The Friend of a Friend I.T. Situation

I need to emphasize that as a business owner and an information technology person the friend situation is always brutal. It never seems to matter how good your intentions are – someone always seems to get hurt.  But when I am asked to do something for a friend I still do my best.  Some get it.  Some don’t.  I always hope they see the glass half full.

A friend of mine said he had a friend who was getting involved in a new venture.  The software they purchased had been installed on a single computer.  It was slow and undependable.  I was asked to provide a solution that would guarantee a solid future for this company’s operations on the software front. I needed to reduce the probability of a system failure. So I verbally quoted out a server and a network for around 5k. I was assuming the “customer” would buy everything else that was needed.  A week went by and more interest was shown.  A formal quote was needed.

Big hardware quotes are hard because you need to have a system to quote, sell, report shipping, record notes and record payments from start to finish.  Some companies have multiple systems that overlap and require dual entry.  Mine does not.  For instance – the POS system I did last week. It handles inventory, sales, ordering, payroll, tax, statistical analysis, and lots of other things.  But, at the end of the day the numbers are duplicated into quick books by accountants. This duplication of effort costs a lot of time and money.

Every point of sale system needs to have the product you are selling in its database. I designed my system in the form of an online store. It handles marketing, communication, payroll, tax, quoting, sales, payments, delivery, notes, and credit card processing.  None of that changes the fact that I had to manually enter every single product.  A time consuming task at the least.  I guess that’s the point. You always have to work to earn a living honestly.

The products I had to enter in addition to the server involved four boxes of cable because the customer needed the ability to run four cables at a time.  He needed equipment to terminate the cables on both ends. He needed a server rack to house the equipment neatly, and lots of patch cables to tie everything into the switch. The formal quote came out to 4k or so. I felt I had done very well considering the verbal quote was higher.

Here is where it gets interesting. This customer presented an American Express and to my surprise my system would not accept it. I had to go get a check which hurt the customers cash flow and caused frustration and embarrassment. I scrambled to get American Express set up. Later when the check cleared I did a quality control check before ordering the equipment. I discovered that the server had no operating system (my supplier said it had one but was mistaken).  I also realized I needed to have another hard drive for data redundancy on the server.

There were inexpensive options available. I could run an operating system I owned on that server. The software vendor requested server 2003 and I have a copy that I use hosting my systems.  Server 2003 can’t be purchased right now. It is more important that the customer own the operating system. I had to quote a copy of server 2008 and another hard drive for a combined total of $1100.

I see a lot of tech companies fix computers using operating systems that are not provided by or paid for by their customers.  This practice forces the customer to come back whenever there are problems.  Without the operating system disk or a valid software license where else can they go?  For this reason I think it is unethical to place software the customer does not own on their system.  Several years back I vowed I would never do that to anyone.  I have held true to that standard.  Most customers don’t realize that situation exists.  So when I sell them an operating system they think they are paying too much and I am giving them a bad deal.  In reality – I am really doing them a favor.

Unfortunately for me and my customer server operating systems go for $800 and up.  Server hard drives go for $250.  After successfully setting up American Express I ran the additional purchase on the customers American Express Card.  When the payment clears the bank the order will go out.  2 days later the product will be delivered.  Then I will go on site to install. That is quality time with the customer. Time with the customer is a priceless opportunity to deliver the best customer service and experience humanely possible.

Midnight Tech