This quarter has been brisk helping clients with updates and upgrades to their hardware and systems.  In today’s world of IT, there are a plethora of choices.  Clients often ask me: “Keith, how do I know what to buy?  I know we need to upgrade, but vendors are quoting systems that simply leave me confused.” So, I thought it was time to help provide you (our loyal readers) the inside scoop on how to understand technology buying options and product lines.

Should I buy the Chevy or the BMW?

First, you have to understand that manufacturers of technology aren’t that much different than car manufacturers.   At some point or another, all of us have had to buy a car (or if you live in Texas … a Truck).  The first time we buy a car, we often are budget conscious and steer toward the lower models with cloth seats and few options.  Later in life, as we get more successful, we often choose more upscale models with more features and better options.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely prefer power windows, key-less entry, and push button start over my old manual, hand-crank windows.

Businesses do the same thing.  When they first start out, they often make poor technology choices in order to keep costs low.  Some of them realize that these choices are temporary, but many do not.  As their businesses grow, they still keep making the same poor technology choices without realizing that better options always exist.

Classes of Technology

The best way to think about your technology for your business is to truly understand the market. Traditionally, there are three main tiers of technology in the market place.  The lines have begun to blur in a few market-spaces, but ultimately the three tier rules still apply.

The Three Tiers of Technology

  • SOHO
  • Mid-Tier/Business Class
  • Enterprise

SOHO – Small Office / Home Office – (run, run away)

SOHO technology is where a lot of business go horribly wrong.  SOHO technology options are readily available at Best Buy, Staples, Fry’s, Microcenter, or any of your other favorite retailers.  Unless you are a startup running out of your garage, you should *never, ever, ever, ever, ever* run your business on SOHO gear.  Feel free to buy this stuff for your home office, but don’t run essential business operations on something you purchase from retail.  The quality/support just isn’t there.

Mid-Tier/Business Class Gear – (fits like your favorite soft, fluffy bunny slippers)

Most SMB/Medium-sized business clients should live here.  Mid-Tier technologyoptions are unlimited from good quality manufacturers and will typically give you 3-5 years of lifetime with little to no trouble.  There are many technologies (like switches, firewalls, and routers) that might get your business 7 years of use for only a few hundred dollars more than its small business counterpart.  This technology (with a few exceptions) is only available online or direct from the manufacturer.  You should be working with a good SMB Vendor/Partner (be sure to confirm their technology architecture experience!) to help you get the best gear for your dollar.  For the savvy IT Manager or business owner, you can find a lot of Mid-Tier gear available on Amazon today.

Here is a list of some of the main Mid-Tier vendors to help you get your bearings (a lot of these overlap into the Enterprise arena as well)

Dell, IBM, Lenovo, Apple, HP, Cisco, TrendNet, APC, Cyberpower, Nutanix, NexSan, Tegile, VMware, Microsoft, Intel

**There are hundreds, if not thousands of mid-tier software choices, so I can’t even begin to list those.  This is why a good IT partner is essential ( if they are really good, they may introduce you to great refurb equipment with a three year warranty…and boost your budget!).

Enterprise Technology – (It’s not just for your Starship anymore)

As most businesses grow, they will find that there are aspects of their business that are more important than others.  These unique components will fall into the Enterprise class of hardware and software. Enterprise technology is designed to be state-of-the-art, have exceptional quality, and provide real support for the ultimate uptime solutions.  Businesses invest (yes, it is an investment) in Enterprise-class equipment and software for the most important processes in their organization. If you need uptime, features, or exceptional support, you should always buy Enterprise-class equipment and software.

Going Wrong with the Enterprise

Several of our small and medium business clients have gotten burned (before coming to us) in their IT purchases by going Enterprise too early.  They spend a lot of money on technology they don’t truly need.  Just like going too small, going too big can be costly and hard on the company as it grows.  The cost to maintain the systems can choke the growth of any business. A lot of Vendor Partners steer their customers to Enterprise class gear for the support even if the client is too small to need it.  Don’t get burned, get educated!

Going BIG!

If your business is 250+ employees, there should be a significant portion of your non-cloud infrastructure already at the Enterprise level.  Note the word ‘significant’.   Other than hospitals or banking, there are few industries that need every piece of equipment in their organization to be Enterprise-ready.  The cost savings of just keeping the non-essential portions of your IT infrastructure Mid-Tier can be substantial.

Why is it an Investment?!?!

If you aren’t investing in Enterprise infrastructure, you are investing in “people time” instead.  Where the technology falls short, you spend more money on time.  To put it simply:


A good technology investment should save you time and money. 

A bad technology investment always costs more of both.