Cisco Grey Market

Background

Buying Cisco products legitimately means going through an authorised partner. These are trusted companies who are endorsed by Cisco to resell, deploy and give advice on their solutions. The Cisco partner will have gone through some form of examination or demonstrated their technical expertise to be able to do this. The benefits of this channel model can be summed up in just one word, expertise. Cisco provide premium networking, routing, wireless and security solutions to suit both small business and large enterprises, so it’s no surprise that such versatile technology would require a specialist to unlock their full potential.

What is the Cisco ‘Grey Market’?

But what happens when the specialists misguide you, either purposefully or through their own negligence? Of course, here, we’re referring to the exchange of illegitimate Cisco hardware, or what professionals term, ‘the grey market’. Cisco products bought on the grey market will not be eligible for support. In other words, if something goes wrong with your equipment, or an update to their firmware is released, you won’t be covered.

There are two main reasons for why Cisco hardware might be classified as ‘grey’ equipment. The first, and most alarming, is that they could be counterfeit. Identifying fake equipment takes a trained eye and, in most cases, it’s something that must be confirmed and tested by Cisco. The point here is that fake Cisco products can often be hard to spot. Verifying the authenticity of hardware is subject to the availability of Cisco to test them, whilst this is an expedient service typically taking days rather than weeks, it’s highly likely that your company could be without its hardware for the duration of the process and subject to delivery or travel delays. Also – any illegal Cisco products will need to be returned to Cisco for them to remove these devices from circulation.

The second reason is that the hardware might have been bought on an unauthorised resellers market, which is usually the case with hardware that is purchased in countries where the exchange rate is lower, or more simply, if it’s being resold illegally. The reason it’s classified as grey in these scenarios is because equipment is being acquired in a way, or from a market or geographical region, that’s not intended. This often occurs when hardware is purchased as cheaply possible without checking for its quality or confirming that it’s from a legitimate source, but some companies will also knowingly take the risk.

What’s so wrong with ‘grey market’ products?

The first and most obvious problem is that your equipment will not be eligible for Cisco SmartNet contracts or renewals. If something goes wrong with your equipment, it’s entirely down to you to fix the fault or find a replacement. This problem is only made worse when companies mistakenly buy ‘grey market’ equipment and later find that they are unsupported when it comes to fixing a problem or its time for renewal.

Avoiding ‘grey market’ hardware

Fortunately, there’s an adage which applies in avoiding both scenarios, “if it seems too good to be true then it often is”. The number one reason that businesses might fall into the trap of the ‘grey market’ is price. Investing in Cisco products can mean a relatively high up-front investment, so there’s a temptation to cut corners and purchase products as cheaply as possible. However, securing the best prices possible makes perfect business sense, and so we could say that price is also grey area; there’s nothing inherently wrong with optimising the value of your budget.

Luckily, it’s not just the wise-old words of conventional wisdom that can help protect us from buying equipment on the grey market. The first step is choosing a partner that you can trust. After all, there are many ways you can work with a good partner to bring down costs, such as managing Cisco promotions, recycling old equipment and capitalising on their strong relationship with the vendor. There is also the option of buying refurbished equipment, but again, these should all be options that you explore with your reseller. In any case, you can still go through official channels and remain protected all while making significant savings.

How to find a trustable Cisco Partner

Cisco provide their own partner locator with a list of authorised resellers. You can search for companies based on geography, their specialisms and their partner status. If you already have a reseller in mind or are looking for one, it might be worth cross-checking them on the partner locator. When you’ve finally chosen your partner, the process should be transparent and any questions about where the products are sourced from should be easily answered.

What to do if you’ve purchased ‘grey market’ equipment

These situations are handled on a case by case basis, but there’s a good chance that all might not be lost. It’s usually best to consult with an authorised partner that has the experience necessary to guide you through the process, since they will be able to facilitate discussions between you and Cisco, and provide professional services if necessary.

The option to ‘re-certify’ your equipment or the offer to purchase discounted replacement hardware are the two most common resolutions, but they are given entirely at Cisco’s discretion. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to seek legal advice, particularly when you’ve unknowingly purchased ‘grey market’ or counterfeit products. There may be some cases where Cisco decide to take their own legal action as well, especially if counterfeit items are involved.

Closing thoughts

Price is a key factor in falling into the trap of the ‘grey market’. Some companies will take calculated risks and choose to buy their Cisco products on the ‘grey market’, and even more unfortunately, some companies unknowingly end up buying ‘grey hardware’. There is nothing wrong with trying to get the most out your budget, but when there are ways to make significant savings through the official channels, which also make you fully eligible for support, it’s hardly worth the risk. You can avoid the risk of the ‘grey market’ altogether by choosing an authorised partner you can trust.

George Bearman
Marketing Executive. Keen blogger, tech enthusiast and lover of literature.

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