Choosing IT hardware for a business can be a demanding experience. If you’re at a large enterprise, you may just have to ask the IT department about its needs and requirements. For small and mid-sized businesses, however, the top executive is often the one not only making the purchase decision, but also researching vendors, comparing equipment, and listening to suggestions from employees. Here are some key considerations in the IT hardware procurement process.
1. Don’t immediately go with the most well-known hardware vendors. Look into vendors both big and small, and don’t make a hasty decision that “bigger is better.” You want a hardware vendor that is going to be around for the long term. You may wind up dealing with an authorized distributor, official sales representative, or value-added reseller of a big hardware vendor to get the personal attention and commitment to servicing your company that you want, to ensure your level of comfort and security.
2. Make a procurement budget and stick with it. Sure, there will be products you’ll find that would be “nice” or “sweet” to have. Buy only what you absolutely need for now. It’s important to be flexible, of course, but it’s your money, so spend it wisely. If you come across a hardware product that looks interesting but isn’t immediately applicable to what you’re doing with IT hardware, pencil it in for a future budget.
3. Experienced sales and service personnel are key. Whomever you buy from, you want to be sure that the sales people really know what they’re talking about. More importantly, the experience of their customer service staffers is often overlooked during the procurement process. Sure, the sales guy will tell you his company has “great, great customer service,” and then you find out months later that the “service department” is a teenager with more experience on game consoles than in troubleshooting a wireless router. Ask about customer service before you buy, and don’t fall for expensive service plans that will prove not to be cost-effective.
4. Check on hardware certification. Not all big vendors make every IT product they sell. They often rely on a hardware certification process to ensure that another manufacturer’s hardware will work with their products. There are generally two types of certification: Vendor-provided certification, under which the selling vendor guarantees the performance of all the products it sells to a customer, or third-party certification, when an independent party, separate from the various manufacturers, tests and certifies that the product will perform to a set of quality standards.
5. Lastly, some vendors, or even the bigger distributors, sales reps, and VARs, can extend you a hand in financing a purchase, or in leasing equipment. But that’s a whole other topic we’ll cover in a future post!