Making an enterprise-level purchase can be an arduous and painful task. You might find yourself demoing a product for a few months, waiting weeks for approval, and even with testing, a temporary failure or problem can nix the entire cycle. Don't be fooled though, this sorrow-filled quest to make larger sales can be successful. These preliminary negotiations typically touch on the psychological pulls of a client's needs, concerns, and fears.
Price is almost always the first need to address, as any given solution must also be cost effective for the client. The main initial concern is capability, or whether the product can fully perform the duties to which it will be assigned. And finally, the biggest fear (and a large reason for the extended cycle) is service and consistency, or put another way: will the product maintain the stated abilities for months at a time, and if not, will the vendor respond with a timely and no-hassle solution to the problem?
While 'price', 'capability', and 'service' are the initial touch points of a larger sale, monitoring devices and providers have more bases to cover. Keep these questions in mind before choosing your next monitoring provider, and don't let the initial touch points distract you from these other important considerations for purchasing.
1. How does your warranty work?
This is somewhat along the lines of the service 'fear' that we discussed above. Check out our blog post on warranties for temperature sensors to read more about this issue (specific to a known vendor). Sensors and hardware may not fall under the same warranty agreement, and warranties on sensors can often be painfully short (90 days in some cases). Before committing to a purchase, be sure to ask your monitoring provider about the odds, ends and details about your warranty. When possible, purchase extended warranties to insure the products (especially in a larger deployment).
2. Is Telephone Support included?
Be careful. A vendor is likely to provide hands-on support and service in the testing phases of a sale, but the ongoing lifecycle of the product is a more pertinent support concern. How will the product be supported over time (even with a warranty)? How are small-scale technical issues addressed, and how seamless is the return process? Don't forget, low-quality service and support can make the most well-insured product into an RMA hassle, so make an honest assessment of their support capabilities. One of the most common mistakes is to utilize a vendor with little (or no) phone support, leaving you stuck with discussion forums and (un)helpful support articles. These will be general, they will not be specific, and it truly takes the touch of a phone specialist to troubleshoot software, firmware, and other technical hiccups. Remember the red phone in each Apple Store that had a direct line to an Apple super-specialist from headquarters? That type of support is priceless. Make sure to press your monitoring provider on support agreements, and ensure that capable support personnel can be reached by phone at all times.
3. How often do you update your hardware/software, and will our deployment be obsolete in the near future?
We know that honesty is the best policy, but sometimes, monitoring vendors may not be interested in that practice. Don't always assume that the online product is the finished masterpiece, and remember that revs and product evolution happen fairly frequently. You wouldn't want to purchase dozens (or hundreds) of first generation monitoring hardware if they were soon to be replaced by the second generation. The same applies for software; how will you be made aware of changes and updates? Do these updates affect your deployment, or are they meaningless add-ons that look to sap more cash out of your budget? Are there important compliance features that you're required to follow? Is the device legally certified to meet the requirement?
All of these questions are often passed by the wayside in the onset of the sale. We're often distracted by budget projections, out-of-the-box capabilities, and the preliminary installation processes. Don't forget these underlying questions when you chat with your potential provider, and make sure to cover all of your monitoring bases without failure!