Small Businesses Can Get Screwed by Their Technology Providers

It's terrible but time and time again, I meet clients who were bamboozled by their computer support provider.

This last week alone:

  • I met a new client who had been offered a suspicious proposal: spend $5,000 up-front and obtain a network and server then pay a monthly retainer for maintenance; for their size and complexity, they shouldn't have been spending more than $2,000 in capital costs and I questioned what value does a retainer provide on a workgroup server that should be configured to generally manage itself.

  • I met a client who received an invoice for $3,000 from a computer guy. $2,000 was for things like "planning" and "research" and "developing a solution"; the remaining balance was for the actual hardware and time necessary to implement. WTF?

  • Another client was over-spec'd a high-end firewall product for a workgroup of five people who needed need it. They were told by the computer guy that they needed a very expensive firewall solution, yet, the customer expressed no need for that level of capability to the provider.

  • And one of my clients actually had a software provider download a virus to their server which started generating spammy email to people all across the Internet.

I mean holy crap.

What we're witnessing here is, regrettably, all too common in my field. 

It is the direct result of fear, ignorance, and greed. And sometimes: just pure negligence.

With respect to ignorance, the customer simply doesn't have the technical where-with-all to question the recommendations offered by the solution provider. And why should they? They're trusting the provider to select the best solution to meet their needs, not gouge them because they don't understand their options.

With respect to fear, the customer doesn't want to receive a solution that's only going to work half-way. They want something they can rely upon and they don't want it to fail. Thus they're willing to pay a little more to receive that benefit, but their willingness to pay a premium is being preyed upon by the provider.

And that's where greed comes in. The provider knows that they can squeak out just a few more bucks from the customer because they aren't experts. The provider is taking advantage of their position. 

Unfortunately, this kind of stuff happens all the time in many fields. That's the value of a second opinion. Obtaining a second opinion from a qualified technology and/or computer consultant can be a real benefit to consumers who're not familiar with what they're buying in to.

When I'm validating pricing or providing proposals of my own, I will provide links to actual pricing online so that the customer can see for themselves how something costs at either retail or wholesale pricing, outline it's benefits or risks in plain and simple language, and then allow them to formulate an opinion on the actual cost of labor. Like, say, is $2,000/hr of time "studying" a problem a reasonable amount for implementing what would be a turn-key technology? Jesh, no! I work with my clients to deconstruct pricing to arrive at a potential cost model for the provider. I help educate. I help eliminate fear.

If you're a small business looking for a computer consultant that's all about transparency, accountability, and fairness, talk to me. I might be able to help, even if it's just some advice on a proposal some other guy gave you. I'm always happy to help.