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Hardware Maint. on Time&Materials?

Last year we at GTE Labs transferred the hardware maintenance of our
15 Symbolics machines from full contract service to time and
materials, a decision with which I did not concur. The level of
service remained high, possibly because we're near Symbolics HQ and
we have a superlative maintenance rep. 

Prior to making the decision, we got solid information from Symbolics
with regard to our past history by having our sales rep set up a
meeting with maintenance management. We looked at the history of our
maintenance and Symbolics costed out what we would have paid had we
been on time and materials. Surprisingly, the costs of the two methods
were close; in some years we would have paid less on T&T, in others we
would have lost money. I suggest that you ask Symbolics for a
similar analysis and comparison.

One feature of full-service is that someone will pay a visit to fix
one thing. Under T&T, since a visit will cost you a minimum, something
like two hour's service, you'll find yourself delaying service calls,
waiting for two or three small things to need attention, to save
money. This affects timeliness of small repairs.

Of course, it's the big repairs you're rolling the dice on. Here we've
had uncertain electrical power in past years; line outages on hot
summer days can destroy a good bit of your investment. (Yes, now we
have an uninterruptible power supply, but would you believe ...?
Well, it's better not to know.) Another aspect that makes it difficult
to compare service costs before and after the changeover is the
possibility that you won't return an older machine with a disk problem
to service; just let it sit there; buy a new, cheaper workstation next
year. That keeps the maintenance cost down, but at the expense of
degrading the development environment. 

-- Bud Frawley