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Editorial: Top 10 reasons to find another vendor

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I'm up to my ears in numbers these days, culling stats from the surveys we run and the many other reports that pop up in my email. Reports can be fun even when they stretch the bounds of credulity--like IDC's recent prediction that the world will have to find some place to store 988 billion gigabytes of data by 2010. (I wonder if they'll 'fess up if the number falls short by a hundred billion gigabytes or so.) At least they're not predicting the Cubs will win the World Series ...

Those kinds of numbers are pretty hard to fathom or confirm. At Storage, the numbers we typically deal with are a lot easier to put into context because they represent what you tell us you plan to do or buy, or how you think your vendors are treating you. But what truly makes some of the numbers come alive is talking to you about them when we do our follow-up interviews. So much of what I hear is about how you deal with vendors. And whether they're horror stories or experiences that are just a bit unnerving, they all demonstrate just how much time and effort is required for vendor relations these days.

So, based on some of the things I've heard, here's my Top 10 list of warning signs that should tip you off that it may be time to find a new vendor. From bad to worst, here they are:

10. The tech support guy's shirt has a Starbuck's logo. If you're dealing with a smaller vendor, its service will likely be handled by a third party; however, even some big

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vendors turn to service providers for certain regions. Before you buy, make sure you know who will provide the service, check them out with other customers and don't expect them to bring a latte along with that replacement drive.

9. The compatibility matrix includes a '57 Chevy Impala. With multiple-vendor shops more the rule than not, you should expect a product to work with what you already have installed. If a vendor's compatibility matrix is filled with "museum quality" products, beware.

8. The "no theoretical limit" sales pitch. Whenever a salesperson flirts with infinity to describe the limitations of a feature, take it as a sign that the limitations are very real and something you're bound to bang up against very soon.

7. The upgrade path is replacement. Having the option to buy a bigger, faster, etc. model from the vendor as your needs grow isn't much of an upgrade path. Unless, of course, they throw in the forklift for free.

6. You're up to slide number 59 in the sales rep's PowerPoint presentation. If the vendor can't sell you on its features and affordability in six or eight slides, hit the Escape key.

5. "We don't really have any competition." That usually means they think they're unique or, more likely, they have a solution for a problem nobody has.

4. All of the functions you need are options. They "start at a low, low price of ..." and usually end up costing more than any of the competitors' offerings when you add in everything you'll need for the thing to actually work in your shop.

3. "It's so easy to use you won't need any documentation." This usually means it's still a beta product, or they're waiting for another round of funding so they can hire somebody to write the docs.

2. The service contract costs more than the product. Think about it; just how good can the product be if it costs so much to keep it running?

1. Tech support returns your calls collect. Just hang up.

Do you have a Top 10 list? Drop me a line...

This was first published in May 2007

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