IT Secret: Watch Out for Off-Brand Computers and Servers in Your Business!

There’s a trend we’ve seen over the years at businesses all over Phoenix, Scottsdale, and even in Prescott: “IT guys” selling off-brand computers and servers.

The use of such equipment, which is also known as a “white box”, or custom computer, has been debated in the IT community for years. In our opinion, the majority of the “white box” solutions we’ve run into have no place in a business setting and negatively impact the client in the long-term.

What we prefer to see and advocate is business-class equipment from major brand companies: primarily Lenovo, HP, and Dell.

Why do we have a problem with “white boxes”?

  1. Warranty (or lack thereof).  
    • How long is it covered for? “White box” warranties typically run short.  This is part of the “white box” business model (see shady IT guy practices at the bottom for details). We recommend 3-5 year warranties for maximum return on investment.  
    • What’s covered? Possibly the parts, possibly the labor, and if you’re lucky the parts are even in stock. It will depend greatly on who sold it to you and who built the “white box”. With a major manufacturer, you can prepay for 3-5 years of parts & labor warranty without issue and there’s no guessing whether parts are available.
    • What happens when you fire your “IT guy”? The warranty likely just ended. The “white box” business model is very “IT guy”-centric. Major manufacturer warranties are tied to the device, not the company or person who sold it to you.
  2. Quality (or lack thereof).  
    • Simply put, white boxes are under-designed andless reliable. Major manufacturers have teams of engineers who design their business-grade devices with great thought put into it each component and how they all tie together. The business model for business-class workstations demands reliability when 3-5 year warranties are available.
    • Depending on the “white box”, it is not uncommon to find consumer/home grade internal components. Home equipment is not designed to be always on and abused like business-class equipment is. Note that major manufacturers have both consumer and business-class lines of equipment. Stick with business-class major brands with long on-site warranties.

Furthermore, in the worst-case scenario of working with a shady “IT Guy”, we’ve actually seen the following:

  • Used equipment sold as new. Major manufacturers all have ways to prove the purchase date via the serial number. “White boxes” can enable this deceitful practice.
  • Huge upfront profit margin for the “IT Guy”. With cheaper components and a questionable warranty, the “IT Guy” can price the computer like a real business-class major brand without setting off too many alarms.

Here’s the dirty little secret: “white boxes” are cheap to build. Short-term minded “IT Guys” want the short-term profit up-front. Long-term minded IT companies recommend business-class branded computers with long warranties because we plan to be around in 5 years working together with you.

We at PK Tech have the long-term in mind. If you’ve noticed your “IT Guy” or IT company quote you off-brands of computers or servers, please contact us for a second opinion so we can help you decide if that is the best decision for your business. Feel free to call us at (602) 639-9900 or email [email protected] and we’ll be happy to answer your questions. 

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