Friday, June 22, 2012

A Dark Secret of the IT World That Hurts Your Business

A long time ago, at a customer that no longer exists, BHF and I recommended a new firewall to the CIO. We specified a low-end Sonicwall because all they really needed was spam and porn filtering for fewer than 50 users. The CIO thanked us and sent us on our way.

Ten days later, the CIO called us to install an All-In-One Web Appliance that was the new firewall, spam filter, porn filter, FTP server, email server, web server, e-commerce host and network router! I couldn't resist asking the CIO why he didn't get the version that made cappuccino.

I am not a huge fan of multi-function appliances of this ilk. They rarely perform any of their functions well and when one part breaks, the whole thing breaks. Not to mention, they are usually absolute overkill. But, we did as we were asked and we installed the monster. I'll spare you the sordid nightmare tale that this appliance unleashed. It was a constant source of misery, grief and unhappiness for us.

It wasn't until four months later that I accidentally discovered the manufacturer had given the CIO a very hefty "commission" for buying their appliance. Aside from screamingly unethical, it was simply the wrong tool for the job. All they needed was an Internet firewall that could filter porn and spam. They should have spent $700 but instead they spent closer to $7500! Ridiculous.

However, you'd be surprised how often this happens. IT personnel are under constant bombardment with offers of commissions if they convince you to buy. It sucks that a business owner has to ask themselves if the IT recommendation is for the right business product or if it offers the highest kickback.

It was shortly after this episode that BHF and I cancelled all of our relationships with hardware vendors. We agreed that we would never earn a kickback on equipment we recommended since it would only tarnish the validity of our recommendation. Our integrity is too valuable to sell for a few dollars in kickbacks.

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