Purchasing Software: Don’t Get Burned

by Bill MacLennan, CEO of Your Computer Hero

In a perfect world, software sales people would be focused on providing the correct and necessary products to move your business into high performance mode.  However, I sometimes see them lining their own pockets by using half-truths to get in the door only to send the business owner on a roller coaster ride of surprise costs and up-sells thereafter.  

Over the years, I have seen these decisions cost business thousands of extra dollars unnecessarily. I want to give you an inside look into the ways I have seen these big money decisions go wrong, explore some common sales traps and arm you with ways to avoid costly mistakes when making software purchases. Due diligence and smart questions to the software sales person will go a long way in mitigating the risks of these purchases and keep a software sales rep working FOR YOU rather then bleeding your business dry with unnecessary costs.

Due diligence on the following three points and getting a knowledgeable IT professional involved BEFORE the software purchase WILL save you an enormous amount of money and headache in these big money decisions:

The specifications of your current server must be weighed against the requirements of the proposed software.

A good salesman will not sell you their package without first asking detailed questions about your infrastructure to support it.  An unscrupulous or untrained one will sell you the package without knowing. Then, when you call them to discuss problems with implementation, they will offer you software as a service (SaaS) for a large monthly fee.  There is nothing wrong with SaaS, as long as it fits your business model and the cost can be justified.  But, if it’s a large additional cost and you still have to keep a local server, other options must be weighed.

In one recent case, a business spent $20,000 on a software suite to run the entire backbone of their operation only to find that their server was under-powered to run the package.  Since these issues were discovered after the initial software purchase, the company was forced to choose between paying a large monthly fee for SaaS or make a major server upgrade, an unwelcome surprise with a huge price tag.

The specifications of your current desktops must be weighed against the requirements of the proposed software.

Similar to the server example, the specifications of each computer that will utilize the new software must be checked against the software specifications.

We are currently working with a company on a large software upgrade that includes the replacement of three desktop computers.  Most of the computers in their network were well able to handle the upgrade while three of them were not.  Since this was discovered in the planning process, the cost of the three desktops could be built into the project budget-no surprises.

When software companies sell the software pre-loaded on a server, understand the specifications of the server being purchased.

Always ask the software vendor if the software can be purchased separate from the server.  If so, make a comparison between the software only and the software loaded server so you know exactly how much you are paying for that server.  In my experience, these servers are very basic models and the markup on them is ginormous.  The perceived value of this is high for the business owner because of the apparent simplicity of it, however you are usually overpaying for the server by several thousand dollars-in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars.

At Your Computer Hero, we keep detailed documentation on our clients’ networks and have highly skilled business IT consultants on staff, which makes this type of analysis relatively simple.  Since 2004, we have been helping business “right-size” their software purchases and avoid these expensive sales traps. Including us in your software purchasing decisions at the planning phase will assure that you avoid surprise costs and expensive nightmares associated with big money software upgrades.   If you are planning a software upgrade, call Your Computer Hero today.