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Anything But the White Box

Martin DesRosiersby Martin DesRosiers @ Fully Managed™
Posted 4 years ago

With hardware costs being at an all-time low, you are presented with a variety of options and vendors when looking for a new laptop, desktop, or server. Consumers tend to focus on the sticker price and not the manufacturer or build quality which can often lead to additional costs due to a variety of reasons which I'll touch on later. The bottom line is that sticking to Tier-1 vendors will save you numerous headaches down the road and I'll explain why.

What is a Tier-1 vendor? Well, a Tier-1 vendor is classified as the largest or most well known brand in its market space. These would be companies like Dell, HP, and IBM when it comes to computer hardware. Choosing a Tier-1 vendor provides you with superior build quality, reliable support, and enhanced warranty options. What about the white-boxes that can save you a couple hundred dollars? Let's take a standard small business server for example. When shopping for a server, most people tend to stick with Tier-1 vendors, however, there are quite a few that would rather look at white-box options.

You may save a couple hundred dollars upfront but you're essentially paying for a mishmash of equipment from different vendors put together at the lowest possible price-point. Some of you are probably thinking, who cares if the server is put together using parts from different manufacturers, if I can save $500 then that's all that matters! Let me breakdown the pros and cons which will give you a good indication of why this matters:

Warranty

White-box vendors typically only attach 1 or 2 year warranties with their products. Why? well, even white-box vendors acknowledge the risk associated with 'blending' different hardware manufacturers to create one product offering such as a server. Tier-1 vendors typically offer a 3 year warranty with their products, however, some even offer lifetime warranties on their products as HP does with their networking line.

Support

What if you experience a hardware failure or just need help with your system? With a white-box solution, you would then need to engage the vendor, who would then need to engage the manufacturer depending upon the part that failed. As you can see, there are plenty of 'hoops' you must jump through and turnaround time may be weeks. If you encounter a failure with a Tier-1 vendor system, it's easy, you have one number to call and they can generally supply you with a replacement part next business day. Using the white-box method of blending parts from different vendors creates a support nightmare as you are faced with multiple points of failure with multiple numbers to call.

Stability

Servers from Tier-1 vendors are put through the testing gauntlet before hitting the stores, this process ensures compatibility with all hardware components and allows the vendor to guarantee stability and performance. On the flipside, white-box servers are slapped together with different parts from different vendors, they are not 'certified' or rigorously tested in most cases. Tier-1 vendors focus on stability, performance, and reliability whereas most white-box vendors simply focus on overall system cost, which can lead to cheap parts within the final server build.

If you examine the key differences between a server from a Tier-1 vendor versus a white-box, you will clearly see that the initial buying decision based on cost when choosing a white-box will actually cost you more money in the long run. That being said, no vendor is perfect, not even all Tier-1 vendors, however, they guarantee stability and can react to warranty and support issues when needed. This equates to saving you from headaches, the time associated dealing with them, and most importantly, cold hard cash.


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