Networking: A Beginner's Guide
Is the vendor sufficiently successful and stable that you can expect the company
to be around for the entire useful life of the unit?
What other value-added services are offered if problems occur?
Other factors that strongly influence serviceability are often overlooked. How many
computers does the maker sell, and is the specific model that you are buying widely
used? These factors are important because a widely used computer is more likely to be
supported when new software or hardware comes out. Companies that make software
and hardware know they must ensure that their products work properly with popular
computer brands and models.
Suppose that you use computers from a small, local company (or, even worse,
build the computers yourself), and some software package or operating system that
comes out in a year or two fails to work properly on your machines. The maker of
the software or hardware might say something like, "Well, we haven't tested on that
computer, so we don't know why our product isn't working right." While the maker
might act in good faith to resolve the issue, the problem might take much longer to fix
on a widely used system, and it might never be resolved. On the other hand, if you're
using a top-tier computer, such as one from Compaq, Dell, or HP (or other top-tier
brands), the vendor of the new product probably knows how to resolve any problems
that arise and has already done so before the product was shipped.
If your company runs an application that is vital to its business but that is not widely used,
it sometimes pays to find out which computers the application maker uses. If you know that the
application maker has built the application using a particular make, you can reduce your risk of
having trouble with that application by considering using the same brand in your organization.
I once joined a company that had been purchasing "no-name" clones for its
desktop computers. In my first week, I set up five brand-new units right out of
their boxes, only to find that three of them were dead on arrival (DOA). That same
week, the company's CFO, who was working on an important financing activity,
had his computer crash repeatedly (losing unsaved work each time), until I finally
swapped his entire computer for one of the new ones that actually worked. Was
the money saved on those computers (about $400 per unit) worth it? What was the
cost to the company for all these mishaps? The answer is simple: far more than the
company saved. I immediately changed the company's brand to a more reliable
one (the CFO was sympathetic!) and got rid of the existing machines as quickly as
possible. The lesson is that you shouldn't be penny-wise and pound-foolish when
you purchase computers.