“You get what you pay for.” This expression conveys the idea that the value of something is directly proportional to how much you paid for it. However, when purchasing information technology (hardware, software or services), cost is one of several factors to consider. Here are five questions to ask before you make your next IT purchase.
What am I buying?
Choosing a computer or smart phone is like choosing a vehicle – how you’ll use it defines what makes the most sense. A 2-seater sports car doesn’t work for a family of 6, nor does a minivan fit the lifestyle of an ambitious single adult. If your office work is mainly email, internet access, correspondence, and spreadsheets, a higher end device will not offer much more than a mid range model. If you’re a graphic designer, engineer, or videographer, more processing speed and storage capacity are always welcome. Compare the specifications of various models side by side – the reason for price differences should be clear.
Why am I buying it?
There are several genuine reasons for purchasing new technology: you can’t function without it (cell phone), it’ll make you more efficient (computer), or your existing one is malfunctioning. Obsolescence is another good reason to buy – old technology can hinder more than help. Your old devices can’t run newer software, and inevitably your old software will be discontinued. Be careful of upgrading just to have the newest features. Salespeople will try to upsell you on these extras, but why spend money on functionality you’re not likely to use?
Where am I buying it?
Personal preference plays a large part in determining where people shop. Some dislike supporting big box stores based in the United States. Others are concerned that smaller, local stores will disappear before the warranty expires. Finding the best place to buy often involves a trade-off. Big chains like Costco and Best Buy offer more selection and easier returns, but their sales staff can be quick to recommend before they understand your needs. Smaller retailers may take time to ensure you get the right product, but usually have stricter return or exchange policies. Check out after sales support and return policies before you buy.
How am I going to buy it?
Not so long ago, your only choice for shopping was your local mall. However, online shopping has changed the retail landscape. Buying online offers better selection and lower prices, but often at the expense of good customer service. Warranty claims and returns can be difficult, and you may have to pay restocking fees or shipping charges. Retail stores offer in-person customer service, and easier returns or exchanges, but often have less selection and higher prices. A third option combines the benefits of online shopping with the convenience of in-person customer service. Order online from a retail chain for pickup at a local store.
New or Used?
Another area that has flourished online is the buying and selling of used items. Craig’s List, Kijiji, and local Facebook pages offer numerous “deals” on computers, smart phones, software, and accessories. Buying second hand can save money. (Of the 12 pieces of hardware in TechFit’s office, only two were purchased new.) However, if you’re considering used equipment, take into account that you will spend more time setting it up, won’t have a warranty, and can’t return it. Given these factors, it may not worth the savings. Also, beware of purchasing stolen goods, especially smart phones and laptops.
To ensure you get the technology that’s best for you, at a price you want to pay, do your homework before you make your choice. If you need assistance navigating the many possibilities, contact TechFit. We’re always happy to help!