As resellers and systems integrators cry foul over the failure rates of hard drives, Victor Aghtan of distributor Westan is putting up a challenge to his competitors to have their products independently tested.
In ARN's March 6 issue, resellers claimed the failure rates of hard drives produced by the most respected brands are increasing and vendors are not providing adequate support for faulty product.
In response, Aghtan contacted ARN to point out that the hard drives Westan distributes, manufactured by Western Digital and Samsung, have failure rates of 1 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively. He is putting up the challenge to competitors to have their products tested by an independent body to show resellers which hard drives are more reliable.
IBM, which incurred the wrath of several resellers over its returns policy, instead chose to deflect attention onto recent problems with its hard drive partner Fujitsu. "We are aware of the problems with Fujitsu 10GB hard disk drives in NetVista M40 and A20 desktop systems," an IBM spokesperson said. "IBM stands behind its products, and we are working with affected customers to ensure the problem is alleviated."
Fujitsu, whose resellers widely admitted to having had a "dream run" of high-quality products until recently, declined to comment on the issue. Reseller complaints have led to some action on the part of the vendor, however, or at least its distribution partners. "For months there have been issues with Fujitsu and we have had to fight just to get feedback," said Peter Agamalis, managing director of Sydney reseller Impact Systems. "Only today our supplier told us that from now on they will be prepared to upgrade hard drives."
Some resellers defended their suppliers, saying that failure rates are the same as ever and that most products come armed with generous three-year warranties. On the other hand, resellers such as Discount Computer Supplies' Mike Mahoney pointed out the mismatch between having a three-year warranty on a product that only has a support life-span of six months (before a new model is released). "After that six months they aren't focused on that model anymore, so it takes a month to get the drive back to you," he said.
It is this waiting period that most frustrates resellers. "We tend to upgrade clients to a new model of hard drive simply for the sake of keeping the customer happy," said Agamalis. "Because if you told a corporate customer to wait, he is going to laugh at you."
Agamalis came to vendors' defence over criticism of the "diagnostic tools" (used by IBM and Seagate), which result in stock returned to the channel if proven to still be in working order. "The replace cycle is part of the nature of the way the channel works."
But he believes vendors need to be more proactive in calculating the severity of faults in their hard drives and they need to set aside appropriate amounts of stock for warranty returns.
"This should all be predetermined long before the product reaches us," Agamalis said. "Because Fujitsu are being reactive rather than proactive at the moment, they have ended up with a backlog.
"There is often a lack of responsibility on the part of these vendors to the channel. The problem is that it's the clone PC resellers who, without being at fault, end up looking like they're stuffing around the customer."