Considering the viability, stability, and quality of support of a manufacturer is extremely important before purchasing a wireless solution. Many product lines have similar feature sets and management capabilities, but sometimes knowing that the manufacturer will still be a dominant player in five years and that you will have access to high quality support when you really need it, provides the peace of mind that can help you choose one solution over another.

What you will learn:

  • Importance of manufacturer selection
  • How a manufacturer’s support and K-12 focus can save you time and money

Education Vertical Focus

The K-12 environment has many unique challenges and a very different RF environment/user base than most commercial and enterprise grade networks. A manufacturer worth considering needs to understand the unique challenges of a K-12 environment and have products, features, and design guides to address those needs. Many have produced specific K-12 design guides to help districts design the best performing networks possible.

K12 Design Guide

Manufacturer design guides and K12 focused info:

Product/Expertise Availability

Sometimes smaller, less established manufacturers may not have widely available technical experts and partners to help when you need design or troubleshooting assistance. It is important to keep this in mind and consider the importance of qualified local support to ensure that help is there when you need it. However, don’t automatically discount some of the manufacturers with smaller market share. If you are interested in a particular solution, ask your local vendor (manufacturer partner, Value Added Reseller, etc.) if they sell that solution and how well their technical team knows the product line. You might be surprised at the reach of these smaller companies, particularly those with cloud-based solutions.

If you aren’t able to find a vendor willing or able to sell you a solution that meets your requirements, you may be able to find what you are looking for on CDW-G. This site has decent pricing for networking equipment, but you will likely not get the same discount level that you would by buying through a vendor or a purchasing consortia. Buying directly from sites like CDW-G has been useful for some districts who are very isolated without a strong vendor presence, but this avenue should be used as a last resort.

Technical Assistance

When an issue is reported on the network and technicians are not able to fix it themselves, it can be very useful to have manufacturer technical assistance available to help with the troubleshooting process. As you are evaluating manufacturers, you should always ask for customer references and call those customers to ask questions about the responsiveness and capability of the support team. Though uncommon, there are manufacturers that include maintenance and software in the price of the equipment, so as you are considering different solutions, be sure to consider the price of the maintenance and support service.

To learn more, continue reading about maintenance and support considerations where this topic is covered in more detail.

Manufacturer Terminology: Technical Assistance
AerohiveTechnical Support
Aruba (HP)*Aruba (HP)Care
Cisco*TAC via SmartNet
Extreme*Global Technical Assistance Center (GTAC)
HP*HP Care Pack
Cisco MerakiTechnical Assistance
Meru (Fortinet)*Meru (Fortinet)Assure
Zebra (Motorola)*Technical Support Services
Ruckus (Brocade)*WatchDog
Xirrus*Xirrus Support Services
*Additional license or product required

Hardware Replacement Options

Most manufacturers offer hardware replacement such that if a device fails it will be replaced within a given timeframe. This is usually a yearly recurring fee per device, so if a district has several of the same type of device, like APs and access switches, it is usually more cost effective to keep spares for replacement purposes rather than paying the recurring hardware replacement fees for each existing AP. Controllers, on the other hand, are usually too expensive to have a spare unit, so a hardware replacement contract should be considered.

To learn more, continue reading about maintenance and support considerations where this topic is covered in more detail.

Manufacturer Terminology: Hardware Replacement Options
Aerohive*Next Business Day Advanced Replacement
Aruba (HP)*Aruba (HP)Care
ExtremeLimited Lifetime Warranty
HP*HP Care Pack
Cisco MerakiBuilt into AP license
Meru (Fortinet)*Meru (Fortinet)Assure
Zebra (Motorola)*Warranty of Service Contract
Ruckus (Brocade)*WatchDog Advanced Hardware Replacement
Xirrus*Xirrus Premium Support Services
*Additional hardware, software, or license required

Warranty on AP

Most manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty for their APs. Considering the number of APs that many districts deploy, an AP lifetime warranty can save quite a bit of money if there is a high failure rate for that AP. Be sure to read the fine print to make sure that you understand what voids the warranty on the AP.

Continue to Key Decisions