Intel has announced a new repair service geared specifically towards SMBs that do not have their own IT department or IT support staff. Available initially in the United States, Intel says that small- and mid-sized businesses can secure a three-year contract for 24/7 telephone technical support and on-site next-business-day repair or replacement. You can access a brief press release here, though the product brief titled "Build Peace of Mind: Intel On-Site Repair for Servers, backed by Intel" (pdf) offers more details.
According to the product brief, the on-site repair services are provided by a third party for Intel white-box servers. Intel will help diagnose the issue and a technician will replace the faulty hardware on-site. From this, it sounds like the 24/7 telephone technical support will be handled by Intel, and it is understood that actual on-site visits are done by a third party contracted by Intel. The on-site repair is available for all current and future generations of Intel Server Systems and Intel Modular Server Systems. In addition, SMBs will also be able to retrieve technical specifications and other documentation, as well as purchase spare parts online.
Having worked in a number of SMBs in various IT capacities in the past, I am appreciative of Intel's attempt to address a problem that is underappreciated by larger businesses with dedicated IT personnel. Put it this way: The reason a server goes offline is limited to a relatively small subset of problems, and typically range from a failed power supply, spoiled hard-disk drive or damaged electronics (RAM, Motherboard, CPU in order of likelihood). As you can see, most of the above scenarios entail the replacing of very specific parts in order to get things running again.
SMBs without IT personnel and that have purchased Intel white-box servers to lower their costs will find themselves having to fork out more for a visit by an independent computer reseller or vendor on short notice. The irony is how these vendors are unlikely to have the correct parts on-hand to affect an on-site repair, which further prolongs the downtime. And if the downed server needs to be revived urgently, the inevitable recommendation would be to buy a new part instead of sending them in for RMA - further increasing the cost.
Intel's new scheme solves this problem nicely, and the company has pledged its full backing of the program in terms of replacement hardware. Do note, however, that only specific hardware listed on the On-Site Repair Hardware Compatibility List are supported. In addition, systems must also be built using new components with an "original three-year manufacturer warranty" purchased at the same time.