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Checklist: Eight no-nonsense steps to buying storage products

What you will learn: How to make effective storage-related decisions and purchases based on a simple eight-step process used by the Evaluator Group, a storage consultancy. Click here

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This checklist simplifies the decision making process by giving you a formula for evaluating new technologies. Using these suggestions can help you obtain products that suit the needs of your organization.

Eight no-nonsense steps to buying storage products

Step 1: Understand your business requirements and needs

Gain a clear understanding of your business needs and requirements in order to select a product with the best value that meets your needs. By not understanding your business requirements, you leave yourself open to being swayed by product "bells and whistles" that may not be applicable to your business needs.

Step 2: Identify your technical requirements

This involves mapping your business needs to the technologies that are available. The features and functions of the candidate's solution should satisfy your business needs and objectives. Understanding what is essential enables you to avoid spending extra time and effort on unnecessary details. In other words, this helps to eliminate what is known as "analysis paralysis," when you become too focused on details that do not satisfy your business requirements. You may choose to conduct a request for information (RFI), which is sent out to different vendors to get ideas on possible product alternatives, as part of this step. If you are looking for some ideas as to technical criteria for evaluating technology, Click here to download free product evaluation criteria workbooks from the Evaluator Group. You may want to use these workbooks as is, or eliminate specific details that are not suitable to your environment.

Step 3: Identify alternative products to meet your requirements

There can be many different approaches and solutions to meet your specific needs and preferences. Understanding your needs and requirements from the previous two steps come into play at this point. Sources for learning about alternative technology include seminars, webinars and industry conferences. You can also ask your prospective vendors to recommend alternatives or seek advice from consultants who know and understand your business environment.

Step 4: Gather information about alternative products

Gathering information about various product alternatives can be time consuming, and the sources can vary. Possible sources for information include vendor Web sites, Web portals, magazines, webinars, white papers, sales brochures, books, vendor presentations, consultants and industry analysts. The information comes in different formats, styles, levels of detail and terminology, making an apples-to-apples comparison difficult. Sifting through vendor hype and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) can also compound the process of gathering and analyzing information. To facilitate subsequent steps, organize your evaluation data in a consistent format and clarify data so that you can make apples-to-apples comparisons. If you are making a request for quote (RFQ) or request for proposal (RFP), specify the format for vendor responses.

Step 5: Develop comparisons based on your requirements

Having identified suitable product alternatives that are appropriate for your business and application needs, compare them to see if they meet your minimum requirement. Determine what features are mandatory and which are discretionary, also known as "nice to have." This helps to avoid being sidetracked and focusing on "shiny toys" and "interesting technology" that may not be addressing your core business needs and requirements.

Step 6: Develop a shortlist of vendors and technology and pre-qualify them

By utilizing your technology and product comparisons, you can narrow down your choices to a few products that meet your minimum requirements. While it may be interesting or fun to evaluate multiple vendors or solutions, it is important to narrow down as much as possible so that you focus your attention on applicable solutions. As part of this process, engage in non-disclosure discussions with prospective vendors, looking at short-term and long-term strategies and plans.

Step 7: Select candidate vendors and negotiate from an informed perspective

Being adequately prepared enables you to meet with product providers that meet your requirements. Leverage the previous steps, as well as the information collected, as part of this process. Strive for a good, effective price. But remember that the lowest price solution may not always be the best solution. As part of your negotiations, you can also secure performance and functionality warranties and guarantees. Also, do not forget to include in your accessory items: cabling, extra hardware, license fees, environmental (cooling and power) and media kits for software.

Step 8: Implement your plan and deploy your new storage technology

Congratulations! Assuming that you have followed the first seven steps, you have hopefully chosen the best product that meets your company's needs. Now, you're ready for implementation and deployment of your acquisition.

While this step takes place after you make your decision, you should start the planning and implementation process at an earlier point in time. Having a rough plan for implementation can help in negotiating and evaluating the acquisition price of different products.

Those who recognize this eight-step process as being simple and involving common sense are 100% correct. Avoiding complexity helps to reduce costs and leads to more informed and effective purchasing decisions. You can learn more about making effective and informed storage decisions at www.evaluatorgroup.com.

About the author: Greg Schulz is a senior analyst with the independent storage analysis firm the Evaluator Group Inc.

For more information:

Choosing storage technologies

Topics: Data management

How to select effective storage management tools

This was first published in June 2005

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