cisco maintenance contract alternatives?


I have a variety of old and new Cisco hardware and it is time to renew SmartNet.  I have been asked to investigate 3rd party options to Cisco in an effort to save money.   Do you have companies you have used that you like?  How does this work; do I renew software only support through Cisco and hardware support through the 3rd party or do I lose the option of calling Cisco for tech support unless I renew the Smartnet?  
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lrmooreConnect With a Mentor Commented:
All 3rd party companies can do is resell Cisco smartnet. Some will discount it more than others, but not by more than 3-5 percentage points.
Dirty little secret: If you maintain smartnet on one single device, you have access to TAC software support and downloads for everything you have, you just don't have hardware replacement on anything with a serial number that does not match the contract.
Depending on what you have, a spare piece of hardware may be more cost effective than keeping smartnet on everything.
Ernie BeekExpertCommented:
Afaik the latter is true. The smartnet is a combination of software, hardware and techsupport. Even if ther are companies that can provide you with that (haven't found them yet), it's unlikely they would be cheaper than a smartnet.
Ernie BeekConnect With a Mentor ExpertCommented:
@lrmoore: And if I'm correct you can even use the cheapest smartnet if you're only after software support.
And you're right, keeping a spare piece of hardware is cheaper most of the times, I do it myself (so why didn't I put that in my first post :-~  ).
JohnDemerjianAuthor Commented:
I have learned that 3rd party companies will offer tech support and hardware replacement for used Cisco gear.  They replace parts with used parts.  But like you said, there is no replacement for smartnet and it is the right way to go for newer gear.   Thank you.
Ernie BeekExpertCommented:
Always glad to be able to help :)
Thx for the points.
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