Last week, while attending a local business event, a friend was happily telling me about the $100 router he bought at Staples for his 15-person consulting firm. Not only that, but he also picked up three new laptops that were on sale.
I did my best to bite my tongue, but I knew he had likely just bought himself some trouble down the road.
Short-Term Benefits with Long-Term Costs
These days, when it comes to purchasing tech-related equipment for your business, the options are nearly unlimited in terms of both what you buy and who you buy it from.
That’s mostly good news. More options tend to mean more choice, more convenience, and better prices. However, basing your purchase decisions on the short-term aspects of these elements is often a mistake.
Yes, you may benefit in the short run. But making decisions of this type without considering other factors is likely to have a longer term, negative impact on both your wallet and the quality of service you can expect.
That’s why for all but the smallest businesses (one- or two-person companies), I strongly recommend against outfitting your company with an afternoon trip to Staples or a purchase on Amazon. Instead, you need “business class” equipment.
Two Key Elements
When it comes to tech hardware, most small and mid-size companies rely on two major items:
#1 Network equipment. Firewall, network switch, wireless access point(s). The network switch is what ties it all together, giving network access (wired or wireless) to your office computers as well as connectivity out to the Internet.
#2. Computers. Laptops, desktops, tablets, etc.
These elements are easily acquired online, in retail stores, or through your Internet service provider (e.g., Verizon, Comcast). But much of what you come across in this way, as opposed to purchasing equipment through an IT service provider, is consumer-grade and not sufficient for running a business.
The network equipment you buy at Staples or rent from your cable company usually has a firewall built in. It works, but it’s not enough to protect you from bad actors.
A business-class firewall, on the other hand, can do ongoing, deep analysis of the Internet traffic going into and out of your network, looking for and preventing malware, viruses, etc.
This is important for any business, but even more so if yours is in any way regulated, such as health care or financial services. These have specific requirements regarding the level of protection you must provide for the client data you maintain.
Business class equipment is designed and built to last longer and break less often. Just as a building contractor doesn’t use the same tools you and I may buy at Home Depot, your network needs higher quality components to operate reliably.
After all, it’s one thing if you are without Netflix at home for a day or two. If your company is without Internet access for that long, the impact can be severe.
Depending on where you live, many people now have access to gigabit-speed service. That’s great; a bigger pipe means faster data transfer.
Unless… you use consumer-oriented products which may not be capable of taking advantage of the higher speeds.
Consumer and business-class computers use similar components — processor, RAM, drive, etc. But, if you purchase a nonbusiness device and call for support, you will be directed to a group whose primary objective is to minimize the cost of fixing your problem.They assume you are a novice and will make you jump through many hoops to prove that the equipment — not you — is at fault.
Business-class equipment is supported by people whose goal is to help you solve the problem as quickly and easily as possible.
You Get What You Pay For
Believe me, I have no interest in your spending more time or money than necessary in purchasing and maintaining your office network.
But there comes a point — and it arrives very early in the lifespan of any growing business — where you need to step up and invest in the technical equipment necessary to run your organization as efficiently and reliably as possible.