Are you getting the best prices for your IT equipment?
Do you know what the market rate is for what you intend to purchase?
Are you buying a brand name that you’ve heard of rather than looking at what is available?
Do you always buy the latest technology rather than seeing what offers are available for last years model or package?
If these questions have provoked thoughts about whether you’re getting the best deal, then read on. This blog applies to both home and business users and there are some great little tricks out there to get better value with your IT purchases. Some need a little work on your behalf, but you can get some products for a fraction of the new price and use free upgrade offers to get the best value.
Some hardware tricks
Investment in hardware is generally the most expensive IT purchase most companies or individuals will make. There are some really good ways of getting great products for really good prices, and all it takes is a little bit of research.
For example if you wanted a DELL business grade laptop which is the DELL Latitude series and you wanted 3 years on-site warranty with it, it actually works out cheaper to buy a higher spec of laptop and get the warranty included than it does to buy a lower grade machine and pay for the upgrade. If you go for the DELL entry level E5520 with 4GB RAM, Intel i-5 processor and 3 years NBD on-site warranty, you’ll part with £839 + VAT. If you buy the E6520 which come with the same RAM, Processor and warranty it will cost you £694 + VAT. That’s £145 cheaper and a better chassis, so in DELL’s eyes, a better machine.
You can do this across the entire range of DELL machines, from desktops to server and everything in-between.
If you are bulk buying weigh up your options by manufacturer. Find a DELL you like, a HP machine that you like, a Lenovo, Toshiba and Samsung if you’re looking at laptops. Marry the specifications so you are looking at like for like, then ask a number of suppliers for prices. You’ll be surprised how quickly discounts can be applied and you can save up to 33% on already discounted prices if you are buying in enough quantity. If you need monitors too, make sure you get discount on those as well, or source them elsewhere. A 23″ LG monitor (made by LG) is about £95 + VAT. A 23″ DELL monitor (not made by DELL) is £149 + VAT. On 10 machines purchased, you’d save £540 just on monitors alone, and get better monitors.
For home users there is an art to savvy internet shopping. It’s really straightforward and doesn’t require too much time.
Find the product you want. For laptops for home use, I tend to go for Samsung, great bits of kit and they also make most of the components (unlike most of the other manufacturers). Once you’ve found the product you want, check out if any of the supermarkets are selling them. If they are, check for money off vouchers for your first order. I purchased a Samsung laptop that was reduced from £549 to £349 in a sale and got a further 10% off my first order. £314.10 for a £549 laptop. That’s a bargain.
Also check out sites such as Amazon and ebay. Buy new unless you’re prepared to accept that the last owner could have been a Luddite and the machine has been pieced back together with superglue and sticky back plastic.
The final tip is for people buying servers. If you are going to spend on a server, get the best specification possible, but for the right price.
I tend to stick to DELL and HP. Both put together some great bits of hardware and both are negotiable on price. If you’re planning to run Small Business Server on it, get at least 16GB RAM, and make sure that isn’t capacity. The more users, the more services running, the more Exchange will eat your RAM and not give it back.
I always spec servers using the 2 down rule. Find the best processor, and select 2 models down. This may mean you get a Quad Core Xeon 3.33Ghz processor instead of a Quad Core Xeon 3.66Ghz processor, but unless you’re planning on crunching some pretty heavy SQL reports, you’ll never use the capacity of a 3.33Ghz, let alone it’s triple priced sibling.
For hard drives you should always do a bit of capacity planning before you purchase. If you every plan to use 2TB of disk space then buy 3 x 2TB SATA drives and run them as a RAID 1 with online spare. Quick reliable configuration with some added extra resilience built in. But check out if 4 x 1TB drives are cheaper than buying 3 x 2TB, you might just find that they are and you can get 2TB of disk space with a RAID 5 plus online spare
If you don’t plan to ever use more than 1TB of disk space, go for 4 x 500GB SATA drives and put them in a RAID 5 with an online spare. This should work out much cheaper than buying 3 x 1TB.
When you go through the various configuration options, do not add any of the following unless you specifically need them:
Extra network cards – all servers come with at least 2. SBS 2008 and SBS 2011 don’t like you using 2, they only like 1 so save your money
Tape Drives or attached storage – Unless you are a big business with money to throw at off-site storage then stick to removable disks for your backups
Backup software – SBS 2008 and SBS 2011 both have fabulous backup software installed. You can recover a server in about 45 minutes from the image backup. Unless you want bare-metal restoration (and you’ve just purchased a new server so identical replacement hardware is easily aquired), then this isn’t really needed.
iLO or remote management – These are great if someone actually monitors the server. If they don’t, then you’ve just wasted £300
Installation services – If you’re buying a server and need it installed, then approach a local IT company to do this for you. That way they will listen to what you want and configure the server to your needs. They will also be available 2 days later if something needs changing, whereas your HP or DELL engineer will be asking for £99 to have a look remotely before he tells you that they only support up to operating system level.
To get the best prices, make sure you know what you want, and also what you actually need…these can very often be different.
Have an idea when you want to replace it, and how much you want to pay. The cheapest solution has never been the best unless they are like for like solutions.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me