4 Steps for Managing the Hardware Lifecycle

Customers rely on their MSPs for more than just keeping the lights on—they need them to handle the full lifecycle of all their equipment. Outdated equipment can have serious business impacts on customers, including increased downtime and unexpected replacement costs.  You need to make sure you have a solid process in place to handle the full lifecycle of customer devices—from early planning to secure disposal.

Author: SolarWinds MSP VP Greg Lissy
Author: SolarWinds MSP VP Greg Lissy

Today, I’d like to talk about four steps in the hardware lifecycle, including what you should consider at each step, and how you can protect both your business and your customers’ businesses.

1. Plan: Things break. Equipment gets old. And with it, productivity can plummet. Any employee who’s lost work due to a computer crash or couldn’t access important systems knows this frustration. Every company needs to plan for equipment to break down—that includes your customers.

Swapping out hardware when needed helps both you and your customers: they get a more productive workforce, while you avoid wasting time and money fixing equipment that keeps breaking down. One important thing to note: make sure you ink your contracts so that customers pay for the equipment replacements. You want to avoid any confusion down the line.

When you have review meetings with your customers—hopefully quarterly—you should discuss equipment health and whether any devices are in need of replacement. You may want to prime them by mentioning this well before the equipment change becomes necessary.

2. Deploy: Think about how you want to deploy equipment across customers. In fact, think standardization here. As much as possible, you want similar configurations across customers. This allows you to automate a large portion of the rollout, in addition to the ongoing maintenance.  A standard deployment pattern saves you time and allows you to provide a more consistent experience. So try to fight the urge to offer custom configurations to win the sale—you’ll thank yourself later.

When setting customers up, think heavily about security and permissions. Users with excessive permissions and access represent potential threats, especially if those users leave the company bearing a grudge. Make sure passwords are strong. Don’t ever leave default passwords on devices—especially network devices.

3. Manage: Of course, you’ll have to support your customers for the long term as well. Once the hardware lives in the wild, you’ll have to run regular maintenance to extend its shelf life. This is where a strong RMM solution comes into play. You should be able to manage almost everything across your customer base from a single system.

If you’ve configured devices consistently, as recommended in step two, then much of the day-to-day maintenance on the machine can be automated. You can keep up with patches, backups, and daily maintenance without overtaxing your staff. Your RMM solution can also provide indicators that a device needs replacing—for example, if the device is unable to update due to insufficient system requirements.

Also, keep track of warranties while you’re managing your customers’ devices. Don’t let them lapse—a failure on a device outside of warranty may cause the client to eat the cost of an unplanned replacement.

4. Dispose: Once a device becomes obsolete or needs replacing, you have to think about the best way to remove it. You can’t just throw it in the trash and hope for the best. To help the environment, make sure you properly recycle the devices. However, it’s extremely important for security purposes to wipe the device before you send them for recycle. Make sure to securely delete all data from the device—you want to prevent anyone from being able to retrieve the original data after the fact.

Owning the full lifecycle

If you’re an MSP, you play the role of trusted advisor for your clients. That means more than just maintaining their systems—it also means advising them when hardware needs replacement and setting proper expectations along the way. Make sure you have a plan for each step of the process and the right tools in place to help.

If you’re interested in finding a remote monitoring and management solution to help you manage the hardware lifecycle, check out SolarWinds® RMM. You can learn more about it here or try it free for 30 days.

Greg Lissy is vice president of products at SolarWinds MSP. Read more SolarWinds MSP guest blogs here.