In my previous article I talked about the Black Swan event that led to the current tech shortages we are experiencing.
In this article I wanted to address one of the main questions I have received. Why don’t I just buy what is available and build or resell those products?
There are certain parts and brands I trust. This is based on years of testing, reliability, customer and dealer (Me) service and warranty care. Ward Computers does not just buy and build, we create products that exceed the customers’ needs and last far beyond the industry standard. While the industry wants me to sell you new technology (Computers, laptops, servers, routers, switches et al) every three years our product life averages more than double that.
I could buy brands of switches and routers and NAS units that are “on the self” of my distributors but I won’t, and I won’t buy just any computer components to build you or any customer a system.
Back in 2004, I had just finished my book “A Novice Guide to Optimizing and Tweaking every PC” when a tsunami hit the coast of south east Asia, wiping out the main factory that provided the spindles for Seagate and Western Digital and many other hard drives.
This caused an immediate shortage of hard drives and dramatic price increases. This lasted almost a year. As a result, I bought some brands of hard drives that I knew about through the industry but had not used and tested.
These drives were built during a time of crisis and shortage of parts. As a result, no matter how good the brand had been, they tended to die within their warranty period. “No problem” you think, you had a warranty. Unfortunately, that is not as “easy” as one would initially think. The replacement drives are always “refurbished” which means they too were built or rebuilt with factory parts that were produced during the crisis or refurbished parts that normally would have not been used. As a result, every “warranty” drive failed in 10 to 18 months.
Also the warranty drives were only warrantied for 90 days, no matter how much was left on the original drives warranty. So a 5 year warranty drive that died in 18 months was replaced with a drive that only had 90 days of warranty, not the remaining 42 months. See the problem here?
As a customer you would lose faith in a company that provided you with two “bad” drives.
Now add to this that the drives may be covered under warranty, but the data and its recovery are not. When you need to install the operating system, normal working programs like JAVA, Adobe Air, Reader, Flash, Shockwave and the office programs, and specialty software and then recover data, you are talking a 10 to 20-hour investment. The hard drive manufactures do not pay that. We, at Ward Computers did not feel that the customer should pay this either, so we sucked it up. That is not “cheap”. Our rates were about $45 an hour back then. That means we ate $450 to $900 for each system.
Now, we need to add to this the way data was backed up then, especially when large amounts of data were backed up. Normal backups of instant changes, hourly and even daily were rare. It was normal for a customer to “lose” 1 to 7 days of data. This may be acceptable to “Harvey Homeowner” however a dental office losing 7 days of work, and billing, and the appointments that where scheduled, and changed is unacceptable. As a result, we lost every single client that had the 2nd drive fail, no matter what we did. All as a result of a part and manufacturer we normally did not use but bought in a desperate time.
Fast-forwarded to 2008 or 2009 when an earthquake and tsunami took out several manufacturing plants for memory (RAM). As a result, RAM prices doubled in a week, then quadrupled within the month, if you could get any. Once again, we had to settle for the brands we could get, and once again we got burned. In several instanced the RAM was obviously bad and warranty replaced by the manufacturer, withing 60 days. Yes, it was taking 60 days to get customers computers back up and running, guess who they took it out on? The manufacturer they could not see or the company that provided the product? That is right us. This was not the only unfortunate issue.
We had three customers who had supraoptic issues that could not be caught in testing. It would take hours or even days for the issues to occur. When we finally were able to figure out it was RAM, we replaced it with our normal brand we trust (Crucial). The manufacturers of the other brands don’t give money back so we had to eat that loss. In all three cases we also ended up losing the customers, even though we did the work for free, apologized for the manufacturers and paid out of pocket for the new parts and labor. Again, this was a loss Ward Computers ate, both in time, product and lost customers / goodwill.
Fast forward to this Black Swan event. We could buy AMD CPU’s but we won’t (See my Intel CPU article). We could buy generic or “budget” switches and routers but we won’t. We did get one budget router that ended up being flaky. It was a brand we trust and use their more expensive models. The budget model dropped connections and was unstable. A warranty replacement was going to take 2 weeks. I don’t imagine that you would want your business to operate without the internet for that long. Once again, we found a business model of the product, bought that and put it in for the customer. Once again, we ate the labor for the initial install, the time for the 2nd install and configuration of the router and the price of the initial router (we discounted the business model so the customer still got a deal. We also found out the manufacturer doesn’t even make the budget model anymore, the one we had purchased from distribution was sitting on the shelf. And they don’t warranty items and the manufacturer wants to have us pay the difference for a replacement, the price they offered us was less than the freight we would have to pay to ship it to them. Another loss on our part.
I also ended up getting a partially built server from a Super Micro distributor. The CPU fans ran in quiet mode at 8,000 RPM and 9,000 RPM in “standard” mode. It sounded like an aircraft taking off. They (the distributor and manufacturer) would not warranty this, so once again, we are eating about $2,000. They both claim it Is not a defect, I disagree and the customer refused to accept the server due to the noise. I ended up paying a 25% restocking fee and $160 freight and Insurance to send the server back.
So no, we won’t be building computers or servers with what we can get, we will wait until the products we trust are available. We will scour the internet for the products we use, trying to find good deals for our customers from reputable distributors. We don’t buy from Amazon or eBay.
If it takes Ward Computers a little while to get your computer or other technology to you, please bear with us. I have one part that has been on order since December 27th 2019. We are trying to get you the brands we trust, save you time with troublesome equipment and keep you as a customer.
Until we meet again, have a virus free week.