Building Computers in a Business Environment



  • In a bit of an argument with friends of a friend on Facebook right now. Some of you might have heard of Carey Holzman. He's a pretty prolific tech blogger and video producer online. He also used to be co-host to the Computer America show. Well, he's all about building computers. Well, apparently it's among his friends' (and his I'm guessing) that building computers in a business/corporate environment is best practice.

    https://www.facebook.com/CareyHolzman/posts/10152928665566554 (discussion starts about halfway down)

    Their argument is that it's cheaper and you get better computers. The one guy was saying how he had to deal with HP support and they were atrocious. My rebuttle? Well, do you have a support contract? I do agree that part for part, you can get better machines, as a rule, by building them than buying them. However, this type of work belongs at home or in a lab environment at best. Not in production machines. If I have an HP or Dell workstation, and something dies, I have one vendor I call. If my company is smart, I have 24 hour TAT for parts replacements under a support contract. Obviously with servers you have 4-hour TAT.

    I don't have to go to the machine, figure out which part it is, determine the vendor to call, and then gamble on that specific vendor's support. Maybe I get the replacement part in 24 hours, maybe it takes 2-4 weeks. The level of accountability goes down. In a business sized 5 workstations or less, ok, building might not be the worst option, as dollars and cents are what are the bottom line. But in an SMB, and even more so in a corporate environment, there's too much to manage. Too many things to keep track of. In an average computer, you have 7 critical components, assuming you have things like video onboard the motherboard.

    • Motherboard
    • RAM
    • HDD/SSD
    • Case
    • CPU
    • PSU
    • OS
    • optical drive (optional at this point in history)
    • GPU (if needed for use or if motherboard has no onboard video)

    Those are the core components. So if you say the PSU, CPU, HDD and/or SSD (we'll say you only have one drive for the sake of argument), RAM, and motherboard are all different vendors, that's five different vendors numbers to track, serial numbers to have to dig up, etc. If it's all from HP, you call HP and it's their problem.

    Am I completely off-base here?



  • Here is the easiest rebuttal... big shops with deep pockets to do serious research as to what is the most cost effective method of getting desktops and laptops for large scale environments always choose commercially build desktops. Always. No Fortune 100 doesn't buy from HP, Dell, Lenovo or Apple. None. Why?

    Because they've studied the support agreements, tested them, checked the prices and determined that this is how they make the most money. It is trivial for a Fortune 100 to build their own desktops - but they can't build them and support them like the big vendors can. They just can't be that cost effective.

    The best parts and the most engineering is available only to the big vendors. That's just how it is.



  • @thanksaj said:

    Carey Holzman. He's a pretty prolific tech blogger and video producer online. He also used to be co-host to the Computer America show. Well, he's all about building computers. Well, apparently it's among his friends' (and his I'm guessing) that building computers in a business/corporate environment is best practice.

    It's not a best practice according to either IT or business professionals. It's "best practice for gamers and hobbyists." Whiteboxing can be a fun and rewarding hobby and can be useful in very specific niche scenarios. He's into tin foil hat territory.



  • You can't actually build better whileboxes than commercial machines. Whitebox parts are not available at the same quality and volume so they cost more and deliver less. Whitebox engineers design for gamers, not for business.



  • I've never heard of a real business, with a real support contract having support issues from any of those vendors. If someone is having support issues likely they are an SMB, forgot to get support or doesn't understand how to engage a vendor. Having worked with HP for eight years where average response time was under fifteen minutes (literally) I don't buy this argument at all.

    I think the desire for large scale whiteboxing in large organizations comes from a combination of not understanding the equipment, not understanding the role of IT, not understanding how to manage support contracts and not understanding the business aspects of IT.



  • Bottom line, don't try to have a heated discussion around something like this because....

    • Building PCs isn't an IT job, it is a bench services (pre-IT) job. It can be lumped into the IT department, sure, but the skills and work are not considering to be IT Pro work or experience. It's a hardware assembly job.
    • The logic for why it doesn't make sense comes from IT and its understanding of business context.

    So the pre-pro IT people who want to build machines for a living are rarely going to be exposed to, aware of or concerned about the business context that makes IT more than just "guys who play with computers."



  • The way I look at it, HP build PCs in Eastern Europe where they pay staff a pittance (at least they used to, I guess they might be assembled in China now), they have hugely beneficial agreements with Microsoft on the licencing, and massive buying power for all the components and yet they still can't sell them to me and make any money which is why they've been trying to sell their PC business for years. If they were making huge margins I might think I can get some of the action, but they're doing all this for me for pretty much no profit. I'm happy to leave them to it..



  • @Carnival-Boy said:

    The way I look at it, HP build PCs in Eastern Europe where they pay staff a pittance (at least they used to, I guess they might be assembled in China now), they have hugely beneficial agreements with Microsoft on the licencing, and massive buying power for all the components and yet they still can't sell them to me and make any money which is why they've been trying to sell their PC business for years. If they were making huge margins I might think I can get some of the action, but they're doing all this for me for pretty much no profit. I'm happy to leave them to it..

    That's a great way to look at it. They have huge scale in parts, huge scale for MS licensing agreements and the ability to source everything from locations that cost far less than "in house" IT will cost. And their margins are effectively zero. You can leverage that scale or you can do everything yourself.

    If you have internal bench services, pay them minimum wage and keep them busy around the clock.... you still can't match the cost that the big vendors have. If you want the people assembling your computers to have any skill, get paid a reasonable amount (more than a gas station attendant) and to do so in high cost locations (like anywhere in the US or UK) then you can't match the prices or come anywhere close. And heaven forbid that you have any moment where the tasks for the bench are not completely repetitive and predictable or that they are not kept 100% busy. Then it really all falls apart.


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