Server Shopping Made Easy
When it's time to buy a server, don't be overwhelmed by the staggering number of purchase options. The weak economy, combined with the glut of sales channels, provide plenty of bargains and purchase options to suit any business budget.
The first thing you need to decide is how much help you'll need with the purchase of a server. After reaching that decision, you can quickly sort through the options, as the degree of assistance will dictate the sales channel and help determine whether you should choose new or used servers and whether you should buy or lease.
How Much Help?
The more help you need, generally the more you'll spend. The cheapest channel -- and the least helpful -- is online. More help and slightly higher cost comes via telephone sales. The next rung up the help/cost ladder is your local retailer, followed by distributors. Near the top of the help/cost ladder are the value-added-reseller (VAR) organizations and at the pinnacle are server vendors' direct sales forces.
Here's a summary of the different server purchasing channels:
- Buying online, of course, means placing your ordering directly from the vendor's Web site. The online channel is typically the least expensive, but there are added shipping costs and a delay for shipping. Not only do you need to know exactly what you want, but also you're on your own for installation and configuration.
- When you buy via the telephone channel, you talk to a call center agent who may steer you to the right choice, but only within the server offerings of that vendor. The other caveats about the online channel apply, but you won't be able to take advantage of any online specials.
- Buying retail means going to a big-box consumer outlet. The advantage is that you can run over to the store and get what you need immediately -- if they have it in stock. For anything but low-end servers, though, don't expect to find a lot of inventory at the local outlet. The attending salesperson may prove knowledgeable, and may even send you down the street if necessary. Installation and configuration assistance may be available at an extra cost.
- Buying from a VAR is often the costliest option, but you can count on expert advice when specifying your needs and the VAR will usually handle installation and testing.
Unless you have a budget of $50,000 or more, you'll have trouble getting the attention of any vendor salesperson; the direct-sales force of the vendors will only get involved if your size and purchase requirements are substantial.
The online, phone, and retail channels are good choices when you know exactly what you want, especially when all you need is a specific replacement item. If your needs are elaborate or harder to define, the handholding offered by a VAR will be worth the cost.
When you buy from a retailer or VAR, make sure you are getting name-brand hardware and not an in-house clone; the name-brand vendors are more likely to survive the current economic turmoil and be around to support their products.