When it comes to purchasing a house or a car, you (probably) wouldn't just buy the first one you see. You are likely to spend hours, even days, working out exactly what you'd like, working out the 'fors' and 'againsts' between the different options. You'd probably also seek advice from friends and experts. There's no reason why choosing your any aspect of your IT deserves any less attention.
No matter the size of your school, you will likely have a whole range of IT kit. From an infrastructure of servers, switches, wireless and CCTV through to classrooms filled with PCs, tablets, mobiles, speakers, projectors and whiteboards - the IT costs for a typical school will add up to be a pretty hefty purchase. And with up to 10% of a schools budget being spent on IT with times being tough, you want to squeeze the most out of your budget.
Here's why you shouldn't settle for the first price or first option from one supplier when choosing new IT equipment, and what you can do to get the best price and advice;
1 - Get multiple quotes
2 - Get what you need, not what a supplier wants to sell
3 - Deal with a reputable company
1. Get multiple quotes
Is your current provider or supplier getting too cosy?
You may be happy with your current IT provider or supplier, but do you know if they are giving you the best value for money? Sometimes you may enter into a 3,4 or even 5 year contract with an IT provider based on very attractive pricing.
Time is a very precious commodity in schools and it can be all too easy for you to simply accept a price from your existing supplier without comparing it against the market, with the thought that the IT provider will be offering you the best value price. But buyer beware - some IT providers will initially win your business with very low, even loss-making prices, with a view to clawing back profit later on by raising prices for future kit.
It therefore pays to get at least one or two additional quotes, so you can gauge whether or not your IT provider is giving you the best value for money, or whether they are getting a little too cosy, by raising prices subtly in the hope that you don't compare them.
By not comparing prices and blinding going with suggestions from your existing provider/ supplier, you may end up spending over the odds for equipment you would have got at a better price elsewhere.
Our advice is to look at a few different sources, both online and offline, and get quotes from multiple retailers and suppliers. Getting multiple quotes will give you a more informed idea of what prices and solutions your current supplier should be quoting you.
2. Get what you need, not what a supplier wants to sell
Online shops often 'just sell'
Often, online IT shops will appear to sell hardware and software reasonably cheap. This is may be OK for a buyer who has an exact idea of what they need,
But, because online shops often tend to 'box shift' - selling kit in high quantities at low prices with very small profit margins, online shops are often only interested in selling you equipment. They will rely on you knowing what you want, and that what you want is right for you.
There is no consideration for how kit will fit into an existing infrastructure, how it will be installed and configured, or how it will be maintained and managed going forward.
If you're not sure what you need or what will actually work for you, using online IT shops can end up being a complete waste of both time and money.
Our advice is to look for suppliers that have the knowledge, skills and expertise to properly analyse what you need. When dealing with potential suppliers, make sure that they listen to your needs rather than simply assuming what you need, and make sure that they can provide a range of ideas as well as justification for their choices.
3. Deal with a reputable company
- Can you trust who you're dealing with?
Just because a company is offering the cheapest priced IT, it doesn’t mean you should go with it. Getting multiple quotes from multiple sources simplifies the first step in purchasing IT.
Once you have your options for the best pricing you should then look at deeper into the retailers and suppliers and work out other deciding factors, such as their reputation & history. Are the suppliers well known, reputable companies? Do they have a reputation for working with other schools? Are they a DfE-recommended ICT services provider? Do they have any case studies?
Our advice is to work with a supplier that has a proven track record of providing excellent advice, great solutions and at market-leading prices.
Don’t just buy your IT on autopilot. Make sure you're informed, get multiple prices from multiple sources and get the IT kit you need at a price that suits your budget.
Gaia Technologies is a DfE-approved ICT supplier, providing hardware, software and services to more than 500 schools and colleges across the UK.