenario, having a production server fail represents the far end of the severity scale. Being unable to work for weeks or even months until you can re-establish a stable environment could spell disaster for any business in any industry.

In these cases, a warranty represents two clear advantages:

1. The manufacturer is confident that their equipment is built to last for a certain period and is backing that certainty by committing additional or replacement equipment.

As long as you have the original warranty, you can be reasonably sure that the equipment will function as intended for the period covered by the warranty.

2. In the event of equipment failure, your organisation will not have to foot the bill to replace the item covered by warranty.

It’s this first point that offers the most advantage to any organisation. In the event of a failure, you can get up and running reasonably quickly thanks to a warranty replacement.

More risk – that’s what happens when your warranties expire.

How to get more from your warranties

There are plenty of ways to get more out of your warranties:

  • Create a database with information about each device. Keep an inventory that covers model numbers, warranty dates, purchase details, and replace-by dates.
  • Understand your warranty requirements. When you receive a new piece of hardware, check the warranty details. This document usually states how long the device is covered and what you can expect the vendor to do if there’s a problem. It will also note the type of care or service requirements needed to keep your warranty valid.
  • Look after your devices! An obvious move to get more from your devices is to look after them, reducing the chance of failures in the first place. Keeping your equipment in good condition means you don’t have to worry as much about dealing with warranties in the first place. While obvious, this step can be a challenge if you have an extensive infrastructure and many devices. So, a regular maintenance schedule for all devices and systems in your network is essential.
  • Upgrade when necessary. Another vital part of keeping your hardware in good shape is knowing when to upgrade. If you’ve got a device holding users back, it’s probably time to upgrade – even if it’s not showing signs of breaking down. The same goes for systems like your network or servers. When they begin to show signs of aging, it’s usually time to move on to something new.
  • Consider cloud and “as-a-service” solutions. The main benefit of managed service solutions is that they move the onus of maintenance and warranty management from the client to the provider. The provider is responsible for managing uptime and availability, with financial penalties in place should the services fall short.
  • If in doubt, reach out. If you’re unsure what to do, contact your vendor. They may have additional resources available to help you maximise the benefits of your warranties.

As we’ve seen, warranties play a considerable role in IT, and failing to use them correctly can have disastrous results. With proper upkeep and maintenance, your equipment could outlast any warranty. However, keeping your devices up-to-date and in-warranty is good business that helps make your IT infrastructure as reliable as possible.