14 May 2022
Are you looking to make some IT hardware purchases soon or are you trying to be more intelligent about future IT equipment purchases? If so, this blog is for you. We’re going to discuss where to purchase IT equipment, typical costs, and the benefits and downsides you should consider when purchasing IT hardware via various methods.
Your options to purchase IT equipment are endless. Purchasing from online vendors is an option, but there are others, each with varying costs, pros, and cons to consider. Which is best depends on several factors explained below. We feel it’s helpful to read these points for a fuller understanding, but if you need the cliff notes, here it is:
If you’re purchasing IT equipment with regularity or making large purchases, buying from the authorized distributors is a low-cost option. They’re also trustworthy and dependable.
Distributors purchase from the tech makers or other larger authorized distributors. They’re accountable to standards imposed by tech makers. This supply chain control ensures you’re getting what’s expected, backed by tech makers and the distributors quality/returns policies. You pay slightly more than option 2 typically for that dependability but it’s worthwhile for most.
For similar reasons, purchasing your IT equipment via distributors leads to less surprises related to post-purchase support, warranty, or returns. Distributors are not full-service IT managed services providers though, so while they provide more support than random online resellers, it’s not the same support your outsourced IT support vendor provides you.
The accountability is on you to vet the appropriate IT equipment, necessary licensing, or add-ons. Only use this option if you’re comfortable navigating IT equipment needs independently as you’ll get limited consulting from these vendors.
You may get an account rep, but they’re more of a quoting clerk, not your advisor. They’re not going to identify everything you need but didn’t request. This can lead to mistakes or missing necessities that cause delays.
Because you must do more vetting and communicate with your account rep about options, this will take more of your time. It’ll also take effort to ensure you understand exactly what you’re getting, and to identify other related items you’ll need.
In summary, this option is best for mid-size and large companies that have the purchasing volume, knowledge, and time to manage these purchases.
You find the lowest prices if you’re willing to purchase from an online equipment reseller. Also, if you’re in a rush to get the equipment, this may be your only option when authorized distributors are out and it’s not a purchase you can make at traditional retailers.
Since these vendors are not authorized distributors, they’re not subject to distribution partner’s criteria or accountability and are less dependable as a result. 98% of the time, you get what you expected in the anticipated time frame, but don’t count on it.
You may inadvertently receive the wrong product, end up with gray/after-market equipment, or they’ll blow delivery times. There may also be issues obtaining manufacturer support on IT equipment purchased via these avenues as some technology makers invalidate warranties or support on IT equipment purchased outside authorized distributors.
Also, the support to aid your selection is limited or non-existent with these vendors. You should only go this route if you’re highly competent at vetting and selecting what you need without help.
Purchasing from random online resellers will save money but beware of the potential downside and hidden costs, that may negate the savings anyway. Only use this option to meet a timeline you cannot meet with more dependable sources, or when you cannot afford the cost of using an alternative.
Assuming you pre-check availability, you can buy IT equipment as fast as you can go pick it up. If you need something simple and you need it now this is your best option.
Also, if you prefer the human-touch, you can engage the help of a live person. They may not be very knowledgeable, but if tech is foreign to you, and you’re looking to fill a quick, simple need, they’ll guide you adequately.
Finally, the return policies are favorable for clients, allowing you to return an incorrect or defective purchase.
Store clerks have varying levels of knowledge to help you make the right purchase. Some know more than you and others know less. You may not be able to even tell which you’re dealing with. The store clerk doesn’t know your technology use and how your purchase impacts it, and don’t expect them to ask about things you didn’t bring up. Even if they ask, they may not be able to explain relevant choices and implications.
Black Friday deals aside, traditional retailers are not going to beat the pricing online from distributors and other online resellers. Part of the reason for this is that traditional retailers only carry a limited selection compared to all options you could consider. That limited selection means you’re not getting the best value.
The traditional retailers’ selection may not meet your needs at all. They can provide simple items like computers, but if you need something substantial, like networking equipment or servers, they may not have what you need. They typically carry home-grade equipment or the cheapest segment of business-grade products, at best.
We strongly advise businesses, except the cash-strapped, to avoid buying home-grade or low-end business IT equipment. You’ll find out later it doesn’t meet your current or future needs and is not reliable. This may lead to you replacing it and end up costing you more money in the long run.
Your IT support vendor or managed services provider (MSP) knows your environment and can assess dependencies, inter-operability, and consult on other options or items for you to consider. Having them vet recommendations avoids pitfalls like incompatible systems, missing licensing or peripherals. Their consultation is helpful for simple purchases like computers, but it’s a necessity if the need is complex or expensive, like purchasing networking equipment or servers.
Another benefit of your support vendor’s consulting and vetting is that it’s a time-saver for you. If you can spend time more valuably on your core responsibilities, leveraging your outsourced vendor is a no-brainer.
Most outsourced IT support vendors and MSP’s will ‘own’ their recommendations. If they made a mistake on their recommendation, they’ll go further than other IT equipment vendors to remedy it. Purchasing through them shifts responsibility and accountability to the pros. Outsourced IT support companies stick to the authorized distribution channels for their purchases too, adding the benefits of using those distributors.
One last factor to consider is that your outsourced IT support vendor or MSP will work with their vendors or tech makers if there’s post-purchase support or warranty issues. These vendors will recommend IT equipment that complements their experience and capabilities. This improves your ongoing support.
Your outsourced IT support vendor or MSP is not the lowest-cost. There may be items they’re able to provide at pricing in-line with offers online, but 99% of the time you will find better prices online. You should use this option for the consultation, time-saving, and greater accountability and support at the expense of 5-20% extra on the price. We deem that tradeoff well worth the convenience gained for 90% of businesses.
Also, if you need your IT equipment ASAP, your outsourced IT support company will not be your most timely avenue. They need to schedule time for a consultant to vet recommendations and for purchasing. That adds delays that make immediate turnaround times challenging. Since they adhere to the authorized distributor channels, they’ll be subject to those same timeliness constraints also.
In closing, there are several ways you can go about purchasing IT equipment. They each have their own strengths, weaknesses, and cost-implications. You should pick a preferred method for 90% of your IT equipment purchases, and stick to it, but in 10% of situations you may deviate when the pros, cons and cost do not align with your needs.
For over a decade Framework has been aiding clients with their IT equipment purchases, and want to help you build an efficient, reliable, easy-to-manage technology environment. For more information, contact us to speak to an IT professional!