The Educated Consumer

When included warranties fall short, service agreements provide the protection end users need

AS an end user, it's important to understand the market as a whole and the individual product you're purchasing. Warranties are just one area that must be clarified. The more educated you as a consumer are, the more successful you'll be at your job.

ISSUE: What are some pitfalls of a typical DVR manufacturers' warranty?

SOLUTION: Typically, warranties are limited, and the main issue is the ensuing "hidden" charges. For example, the cost of shipping is paid by the customer for depot service or repair. Purchasing a service agreement (SA) that is clearly written, takes proactive maintenance measures and provides ongoing onsite technical support is the only way to ensure that these pitfalls are avoided.

Furthermore, DVR and component manufacturers only offer warranties on the specific products that they make -- not the system as a whole. Only integrators, who are familiar with every piece of the DVR puzzle, will be able to provide the service that is capable of resolving almost all of the potential problems that your system will face.

The customer does have an added cost when purchasing the SA, but not having it in the end can be more costly when additional charges like shipping, re-installation and downtime add up.

ISSUE: Do end users truly need additional protection or coverage on CCTV DVR equipment beyond what the manufacturer warranty offers?

SOLUTION: In most cases, yes. Warranties in this industry tend to be included in the price of the product. This often gives the party offering the warranty little financial incentive to make solid promises of repair, replacement or refund that goes beyond extraordinary and obvious cases of product defection.

On the other hand, purchasing an SA above the warranty gives the buyer more insurance for regular maintenance, a repair or a replacement that would not be covered under the free warranty. The SA option offers more than just peace of mind; it can often serve to avoid the frustrating ordeal of trying to have your unit replaced or repaired if it is not covered under warranty.

ISSUE: What should I look for when evaluating an SA, especially when comparing it to a manufacturers' warranty?

SOLUTION: Most warranty agreements force the buyer to take reactive action; it does not offer preventative maintenance. This means that customers will have to wait until the entire system or component completely shuts down before they can take steps to resolve any problem -- a problem which may have been ongoing or cumulative and thusly avoided.

The best SA plan to protect your investment in DVR equipment is one that is proactive. Inclusions to an SA that promote proactive measures, such as scheduled onsite service, preventative maintenance and planned hardware/software updates, have the net effect of increasing the value to the end user. Also, look for an SA that is backed by a reputable company with a network of service providers to meet your needs. Make sure to find out how long the SA is valid for and exactly what, if anything, would cause the agreement to become void.

Finally, it is important to carefully compare the coverage offered by the warranty to that of the SA to determine if it is worth the extra expense.

ISSUE: How do I determine if a specific warranty is not enough protection for my needs, thus prompting purchase an SA?

SOLUTION: Depending on what type of warranty (full or limited) it is and what exactly it offers to cover will determine whether you need the added coverage afforded by an SA.

First, check the warranty to see when it begins and when it expires. If the length is not sufficient for your needs, seeking an SA will ultimately better serve you over the lifetime of the system.

Next, find out in detail the steps that will need to be taken once the product is damaged. Standard warranties tend to make customers jump through several hoops before a proper assessment of coverage is even made.

Third, inquire to see which specific parts and repair problems are covered. Also, note special conditions that might become expensive or inconvenient, such as shipping a heavy object to a factory for service or a requirement that you must return the product in its original packaging. If any of these issues could be considered a problem for your operation, then purchasing an SA is a good option to alleviate most of the concerns not covered by standard manufacturer warranties.

ISSUE: How will an SA benefit me more than the manufacturer's warranty?

SOLUTION: DVR systems can potentially be very complex, involving many different components from many different manufacturers. For example, the warranty offered on the camera may not have the same terms as the warranty for the hard drive of the DVR itself. When any part of the system fails, it is up to the user to determine which part failed and who is responsible to fix it.

Purchasing an SA from an integrator can remove all of this confusion and drastically reduce the amount of time your system is down. By offering coverage on all parts of the DVR system, an SA protects the end user where a warranty simply does not.

ISSUE: What should one expect from a DVR SA that is worth the cost of purchasing it?

SOLUTION: The SA should be able to provide an onsite technician who is trained to properly assess any problem and has the resources to correct it in the shortest possible time -- no matter which part is experiencing operational difficulties. A typical service or preventative maintenance call includes proper camera positioning, a full cleaning of the DVR unit inside and out, ensuring the cooling fan is operating, updating the latest software, checking all connections, making sure that UPS is properly installed and fixing any other problems you might be having.

ISSUE: Will there be any additional expenses that I will incur even with the SA for my DVR system?

SOLUTION: SAs are sold to customers at the time of installation. They are usually charged based on how large of a facility they need to watch, and no additional charges should apply during the length of the agreement. SAs protect the end user and integrator from costs associated with infield service calls to DVR failures. Furthermore, SAs allow integrators to more closely partner with manufactures by sharing some of the risk of the warranty.


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