IT operating budgets continue to stagnate or shrink, decisions makers in the IT world are looking at independent IT dealers as a way to cut both investment and maintenance costs. They’re continuing to find that OEM solutions, while robust, are often cumbersome and expensive. But, as purchasers and managers begin to survey the independent IT dealer market, their commitment to third party or alternative vendors can begin to waver. Letting go of brand loyalties can be difficult, even if you know that it is holding your organization back. There are excellent alternatives for the more expensive brands including: IBM, HP, Sun, SGi, Cisco equipment and others.
It is understandable that, in the face of so much competition and marketing, selecting the right vendor may take some time. But the process of vetting and selecting an independent IT vendor is no different than selecting a service or product partner in any other category. The decision to begin any partnership should begin after a thorough search for qualified candidates, and an evaluation of each option. In order to help you decide which independent IT vendor is right for you, here’s a list of metrics to consider during your deliberations.
Watchdog groups like ASCDI and even the BBB monitor the independent IT vendor market. These should be your first resource for information on potential vendor partnerships. In particular, you should be on the lookout for:
- Counterfeit claims - Don’t trust an OEM like Cisco or HP to provide full information about counterfeit hardware. Turn instead to the ASCDI or BBB. While independent IT vendors are sometimes accused of selling low-quality counterfeit equipment, many of these claims are overblown or fraudulent.
- Quality concerns - Most independent IT vendors provide high quality goods and services because they want to win your business. Unfortunately, as with any market, some vendors just want your money. Be sure to review product specifications to ensure that hardware fits your organizational needs. Then check manufacturer guarantees and claims against customer reviews and industry reports.
Key identifiers of quality independent resellers
While the quality metrics listed above are a great place to get started determining the reputation of certain vendors and your own needs, there are certain characteristics that set the best vendors apart from the rest.
- They've been in business for 5 or more years – Newer companies won't have the experience or customer feedback you need to make an educated decision about their abilities.
- They are easy to find on the internet – If a company has been around for a while, it will be easy to find them on media and news websites. In addition, the company website will be easy to locate and access. Their website should be professional, and their media presence should be positive.
- They sell new equipment – The best resellers maintain positive relationships with manufacturers, and are certified and approved to resell new equipment. Look for major original equipment manufacturer (OEM) seals of approval and current certifications.
- They sell equipment on standard payment terms – Don't work with a reseller that only offers equipment after receiving cash in full.
- They have IT Asset Disposition Contracts – Independent resellers often get their equipment directly from the OEM’s leasing companies or the OEM’s via their ITAD programs and will have contracts with OEMs or large corporations.
- They maintain their equipment – Be sure to find a vendor that can provide a customized, quality maintenance service contract that will support your vital business services.
- They sell on the GSA – For government buyers, it is vital that you find a vendor that has been approved by the GSA.
Since many independent IT vendors often supply familiar brand name hardware, they can differentiate themselves by providing better or different support services, such as installation, multi-brand and on-site support, money-back guarantees, and other options. If you’ve evaluated the metrics listed above but still cannot decide, use support metrics to make the final decision.