Even though it is very convenient to look up pricing for servers, switches, routers, firewalls and the like online, that is the worst way to purchase. I have been on the inside of IT sales for a long time, and can give you many reasons why you should by from a local Value Added Reseller, as they are known:
1. Best price. If you talk with a local reseller, and either pretend or actually let them help make a recommendation on what products to buy, they can have a better cost than anyone else, usually about 10%. The reason is very simple: manufacturer’s give better pricing to resellers that recommend their equipment, and who tell the manufacturer that they are doing so.
2. Best service. If you buy from a local reseller, the employees and business owners live in the same state, county, or even town as you. They will want to keep you happy, and will go out of the way to make you happy with your purchase. If something is defective, or there is a misunderstanding, they can drive right over to look at it and make it right.
3. The money stays in the community. With money and budgets tight these days, many communities are passing local preference ordinances, stating that if a local supplier quotes a product or service to a public sector purchasing entity that is within 5% of the lowest price, that the business should be kept local. This only makes sense. As long as you are spending money, and you can get it for a good price (see #1 above), keep the taxes local and let the profits on the sale go to the salaries of your neighbors or relatives!
4. Your project will be more successful. Any VAR that is any good will have a staff of technical consultants that has done the same upgrade you are thinking about doing many times before. They will know how to plan for the upgrade, gather the right info, what pitfalls to avoid, and how to work around the undocumented features (bugs!) in the product. Don’t just assume they know what they are doing, though, ask for references.
5. You will build contacts in your local market. Local VAR’s know about every IT shop in town, and through their contacts can pass along information about what other people are doing. Sales reps bring useful information, ideas, and gossip about what your peers are doing. Hey, with layoffs happening all around, it is good to have a number of friends in the business, especially ones that owe you favors.
So with all these great reasons to buy local, why doesn’t everyone do it? That’s a question I often ask; sometimes I think the five reasons I listed above just don’t matter much to people.
What I do find is that most organizations in the metropolitan areas buy from local resellers, and many rural K-12, higher education, counties, and cities buy from online outfits like CDW. CDW inside sales reps do a great job providing attention to folks in rural areas, and the CDW website is very well done. Furthermore, it is admittedly more convenient to fill a shopping cart online and send an order without having to meet with a sales rep. They also make incredible profits on items that are under $500. There is a reason they can afford all those advertisements on TV, and it is not because they are passing any good deals onto you.
Meetings take time out of the day and force IT people do deal with salespeople, who are the last people that the technically minded and results focused IS administrator wants to deal with. That is definitely one of the downsides of buying locally. However, every job has its downsides, and meeting with salespeople is certainly less onerus than say, staying up all night rebuilding Active Directory because a junior IT admin somehow hosed the schema, or troubleshooting a switching loop that took down the entire network and everyone is screaming at you because all the phones, computers, and servers are not communicating on the network, or realizing the backup that you thought was being done every night actually wasn’t for the past 3 months….and that you really need that backup right now!
In fact, compared to many of the more dreadful things that can happen to the Information Technology crew, meeting with a sales rep and their technical pre-sales design engineer, going out to lunch, and having these nice vendors to blame all your problems on is actually quite pleasant.
So, let management and purchasing know that you are going to be doing your part to save money and help your community by buying everying locally from now on!