Stop Buying Hardware Before You Have Designed the System



  • I truly cannot believe that this has to be written down but it seems to be so common that I need to say it nearly once a week. Do not buy things before knowing why you are buying them or how you will be using them! Seriously, this has to be said to adults? Would you buy a car before knowing how many people you plan to haul around? Do you buy a house because knowing where you want to live? Do you buy an album before you know what songs you want to listen to?

    Yes constantly I see people buying servers, hard drives, SAN and other critical infrastructure components before they even know how they will be used! How, then, did they come to the conclusion that they even needed to buy anything? What drove them to buy the things that they did.

    The two most common examples must be "I bought a SAN, now what does it do and where do I use it?" And "I bought a server and X hard drives, what RAID level should I use?"

    Really? How did you select the number of hard drives and the types to buy without knowing already how they would be used? If you are buying hard drives based on some factor other than the needed capacity and/or performance, what would it be? This is a bit like buying a new set of tires and coming home hoping that they will fit your car (or that you even have a car!) What decision criteria could possibly have been used if all RAID and other design decisions were not already made?

    How reckless is IT spending happening out there? People are actually allowed to just run out and spend indiscriminantly and just after the fact start to figure out what might be able to be accomplished with the random equipment that has been selected. This is insane. Why would we hire IT pros when anyone throwing darts at a catalogue could order haphazardly like that.

    What blows my mind isn't that people don't know what to order or need to make decisions quickly, but that during the process they actually take the time to sit down and specifically order certain drives, numbers of drives, controllers, chassis, etc. - all of which have no basis for selection unless all of the use is known. The person ordering the gear has to know either that they have zero idea what they are doing or that they are lacking all information necessary to buy in a meaningful way. And yet, the orders get places anyway.

    Again.... I cannot believe that I actually have to say this. And yet, I do.



  • There is a thread in SW right now where we are trying to steer a guy away from just buying and looking at his whole situation first.



  • Post a link to this thread then. I see this come up once or twice a week.



  • I could not agree with you more. I am not the kind of person that takes purchases lightly. I can get HR to let me buy just about anything but that doesn't mean I am just going to throw checks at hardware when I don't have a full plan laid out. Now there is no harm window shopping to see what is out there.
    I think the main problem comes due to a lack of knowledge. So many of us want to figure out things on our own. We think we can design the "perfect" system with little to no help from anyone else. This works for some but I think a vast majority of people rely on vendors and re-sellers to tell them what they need. Many of these are not hardware agnostic vendors so they push a certain technology so they can line their pockets. (Not hating, everyone has to make a living.)
    It is our responsibility as IT professionals to take the information given and apply that to our situation. The recommendations do not always align with what the company needs. I feel very happy that I am one of those people that cannot be sold. I have been told on so many occasions that my questions are far more technical than most questions that are asked.

    I always play the "why game". Ask yourself why 5 times. If you still feel the same about your intended purchase after you think critically, it is much more likely you will make the correct (and informed!) decisions.



  • As a regular consumer of lightly used year old computer hardware, I'm going to have to ask you to delete this thread 😉



  • @MattSpeller That depends... if you purchased that year-old hardware, then why did you purchase it? If it was given to you, then you can make it do that new thing you've been waiting on some hardware to do.



  • I'm fairly certain Matt is saying he's grateful for people returning or selling their mistakes to him at a discounted price.



  • A bit of putting the cart before the horse!




  • Banned

    Or...Hire a system designer to spec the kit for you 🙂



  • @Breffni-Potter said:

    Or...Hire a system designer to spec the kit for you 🙂

    Which does not mean "ask the salesperson".



  • Scott are you saying that all sales persons are self sustaining persons with no interest in the customers needs?



  • @Breffni-Potter said:

    Or...Hire a system designer you trust/has a good reputation to spec the kit for you 🙂

    FTFY. Hope that your system designer isn't getting a kickback from a vendor to recommend their product.



  • @DustinB3403 said:

    Scott are you saying that all sales persons are self sustaining persons with no interest in the customers needs?

    I'm saying that they have a job to do and thinking that they will do a different job, a very hard and expensive one that is the job of their customers, is not the same as hiring someone who knows how to spec a machine. It has nothing to do with sales persons not having the customer's interests mind, it has to do with sales people and engineering being unrelated roles. Car salesman know the paint schemes for a car, not how to design municipal transportation systems.



  • @coliver said:

    @Breffni-Potter said:

    Or...Hire a system designer you trust/has a good reputation to spec the kit for you 🙂

    FTFY. Hope that your system designer isn't getting a kickback from a vendor to recommend their product.

    If he does, he's a salesperson 😉



  • @DustinB3403 said:

    Scott are you saying that all sales persons are self sustaining persons with no interest in the customers needs?

    If he doesn't I will. Very few sales people have their customer's needs in mind. The two needs are conflicting the sales person needs to sell in order to make himself/his company money, the customer is looking for the best possible solution for the least possible money.



  • @coliver said:

    @DustinB3403 said:

    Scott are you saying that all sales persons are self sustaining persons with no interest in the customers needs?

    If he doesn't I will. Very few sales people have their customer's needs in mind. The two needs are conflicting the sales person needs to sell in order to make himself/his company money, the customer is looking for the best possible solution for the least possible money.

    I don't see any conflict. Making a sale is unrelated to understanding the customer's needs. The customer isn't looking for that, or they would not have gone to a salesperson to give advice. Going to a salesperson is what you do when you are looking to get out of doing your due diligence or thinking through your own needs and hoping to get away without doing it in exchange for taking on huge risk and likely expense. It's an obvious tradeoff. It is always the customer avoiding the engineering and planning stages that is "at fault" forth the outcome, not the salesperson. The salesperson is not in a position to be responsible for system design (engineering) as they are a salesperson.

    If you go to your butcher and only buy meat from him if he agrees to give you stock picks, do you blame him if the stock picks are not good? Or do you blame the person trying to get free stock advice from someone who isn't a stock analyst?


  • Banned

    @coliver

    See if they have the nuts to claim they have no kickbacks or vendor agreements.

    Then, see if they are willing to sign an agreement which prohibits them from receiving benefits in kind from the vendors they recommend.

    You would not believe how many calls I have received asking to be a reseller of brand X. I was trying to spec desktops for a customer, so off I went to suppliers, only 1 of them understood we were consultants and what we were trying to do, get the spec & price, give that to end customer, then supplier invoices our customer directly and they get the hardware.

    So many vendors/suppliers don't make it easy for the guy in the middle as they want to turn you into their biggest rep.



  • @Breffni-Potter said:

    So many vendors/suppliers don't make it easy for the guy in the middle as they want to turn you into their biggest rep.

    Gods do they ever. I know as we do the same as you.



  • @Breffni-Potter said:

    So many vendors/suppliers don't make it easy for the guy in the middle as they want to turn you into their biggest rep.

    Problem for the vendors is that their only incentive for working with you, in most cases, is if you are a sales person. If you aren't making sales that they cannot make, why not keep the sales themselves to do direct with better margins?



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    If you go to your butcher and only buy meat from him if he agrees to give you stock picks, do you blame him if the stock picks are not good? Or do you blame the person trying to get free stock advice from someone who isn't a stock analyst?

    These things aren't related - the meat and the stock tips, so it's easy to understand that this is a bad decision. And while we've hashed over this topic time and time again, I haven't gotten to the point where I fully accept that the end user is to blame when they buy something a sales person sells them. But that said, I do completely agree that it's the sales person's job to sell you the most expensive thing they can get away with, regardless of if it's helpful to you or not, that's the only part that keeps me closer to agreeing with your side of this discussion.

    It's arguable that consumers (and IT) have the time/resources to spend on the massive amounts of research that it requires to get to the best/reasonable answer. Additionally not knowing what you don't know is a huge killer is making the right decision.

    I know I'm going to get a tongue lashing over this, but there it is.



  • @Dashrender said:

    These things aren't related - the meat and the stock tips, so it's easy to understand that this is a bad decision.

    Is logistics (what hardware salespeople handle) and corporate IT infrastructure related? Seems pretty obvious that a salesperson selling boxes (literally to him they are cardboard boxes full of parts) and designing an information infrastructure are unrelated tasks.

    I support that they are more related than the butcher example. Maybe more of asking the cashier at the grocery store for advice on how to cook the food that she is selling and what food your cousin will need to address her allergies.



  • @Dashrender said:

    And while we've hashed over this topic time and time again, I haven't gotten to the point where I fully accept that the end user is to blame when they buy something a sales person sells them.

    Here is why I feel this to be so:

    • The salesperson is not at fault as they (with exceptions, but generally) are completely above board and honest - they sell things, they are not engineers and not paid nor trained on what they are being asked to do. They are not IT people!!
    • The salesperson has well known and understood moral and legal obligations to their employer.
    • The salesperson has well known personal motivations to do a good job and get paid.
    • The salesperson does not control the engagement.
    • The attempted use of a salesperson to do the job of the IT person is completely controlled by the customer.

    There is one and only one party with the power or choice to truly control the situation. And that is the customer. Only the customer can engage the salesperson as something other than a salesperson. Only the customer can attempt to get "free IT" out of a uncompensated non-IT person. Who else could be at fault?

    (All assuming that the salesperson is not lying, which happens, but we are assuming the normal honest situations that we deal with every day.)



  • @Dashrender said:

    It's arguable that consumers (and IT) have the time/resources to spend on the massive amounts of research that it requires to get to the best/reasonable answer. Additionally not knowing what you don't know is a huge killer is making the right decision.

    However, all of these things are what we hire IT staff to do. This is the job of IT. Sure, we might not have the necessary resources. But there is one party (the business) responsible for paying for that advice and another (IT) responsible for giving that advice. The fault either comes, as I see it, from the business trying to get away without engaging the necessary IT resources (internal or external) or an IT department either not able to do the work that they are tasked with doing or hoping to not have to do it.



  • Much better example - Where we run into problems is the sales person asks us our current dilema and we tell them, and they propose a solution to that problem within their offerings. Now the question is, will they suggest the best, least expensive option within their offerings, or the most expensive they think they can get away with?

    Also, because these projects can rarely only depend upon a single vendor for a holistic solution, perhaps this is the flaw in my desire to put some onus on the vendor. Only ourselves, or someone specifically working with our best intentions in mind (i.e. a consultant) is able to consider all vendors, but then we are back to the resource issue of the research.



  • @Dashrender said:
    Additionally not knowing what you don't know is a huge killer is making the right decision.

    I know I'm going to get a tongue lashing over this, but there it is.

    Maybe for some of the other... but I agree with this last statement for sure. You have to be willing to admit when you are in uncharted territory and you don't know the answer to a question. That is when you absolutely must do your own research, and as you mentioned if you don't have time for the research, bring in a paid consultant to help you figure it out, not a sales person.



  • @Dashrender said:

    I know I'm going to get a tongue lashing over this, but there it is.

    it's not that they don't have the resources, no one has unlimited resources. Everyone has to make due and decide how much to invest versus how much risk to take. There is a difference between making due and doing the best with what you have, which is what SMBs need to do and what the IT people are there to do for them, and trying to ignore that responsibility and hope that by burying your head in the sand that a salesperson will feel a personal obligation to take the responsibility upon themselves for no reason, defy their own self interest and their job, learn to do the job of IT and do the job that the company and the IT people at that company decided not to do already themselves.



  • @Dashrender said:

    Much better example - Where we run into problems is the sales person asks us our current dilema and we tell them, and they propose a solution to that problem within their offerings. Now the question is, will they suggest the best, least expensive option within their offerings, or the most expensive they think they can get away with?

    That's true, but if we recognize that they are just trying to make a sale we can know to either not tell them about issues at all or to ignore them when they make recommendations.



  • @Dashrender said:

    Also, because these projects can rarely only depend upon a single vendor for a holistic solution, perhaps this is the flaw in my desire to put some onus on the vendor. Only ourselves, or someone specifically working with our best intentions in mind (i.e. a consultant) is able to consider all vendors, but then we are back to the resource issue of the research.

    Exactly. IT is not a single vendor "just buy it" affair. If it was, we could do it all without IT staff.



  • @dafyre said:

    @Dashrender said:
    Additionally not knowing what you don't know is a huge killer is making the right decision.

    I know I'm going to get a tongue lashing over this, but there it is.

    Maybe for some of the other... but I agree with this last statement for sure. You have to be willing to admit when you are in uncharted territory and you don't know the answer to a question. That is when you absolutely must do your own research, and as you mentioned if you don't have time for the research, bring in a paid consultant to help you figure it out, not a sales person.

    Or be willing to take the risk of having someone someone who is obviously acting mostly against your interest (salesperson trying to make money off of you) make the decisions on your behalf. That's a BIG risk and if you cross that line you should question your business goals and if this makes sense. Given that there are ways to get free advice, like here in ML, where the payoff to people is primarily is building reputation and publishing advice for many people and using issues as a learning experience rather than making money on a sale.... it is pretty hard to justify having a salesperson put in the position of doing the engineering.


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