TECH TALK: Cheap, quick or good - you can have any two

Donovan Hoggan
By Donovan Hoggan
October 13th, 2010

 I heard a saying recently that really struck a chord for me: “Quick, Cheap or Good…You can have any two.”

I regularly deal with folks who want all three. “My computer just died. I need a good quality replacement right away, and please keep the price under $500.”

Cheap and Quick – You can find sub-$500 computers, but they’re generally not very good.

Cheap and Good – If you wait for a clearance sale or for Boxing Day, you can often get decent computer equipment at really good prices. You may wait for months, though.

Quick and Good – If you need it right now, I have some excellent computers in the $900-$1,000 range.

Do you see where I’m going with this? There are rare exceptions but, generally, you cannot get something right away that’s good quality and cheap. At least once or twice per week, I walk away from a deal where someone who just doesn’t understand this is looking to cheap-out on a solution that just won’t work.

I was recently asked to sketch out a wireless network for someone. He needed to cover multiple buildings spread out over a 125-meter radius. My solution would have provided him excellent coverage but would have cost him about $2,000. His solution? He bought a low-end, commercial grade wireless router for $200 and nailed it to a light post that was more-or-less centered in the yard. Two out of six buildings have decent coverage and the rest are awful. They drop the connections on a regular basis and, when they can connect, they’re incredibly slow. Because of the way the antennas line up, though, anyone at the base of the pole or flying directly overhead will have excellent wi-fi!

Had I stuck with him on this, my name would be attached to this mess of a network and he’d have all sorts of bad things to say about me. Because I walked away, there’s no damage to my reputation and, when he gets frustrated enough to call me again, the door is open for me to come in and do it properly.

I had another customer whose entire network revolved around one computer; when it didn’t work, his entire business and all of his staff were paralyzed. I quoted him $3,500 on an HP server that would be incredibly reliable and, if it ever went down, would be very easy to get back up to speed. He chose instead to pull a bargain-basement PC out of the recycle pile and use that.

 I wasn’t surprised when he called me panicking, two months later, because his “server” had died and he was giving up hundreds of dollars per day in lost business. I was surprised, though, when he insisted on replacing it with the cheapest, low-end PC I had in the shop. I chose, instead, to refer him to my competition and wish him well on his journey.

 I’m not saying cheap doesn’t have its place. Someone just starting a business, or a home-user may not be in a cash flow position to drop $1,000 on a new PC. I totally understand the position they’re in … but I ask them to understand that the $400-$500 PC they get is going to cost them in frustration and down-time.

 Cheap has its place. Quick has its place. Good-quality has its place. I’d just ask you to remember, next time you’re buying anything related to computers, that you can only have two out of the three … and that’s not bad!

Categories: Technology