The obvious reason would be the substantial cost benefit of maintaining your own system versus the traditional maintenance contract as 7 x 24 maintenance contacts are at an all time high. Other reasons are apparent as well. One would be that in an after hours call, the problem must be 75% service affecting or there is still a charge for a technician to come out. Also, we found that if a circuit pack is replaced by Avaya, in most cases it is replaced with a refurbished circuit pack that only carries a 90 day warranty. A new or unused circuit pack can be purchased through an Avaya business partner or the secondary market at or below the price of the refurbished circuit pack. These packs also come with a 1-year, 18-month, or 2-year warranty depending on the vendor. Another consideration is basic maintenance. Under a 7 x 24 contract, cleaning of cooling fans, replacing air filters, wiping down the cabinets to remove dust, and cleaning tape drives is only preformed on a yearly basis. Since AT&T, Lucent and Avaya companies have split, been bought out or have come and gone in one way or another, I feel our level of support has fallen to an all time low. Too many of the people that have taken care of our systems through the years have left because of the number of years of service, early buyouts, have retired because of uncertainties or have been laid off with the forming of the new companies and the quantity of available technicians has been greatly reduced. Now AvayaÆs engineers are expected to take care of Power equipment (their versions of UPS), multiple types of switches (G3si, G3s, and G3r), voicemail systems (Definity Audix, Intuity Audix), and peripherals. Previously, each division included a separate group of experts that took care of specific products and had abundant knowledge of the products they were responsible for.
While Avaya is one place to look for your maintenance programs, there are others who are just as willing to take care of your systems. The Avaya business partners are a good source to turn to when looking for a maintenance provider. Some of these have their own Tier3 engineers that are available 7 days a week 24 hours a day. Most of these are former employees of AT&T/Lucent and Avaya have a wealth of knowledge. Have your local Avaya business partner provide you with contacts for other systems they are maintaining. They also offer Maintenance Assist programs and will work on a Time and materials basis if needed. Many of these can remotely monitor your systems, dial in through your systems INADS port and resolve alarms. There are others who maintain Avaya systems that are not affiliated with Avaya. These companies maintain all types of systems and sometimes offer the lowest per port cost of all your options. As with anything, some are better than others so be extremely careful when choosing a maintainer. The last option that I will mention would not be something that all would want to consider. Time and materials from any of the above mentioned providers would be something that I feel could be a solution for small business systems. There are companies with small systems that are not considered to be ômission criticalö and do not have in-house technicians working on their systems. T&M vs. an Avaya maintenance contact could be something to consider. The downside to this would be Avaya will tell you that if you are not a maintenance customer and do not have maintenance contract that T&M will be on a first come basis, after others who do. Again there are other providers that can.
What is involved with self-maintenance?
1. A maintenance contact
Avaya now offers several levels of Maintenance Assist contacts to help customers self-maintain their equipment at a substantially reduced cost. In order to keep your existing maintenance permissions or MSPÆs, you must have some sort of Avaya maintenance contract in place. Available contracts cover everything from basic levels of support to phone replacement, circuit packs, and unlimited access to Tier 3 engineers. You should make your choice based on the level of knowledge of you have on your systems and how critical your systems are to your business.
2. Set up maintenance routines and schedules for your equipment.
As I mentioned before, the 7x 24 contract only has ôcleaningö preformed once a year. I consider this be inadequate. According to the maintenance manuals for Avaya systems ( http://support.avaya.com ) the filters should be changed once a year in a normal environment and twice a year in a dusty environment. With most equipment room floors either being tiled or finished concrete; I consider most to be a dusty environment. Dust and heat are the reasons for most electronic component failures. I schedule ôcleaningö to be done every 6 months. Cleaning includes replacing filters*, lightly cleaning the fan units using a damp rag with a cleaning solution, and wiping down the outsides of the cabinets. I install a label on the inside of the cabinets with the date that this was done. With older systems, tape drives were installed and they have to be cleaned as well.
*The filters can be purchased from Antronix. Their telephone number is 336-272-0878. Our contact person is Jeff Anderson PN. UAF-217. The price is around $9.00 each.
System backups should be performed as part of your maintenance routine. Depending on the amount of information that could potentially be lost, this will determine how often you should schedule your backups to be run. On most Avaya systems, all translations can be scheduled to be saved every night as part of the nightly maintenance routine. To check this, use the command ôchange system-parameters maintenanceö. The save translations field should be set to daily. The ôsave translationsö command takes the information that is stored on your memory boards and saves them to your hard drives. These translations are still vulnerable and can be lost until they are saved on your tape drives, optical diskettes, or flash cards (depending on your system and the version of software you are running). This command would be ôbackup disk fullö for a simplex system or (ôbackup disk both fullö) in a duplicated system. In our case we have a duplicated system so we have four optical diskettes that came with our system. We schedule a full backup once a month and run this command on all four diskettes. The spares or second copies are placed in a fireproof safe. These same procedures should be preformed on your voicemail systems. Clean the filters (if there are any), run backup monthly basis, and place your disks somewhere you consider to be safe. .
Avaya recommends that you keep a hard copy of all translations as a backup. There are several methods that we use including an electronic copy using a program called Utilicall. In utility is a DocIt feature that allows you to make an electronic copy of all the switch translations and save then to your hard drive or burn to a diskette. This program saves a ton of paper and time. We put a new copy of this in our fireproof safe about once a month. They can be reached at www.utilcall.com for a free demo.
To help make documentation easily accessible, I have a folder named ôswitch docsö on my computer that I keep all documents pertaining to our systems in. I now have 16 documents in this folder and add more all the time. You can have fun with this and put everything that you need in here including a wiring schematic of how the power to your UPS routes in and out which can save you time if you have power problems that you need to solve. Make labels for all breakers and conduits with circuit id numbers in case you need them. We have a document that we use called ôSwitch Maintenance Year XXXX for everything that has been done in the systems and what repair procedures were used to resolve the problems. I start a new one at the beginning of every year. The documentation lists the date, the problem or alarm, what pack was replaced or other means to resolve the initial problem, dates backups are performed, and when our six-month maintenance was completed and on what cabinets. Of course a telecommunications handbook is a necessity. In this book are list of emergency procedures, emergency contacts, all circuit ID numbers (what shelf and slot to what circuit pack), telephone and voicemail system information, FL numbers or sold to numbers, passwords for basic administration and technical permissions and list of extensions and ports.
5. Firmware downloads
Avaya has resolved some of their hardware issues by making some of the newer, later, greater circuit packs programmable. This has dramatically reduced the amount of QPPCNÆs that Avaya issues and now you can download firmware to these boards to fix known board software problems. You may be having these done for you under your present contract. You will be responsible for these if you make the decision to go self-maintenance. Basically you would go to the Avaya support site http://support.avaya.com and look for new firmware that is available for your circuit packs in the ôdownloadsö section. These boards would be anything that ends with A-Z P. (example TN2224DP) It is recommended to wait about 30 days for bugs to be worked out of these so be sure to look at the release date. Also read the ôread me filesö for know issues with the firmware download before you download them. Download the proper firmware download for the proper board (TN# and hardware vintage) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) into the C-LAN card of your switch. Here is the link to the procedures for the above ftp://ftp.avaya.com/incoming/Up1cku9/tsoweb/firmware/TNpackFirmwareDownloadInstructions.pdf I shortened this down from AvayaÆs 38 pages to five pages in my own version (including FTP Screen captures). If anyone would like, I would be happy to share it.
6. Other areas of interest
Things have changed a lot since I started in telecomm 16 years ago. Then you had to have an AT&T field tech or an engineer to help resolve almost any alarm or problem. Today the internet is one of the best places to look for resolutions to problems. There are numerous websites that have all Avaya users, Avaya users groups, and of course the Avaya self support site. The old AT&T, Lucent and Avaya guys (and girls) that I mentioned earlier are still out there helping people on these sites. DonÆt be surprised to find current employees of Avaya (or their business partners) also posting and looking for help on some of these sites. Here are some links to some that I feel are the best and all are free.
The hardest part of going to self-maintenance is making the initial move and getting started with your documentation. In my opinion our systems are better maintained at a reduced cost. I still have a higher level of support to turn to on major problems and I work with Avaya as I need to. I also feel that working our way through our own problems and resolving them ourselves has given us a better understanding of our equipment and a lot of knowledge in problem resolution. I have posted many times on different list serves and forums about self-maintenance and have always posted that I do not feel that self-maintenance is for everyone. Simply put, itÆs not. But there are a lot of systems out there that could fall under a maintenance assist program and be better supported by their own people. ThatÆs a decision that you will have to make. As for us, we began self maintaining our 5500 + station G3R and Intuity voicemail system about 6 years ago and we havenÆt looked back. But with the end of support running out for traditional switches in December of 2006 (http://www1.avaya.com/enterprise/endofsale/commsystems/serverpack.html ) and being replaced with the S8x00Æs ( whatever they call them by the time we get them). It looks like itÆs going to be ôback to classö for meà