By Art Reisman
Editor’s note: Art Reisman is the CTO of APconnections. APconnections designs and manufactures the popular NetEqualizer bandwidth shaper. APconnections removed all Deep Packet Inspection technology from their NetEqualizer product over two years ago.
As many IT managers may already know, it is very hard to find unbiased information regarding networking equipment. Publications and analysts always seem to have some bias or motivation, as you never know who pays their fees. Even your peers that swear by a new technology have a vested interest in the commercial success of their chosen technology. And, most IT managers are not going to second guess and critique a technology decision, where big money was spent, as long it provides some value, even if it’s not exactly what they’d hoped for.
Obviously you should continue to use analysts and peers as sources of advice and information, but there are also other ways to find unbiased data prior to making a technology decision.
Here are some ideas that have worked over the years for both myself as a buyer as well as for our customers:
1) When evaluating technology, request to talk to the engineering or test team at the company you are buying from. This may not be possible, but is worth a try. Companies (sales teams) hate it when you talk directly to their engineers. Why? Because they are more likely to tell the truth about every little problem.
2) If you can’t find an engineer that currently works at the company, then find one that formerly worked there. This is easier than you might think. Techies with loads of experience and insight spend time in tech forums, and a simple post asking for inside knowledge may yield some good sources.
3) This may sound silly, but try Googling (productname)sucks.com. You’ll be surprised by what you might find. Many of the companies that are too large for you to get in touch with their engineering staffs will have ad-hoc consumer complaint sites. However, keep in mind that all companies and products will have unhappy customers, so don’t discount a large company in favor of a smaller one just because you find complaints about the market leader. The smaller company just may not yet have the critical mass to draw organized negative attention. And, no matter how good a product is, there will likely always be an unhappy customer.
4) Nothing beats a live trial of a product. But, don’t limit your decision to the vendors slobbering to give you free trials. Giving away free trials is a marketing strategy to move a product and ultimately adds to the final cost in one way or another. Smaller vendors with great products may not be offering free trials, so you may miss out on some valuable technology if you only look for the complimentary test runs. Plus, all vendors should have a return policy if they are confident in their product, so, even without a free trial, it shouldn’t be all or nothing.
While there is no guarantee that these tips will always lead to the perfect product, they have certainly bettered our hit-to-miss ratio over the past several years. If you’re asking the right people and looking in the right places, a little research can go a long way.