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  • #2085299

    Custom Built PCs vs. Proprietary PCs


    by nicholas ·

    As an IS Mgr I have experienced 2 types of hardware stragegies. It has been my experience that Custom Built business machines tend to be 20-30% faster, 35% cheaper and a lot more reliable with at least a 25% savings in help desk costs. Not to mention fully modular and individual piece warranteed as opposed to total package. (Minimal downtime for repairs. 20 min. vs 20 days with proprietary machines like Compaq, Dell, etc.)
    I recently took a position at a new company whose prior 5 year strategyhas been Compaq machines through and through.
    In the few weeks I’ve been here I have seen an unbelievable amount of what should be unnecessary tech support for this equipment. I would like to begin a slow migration to custom builds for many reasons& am meeting with a brick wall from the President of the company.

    How do you feel?
    What are your experiences?

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    • #3788235

      What’s the business case?

      by j. chang ·

      In reply to Custom Built PCs vs. Proprietary PCs

      As someone who have worn three hats — selling technology for IBM, evaluating and implementing technology in I/T division, and now an end-user analyzing the technology business — my first reaction is why bother? What’s the business case that the President can buy into? I’m assuming that speed is not a big issue given that most PC are have too much power for today’s apps already. So is the risk of custom biult worth that 25% cost savings? I also assume that custom build is more common amongst small/mid-size firms, and for large company is probably too difficult to coordinate the multisite rollout and support. Am I wrong on this assumption?

      • #3786982

        Cost Savings?

        by brettm ·

        In reply to What’s the business case?

        In my 10+ years of managing end user computing in 4 different companies, I have come to the belief that the most cost effective practice is to stay with a standardized approach to systems. Each new iteration of component brought into an organization can have unexpected results. For example, in my current company we had purchased NEC computers based on price. Each new order had a different motherboard, video card, memory chipset, etc. When we started to convert these systems to NT, we had major difficulties with drivers and performance. Also, some of the OTS software had conflicting issues running. We were finally able to convince Sr. Mgmt that standardization would reduce the total cost of ownership.

        Although you can save significant $$s by purchasing from mail-order or custom built machines, the costs associated with technical troubleshooting and support will forgo any savings. The bottom line is “what is your core business function?” Is your business technical hardware support or is it to provide your users with minimal downtime? In my experience, the most effective approach is to get the screwdrivers out of the technician’s hands and create a standard environment that systems are easily swapped out and utilize the warranties from the manufacturers to do the tech support at that level.

        • #3751712

          Totally agree: standard machines

          by tharris ·

          In reply to Cost Savings?

          I totally agree with you. After many unpleasant experiences in the old days, when custom built was the way to go, these days I only buy IBM and I buy a standard machine type as long as its in production. I met with some resistance at first, but I believe I’ve been proven out: One machine out of 200 has had ANY problem at all in the last 2 years.

        • #3751532

          IBM yes.. rare exception

          by bryme ·

          In reply to Totally agree: standard machines

          IBM has been around in the business equipment marketplace for godknows how long, and when they sell a business computer, they mean a business computer. However.. buying a set of workstations from Compaq or Dell makes me shudder. In my personal experience with Compaq and Dell business PC’s, I have had nothing but horror stories to tell. True, you can buy IBM or go custom (the cheapest route but also the most stability for the buck) but if you buy from Compaq… prepare to pay the consequences.

      • #3736849

        Clones? A nightmare!

        by joe.thompson ·

        In reply to What’s the business case?

        The problem with clones, except from major players like Dell, Micron, Gateway; is that once you certify a certain component mix, like the motherboard, video card, network card, sound card, etc and get it into production, you end up getting differentbrands of these devices 2 months down the road and end up having to recertify everything to insure compatibility. All the while having to deal with each device maker separately. Each with their own drivers, firmware updates, etc. What a nightmare. If you have a problem with one of these systems, you have the motherboard maker blaming the video card maker, who turns around and says that their video card is not compatible with the sound card, and on and on and on…. I personally feel that it is worth the extra couple of hundred dollars for the compatiblity and integration testing that these manufactures perform. These top-tier manufactures have no one else they can blame when their hardware doesn’t work, because they certified and integrated them to begin with.

        • #3726487

          Clones – agreed

          by jamesrl ·

          In reply to Clones? A nightmare!

          I’ve worked for everything from computer dealers to Fortune 100 companies. The ones that incurred the highest support costs per user were inevitably the ones who went to clones or kept switching major vendors every year.

          It depends alot on the usage environment – in a large corporation you inevitably have lots of custom software, which is easier to deal with when you have a PC from a major player to work with – its one less variable to deal with.

          Remember the cost of the computer is not the retail cost of the box, but the long term cost of buying it, supporting it, stocking parts etc, right up until it hits landfill.

          When you buy from a major vendor, you know there are millions of others who are doing the same, possibly experiencing the same challenges you do. If there are problems with hardware, or drivers, at least with a user base of millions they are well known, and there is alot of pressure to fix them.

          Better the devil you know….

    • #3732278

      Have to disagree

      by nichomach ·

      In reply to Custom Built PCs vs. Proprietary PCs

      Having too often seen the utter crap that is flung out of the door by beige box shifters, I use Dell – and even on the collect-and-return warranties from them I have NEVER, REPEAT NEVER, had a PC out of use for 20 days. Bear in mind that the proprietary manufacturers you mention will usually (certainly in the case of Dell) warranty even their budget systems for three years, as opposed to a mish-mash of different length warranties for machines assembled from different components. As far as cost is concerned, it’s actually been my experience that while some major brands are expensive (and yes, Compaq’re definitely one of them), others can be significantly cheaper, and for better specified and integrated equipment (I hate to use the D word again, but…). If you can find similar or better components being integrated with a decent warranty from a beige-box-shifter, then fine, but it’s been my experience that they use inferior components (don’t we just LOVE those PC Chips motherboards and bottom-of-the range no-name S3-based graphics cards), and if you build them yourself, then you’re going to be paying end-user prices for your components. As far as “fully modular” is concerned, though, I’ve upgraded memory, CPUs, hard disks in branded kit without any problems. I hate to say it, but while my choice would not be Compaq, your Pres may have a point.

      • #3751834


        by brian lusk ·

        In reply to Have to disagree

        When I came on board with my current employer, they had the craziest mis-match of hardware, equipment and peripherals. Even when they purchased from the same place, we might have a Jaton video card in one machine and an ATI in the next. And don’t get me started on motherboards, hard drives or RAM!

        Put simply, the machines I installed from that previous supplier are now failing only 9 months after installation. And, that vendor is out of business. Very high TCO on those machines.

        The HP BRIO PCs I purchased and installed immediately afterward? Running like champs! Excellent performers and NO problems at all. Very low TCO.

        Now, if you want to build your own PCs with carefully selected parts, it might gain you some extra speed. But, now you have to call ten different manufacturers for drivers, support or problems. Is it worth the headache?

        Brian Lusk

    • #3751723

      Size matters

      by alex ·

      In reply to Custom Built PCs vs. Proprietary PCs

      I have to agree that the size of the company has a direct impact on that decision. For small to midsize companies, such as my network, I beleive you can have benefits from building the machines yourself. Being of that size company, you will maintaina close working order with your equipment so it will not be as big as deal in dealing with individual parts or warranties, in fact it can be better that way.
      For large businesses there is no way to keep a close working knowledge of all your machines so those nice prefab machines that are already proven to have all their components to work nicely together would be the way to go.
      About that remark about geting the screwdrivers out of the hands of tech’s made in a reply, that would be a step in the wrong direction. Techs need to keep an understanding of the innerworkings, keep their roots sort to speak. Remember when there used to actually be car mechanics? now there are pretty much only parts changers. Wouldn’t that be sad.

      • #3732119

        Local Vendor is the key

        by isdonl ·

        In reply to Size matters

        I have to agree with Alex. The size of the company using the machines is one of the first items to consider. Second is the reputation of the local vendor. If the purchasing company is large enough, they will have reasonable clout with the PC manufacturer and want a fully standardized machine. However, smaller companies can make much more cost effective purchases from a reliable local vendor using generic machines. The key is to purchase at least two spare machines for each site that can be configured to replace any single machine in the environment to allow for minimum down time. With that goes a religious backup scheme. A company with 20 – 50 machines can survive with generic machines much easier than one with 2000-5000 machines. The former has no clout whatsoever with a manufacturer. All machines break!!! I don’t care who builds them. Unfortunately the big guys use very custom components, but even they change. Replacement of a custom component after three or four years can make throwing the machine away a cost-effective decision. A small company trying to get 4-5 years of live out of a purchase has a hard time with custom components. If your local vendor has a reasonable stock of generic components, you will survive. He has an interest in your business, while the bigger manufacturers may claim such, if it gets too expensive for them the customer becomes the loser.

        • #3732111

          Long term Processes; Servers vs. Clients

          by dunshee ·

          In reply to Local Vendor is the key

          two thoughts:

          (1) I one client with an IT manager who had his team put together clones and support them. He was pretty PC-savvy. Then he left, and the people in place a a very tough time taking over. Using “proprietary” machines avoids this risk.

          (2) Another client initially used “home built” machines for both servers and clients. The servers (running SCO Unix) had consistent, hard-to-diagnose reliability problems, especially when they moved to RAID storage. They shifted to a brand-name (AST?) system certified for Unix (and RAID) and had no significant problems thereafter. So I’d suggest that even if you like home-built/ custom-built for your clients, don’t risk it for your servers.

        • #3310345

          Location of the business

          by rdslo ·

          In reply to Local Vendor is the key

          Metro areas have an advantage when it comes to vendor service. They usually have certified, same day, on site support available (for the extra fee of course) whereas anyone outside of a city my have to wait 2 to 3 days for someone from a major vendor to show up. As for phone support, except for the most basic issues, forget about it. Having the extra equipment around is a nice idea, however it always seems to get pulled into service (the manager needs to have one in his home office)and good luck trying to get it back. I would propose in-house builds if the machine base is under 40 units, not counting servers. It’s not too many to handle and as long as you incorporate quality components you should have few hardware issues to contend with. Users are another matter.

    • #3306651

      Dear Writer

      by sparticus_x ·

      In reply to Custom Built PCs vs. Proprietary PCs

      I would definately agree with that statement. Especially with the new types of harddrives unavaliable to the mainstream computer companies. If anyone is able to find more statistics of the % of people with costom pc to those with proprietart pcs that have virus problems. Please send me more information. I also need siting info…MLA < Crappy english standard. -Thanks

    • #3310395

      Migrate to Linux

      by pcpinkerton ·

      In reply to Custom Built PCs vs. Proprietary PCs

      Purchase/Upgrade hardware to all PC’s in a perfect world all PC’s would have the exact same hardware configuration.

      Create a custom Linux distro for your orgainization
      Install Linux from the custom Distro
      Backups and updates can be automated at regular off hour periods.

      Results low maintenance, low downtime even on Compaq boxes if you must stay with Compaq you will have less problems with Linux than with Windows.

      Better to have custom for Linux built PC though as
      Linux is upgraded there will be no backward compatibility problems with the hardware only performance improvements. PC’s cam be Intel, AMD or other processors, and can cost as little as $200.00 each. Linux is “free as beer”

    • #3310327

      I went the other way (whitebox to Dell)

      by bruno fonseca ·

      In reply to Custom Built PCs vs. Proprietary PCs

      When I first started as the IT Admin for my company, they had many older white box machines (PII, PIII)and my manager started buying new white box machines to replace the older ones. After the first shipment I noticed that we could be getting a much better deal with Dell machines so we bought 1 machine, tested it out and we were sold. We saved aproximatelly 20% in price from the white box and I have had some of those machines come down with some hardware issues and they were down for only a maximum of three days because all parts are overnight shipping. They would of been up and running sooner but since the parts are warrantied, there is no reason for us to spend money from our budget. Overall the Dell pc’s run great, never have any daily issues with them and everyone is satisfied. Compaq are terrible machines, they’re servers if kept running right are like workhorses though. But I have since rolled out all Dell machines including two servers and they work great. We only buy the same model PC so everything is always the same. Why go with whitebox machines with inferior hardware just to save a buck, when Retail PC’s do the same job if not better with quality parts. And let’s not call them proprietary because now a days everything is swappable as long as you know how and with what to swap it with. I have swapped parts in Dell machines with no issues.

      • #3309895

        Dell cheaper than whitebox?

        by 4rec ·

        In reply to I went the other way (whitebox to Dell)

        We saved aproximatelly 20% in price from the white box

        I have to strongly disagree with that statement. I have personally built over 100 desktops over the last 7 years and they always come out 20-30% cheaper than a Dell. Also, more than half the time I can get newer, more advanced parts than Dell offers.

        If you are going to build your own get the best parts money can buy. The individual manufacturers test their parts with other mainstream manufacturers, so there should be little conflict. ie ASUS, ATI, 3Com. What is also nice now is the motherboard manufacturers are making boards with a lot built on ie sound 1000T ethernet, RAID, etc great performance, outstanding price

    • #3310299

      Only if you are ready to do your homework

      by msmills ·

      In reply to Custom Built PCs vs. Proprietary PCs

      The big name boxes are subcontracted to unknowns in other countries who use cheap, non standard components.

      Custom built boxes, providing you know your hardware, which most posters here haven’t got a clue about, can pay huge dividends in terms of standardizing, reliability and less downtime.

      If you are willing to take on the roll of the manager, doing the specifying (don’t rely upon the grey builder as too many of them are just assemblers) etc….other wise like the lazy people here just buy a name with a guarantee (which only takes 3 weeks to fix a 30 second failure but hey they have somebody else to blame their failures on)

    • #3310102


      by aaron a baker ·

      In reply to Custom Built PCs vs. Proprietary PCs

      There is no way I would use a proprietary over a custom buit computer.As a matter of fact, I custom built my own. As techs, we all know the obvious reasons of upgradability, modular updates and updates etc. Obviously your Boss doesn’t get it. Get him some facts and figures on paper and create a plan for “Slow” indoctrination and eventually a shift to custom built computers. Your Boss seems to display “standard” save-a-buck thinking. Prove to him that your way is “THEE” way to save a buck, not just for now but for the future as well.
      As wonderful as we all think we are,we have to keep in mind that your dealing with people who think “Bottom Line,Bottom Line”. So,show them the bottom line at the end of your transition.
      If that doesn’t work,then just keep spending “His” money and don’t worry about it.
      Good Luck

      • #3309997

        Key Rules

        by ronkoch ·

        In reply to SHOW THEM THE MONEY

        When opening a new business, the First Three Key Rules are, LOCATION, LOCATION, and LOCATION. This is a well known fact. When building a PC from scratch (to save money, you know) the First Three Key Rules are , COMPATIBILITY, COMPATIBILITY, and COMPATIBILITY! I’ve been a PC builder for 15 years now, and the biggest headache I’ve expierienced is with this very issue. A hot main board loaded up with low-end add-ons performs worse than a mid-level unit with high quality cards. Trade-off? Not really. Figure out the price/performance ratio and I think you will agree. Custom built PCs can be the cheapest thing to buy, but the most expensive to maintain. A well-built custom unit will cost more initially, but less in the long run. A maxed-out gamer box will cost more than any standard issue unit, but will handle the future requirements (of gamers) for longer. There are many options and the builder must do his/her homework. Professional builders of PCs who keep up with the daily changes in the industry will always come up with “better mousetraps” and the rest are just “assemblers” of inexpensive parts who sometimes get lucky with a combo that works. Thank You for this moment on the stump.

    • #3308382

      Depends on the Type/Size of the Company

      by jsmith ·

      In reply to Custom Built PCs vs. Proprietary PCs

      Customized PCs are great machines when you are dealing with a small number of machines or when you cannot use a cookie cutter solution. However, when you get into large orgs with hundreds of computers you are setting your self up for failure. By standardizing, you can establish a knowledge base for your techs and keep a pool of spare parts/machines. If you can, establish no more than 2 builds of desktop and laptops, i.e. power users and standard users. It makes it easier for finance to account for and means you can use some excellent image programs to speed up deployment and rebuilds. Also you can reduce the price by establishing relationships with the distributor. I have worked for companies that used the custom clone/ lowest bidder approach, and it always ended up costing them at replacment time.

      • #3296982

        Money Talks

        by dlhulsebz ·

        In reply to Depends on the Type/Size of the Company

        Have you done a cost analysis to prove your point. A non IT manager will probably not be convinced with tech specs and performance stats.

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