After building IT systems and departments at national and international startups, I recognized the same trends occuring repeatedly. I set out to build a series of guides to navigate the many IT decisions a founder will make before hiring an IT team. Any vendor, service, or product that I endorse is purely the result of their ability to serve you and your business — I have no stake in any of them. If this article is helpful and you’d like to explore consulting engagements, please message me or visit my website — dave-bour.com for more information.
In IT, hardware can be defined as laptops (Mac/Windows), network equipment (firewall, router, switch, wireless access point), and peripherals (mouse, keyboard, monitor, printers).
Whether you’ve secured funding or not, it is advisable to set a high standard for fiscal responsibility — procuring these items at a low monetary-cost and ideally, from a time-cost, too.
While these two factors account for 90% of the decision making variables, let’s go the rest of the way — support and historical data. In 9 months from now, you may be hiring a CFO who will hire a team to categorize your capital expenditures. One of the first things she will ask for is a list of all purchases exceeding $2,500 (this amount will vary). The ease at which you can produce this will hinge upon two factors — if you’ve been consistent in your ordering practices and if the service you use can produce historical reporting. When you make these purchases, the ease at which you can (1) replace/return defective items and (2) receive guidance as to which item you should be purchasing in the first place will be paramount — the second of which is the sole reason I recommend CDW for your major expenditures.
In my opinion, the best way to begin down this path is to setup an Amazon.com for peripherals and CDW.com account for laptops and network equipment. I’ll tell you why in a moment.
From a time/cost/productivity perspective — what is your most expensive asset? In most cases, it’s your employees! While we can reduce an API endpoint query to .001 cents, it’s your staff who set that up. Your staff member’s ability to work is paramount.
No one will beat Amazon.com on price, so let’s use it for all the items that won’t affect anyone’s ability to work. Mice, keyboards, monitors — all items your staff can work without. Setup an Amazon.com business account (This is not free but all the 2 day shipping + lowest price availability will offset the payment) and if you plan on sharing this with others, setup purchasing approval so that you have to approve purchases over $x.yz. Furthermore, at some point, your company will need to sign up for Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP) and you’ll need a qualified reseller. CDW will match your Apple Buiness discount and will provide a single location to review your purchases for Apple and many others, such as Microsoft. This is one of the reasons why I do not recommend Apple Business direct — there is simply no benefit after CDW matches the price.
For anything that your business depends on, use CDW. Let’s say you hire a new developer and they as for a Mac — what specifications do they need? Do you need an onboard GPU? Is 16GB RAM enough? Oh, they stopped selling the 15" last year — well, what’s available now? All of these questions, any anymore you have will be answered by a dedicated CDW Account Manager and her team. Let me share a secret with you — having a CDW account has replaced my need for at least .25 IT hire at any level. They do all the research for me!
Finally, after a process of signing up for POs, then Verbal POs, you can make purchases via Email. I email my account manager with a description and boom, it’s ordered — (IE: Hi Mike! Can I get 10 more SM licenses? Thanks!). It saves me a lot of time on the ordering process and a lot of time in the research/comparison stages.
CDW cannot advise you on products they don’t carry or partnerships they don’t have. While this will rarely affect most customers at your stage, it is worth being aware that there may be another option out there that you’re not considering because CDW isn’t telling you about it.
Amazon.com will rarely approve PO for smaller companies and the process is cumbersome. You’ll need to use a credit card here.
Do you want to avoid common IT pitfalls that startups make? Sign up for CDW for all heavy IT purchases and use Amazon.com for your peripherals and smaller IT purchases.
Setup verbal purchase orders with CDW to simply ordering through email and purhcasing approval on Amazon if you plan on inviting other team members to your account.