Whether you’re looking to add new capabilities to your IT environment or replace something that is no longer working, you can feel like you’ve struck gold when you’ve landed on the option that will address your needs..
You’re excited as you review the order with your Cisco partner, but then they ask what you want to do for a support contract.
You were so wrapped up with looking at different hardware or software options that you haven’t had time to consider this aspect.
However, support can be just as important of a component as the hardware or software it is associated with.
As a Cisco partner, support is an area where we’ve helped customers find the right fit just as much as with hardware or software.
To help you figure out what kind of support you need for your new Cisco solutions, we’ll review some of the most frequently asked questions:
- What is the difference between hardware support and software support?
- Is a support contract necessary?
- Do I need hardware and software support?
- Which hardware support tier should I enroll in?
- Is partner support included with a Cisco support contract?
We hope these answers provide clarity on just how you should use Cisco support contracts to complement your IT infrastructure.
What’s the difference between hardware and software support?
In the simplest sense, hardware support is for hardware, and software support is for the code that runs on and controls the hardware.
What the support is for is one difference, and another important one is availability.
This means you’ll always have someone available who’s on the day shift, even if you are calling about a problem at 2 a.m. in your time zone.
With hardware, however, you’ll need someone to deliver any needed replacement gear. There are different levels of hardware support contracts with different replacement time windows (more on this later), but the quickest you can contract Cisco to have hardware arrive on-site is 2 hours after the problem is determined to be device-related and replacement is necessary.
Is a support contract necessary?
What support you need is based on how your environment is set up.
Cisco and your partner both strongly recommended investing in software support. Not only does this help you troubleshoot problems at any time of the day, but it also entitles you to feature updates and patches for bugs and security improvements. If you want to make the most out of your investment, then software support is a must-have.
Hardware support, on the other hand, is designed to handle the replacement of failed parts or the entire device, depending on what is needed.
Many businesses find this support helpful for mission-critical hardware, especially if they do not have redundant equipment.
However, depending on the cost of redundant hardware compared to the cost of the support contract, you may find it is more efficient to simply have spare hardware on the shelf.
So do you need hardware and software support? Not necessarily. However, most Cisco partners will encourage you to think about the implication of going hours or days without replacement hardware. If your business can handle it, then you can likely choose a different tier for your contract.
Do I need hardware and software support?
As we discussed earlier, determining if you need hardware or software support comes down to how your IT infrastructure is set up.
However, many Cisco solutions have a mix of hardware and software, so you’re likely wondering if you need both.
Having both types of support means you’ll receive help with problems related to any component of the solution.
However, some businesses find software support to be adequate and opt not to have both types of support.
With only software support, Cisco TAC will walk you through what issues and can rule out the issue being software-related. Without hardware support, any hardware purchase won’t be covered by a support contract.
However, businesses who opt for only software support, typically have spare devices on the shelf or budget to occasionally replace hardware instead of paying for recurring support.
Hardware support tier options
The different tiers for hardware support provide options for how soon replacement hardware can be delivered to your business.
Keep in mind, that this is the time from when Cisco TAC determines hardware is the problem and it is delivered. So, it is possible to spend hours working with TAC before hardware is shipped, even if you have the shortest delivery time.
The different tiers for hardware support are:
- 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., next business day
- 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., next calendar day
- 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 4-hour delivery
- 24/7, 4-hour delivery
- 24/7, 2-hour delivery (This option requires extra validation to ensure your location is within 2 hours of a Cisco depot.)
When picking a tier, you need to determine how soon you would need hardware replacement, as well as whether you want Cisco to also send an engineer to physically install it for more remote locations.
The option of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. delivery time means your hardware won’t ship until business hours, including overnight orders.
Overall, you need to decide how imperative the hardware is to your IT environment and how long that system can stay down.
Worst case scenario, if replacement hardware is ordered at 6 p.m. on a Friday, it may not actually ship until Monday, in which case it would not arrive until between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
Software support options
All software support comes with 24/7 availability. However, there are still different tiers for this type of support:
- Basic includes support from Cisco TAC without any additional features.
- Enhanced support provides extra help and advice on what software features ties as well as a guarantee to respond within 30 minutes for severity 1 and 2 calls.
- Premium support provides a designated Cisco expert who will handle all of your support requests. This expert takes the time to learn everything about your environment that is relevant to what they’re supporting.
- Total Care goes a step further and helps you plan for end-of-life solutions.
(For a full breakdown of what each tier includes, check out this Cisco datasheet.)
Choosing the right software support tier largely depends on what you need when it comes to assistance.
Each tier offers increasing levels of consulting in addition to support. Keep in mind the price for the support contract will increase for each tier.
Is partner support included with a Cisco support contract?
One of the most common questions our team receives when it comes to supporting is if it includes assistance from the partner.
While we’re excited you enjoy your experience with us so much that you trust us to help you in these emergency situations, our labor prices are excluded from your support contract. This includes if you choose to have your partner reach out to Cisco TAC for you.
While businesses like The KR Group are considered Cisco partners, we aren’t part of Cisco’s corporation. Our services are our own.
You can still request support from your partner, but without a managed IT services contract or block-time agreement, you’ll pay for each engagement separately.
If you don’t wish to engage (and pay) for your Cisco partner to work with Cisco’s engineer team, you’re entitled as the owner of the contract to reach out to Cisco TAC directly. You aren’t required to have your Cisco partner involved unless you want them to be.
Choosing a support contract
Even though you’ve figured out what hardware or software you want, you still need to determine how you want to support your new investment.
When it comes to your software, you’ll generally always need support. However, whether you choose general 24/7 support or the premium, enhanced, or total care options, depends on how involved you want Cisco TAC to be in advising you.
Hardware support, on the other hand, offers more flexibility. If you have redundancy within your network, you may not need 24/7 hardware support. Without redundancy, however, you need to consider the importance of each component of hardware and choose the support tier that will replace the device as soon as you need it.
With both types of support, these contracts only cover support from Cisco TAC, and engaging your Cisco partner for support will incur a bill unless you have an existing support contract with them.
For more information about Cisco’s support contracts, there are many resources on their website’s support page.