Regardless of with whom one contracts, a computer hardware maintenance contract usually works out to an annual cost of between 10 and 12 percent of the total purchase price of the hardware. For an average library system this may be over $1,000 per month. If the hardware maintenance is bundled with the software maintenance in a single contract with the vendor of the local library system, an additional charge of 10 percent of the maintenance portion may also be assessed. By contracting with the hardware manufacturer or a third-party maintenance organization directly, this extra surcharge can be eliminated and it may even be possible to negotiate a lower rate. So why not save a little money and by-pass the local system vendor? We are happy to respond to this question.
Cost is not the only factor to be considered. Bundling hardware and software maintenance into a single contract with the system vendor offers significant benefits, including access to a trouble desk which assumes responsibility for remote diagnosis and dispatch of the appropriate hardware or software technician.
For the additional $100 or so per month a library may pay for bundling, it has a single point of contact and a single party is liable for total system performance. Performance guarantees built into the total contract specify acceptable uptime and response time with a penalty in the form of reduced monthly maintenance payments if the performance criteria are not met. Remedies typically include a 10 percent reduction in maintenance payments for each percentage point that up-time falls below 98 percent and/or a reduction of 10 percent for each second of response time that exceeds the agreed upon limits. A single case of “finger pointing” between separate hardware and software maintena4ée organizations can cost several hundred dollars in staff time alone. A single memory board to improve response time would pay for 2 years of the surcharge.