Amazon, Newegg, ebay, Craigslist…viable IT Hardware Distributors?

By Frank Gurnee
In Channel
May 14, 2012

I’ve heard of a great number of MSP’s utilizing all of the following companies to get hardware at times. Amazon, Newegg, ebay, and even craigslist have been mentioned as sources for hardware. I have often wondered if it is price alone that drives these decisions? Is it availability, service, shipping, convenience, or maybe it’s something else all together?

With a continued tight economy it would seem that price does play an important role in the use of non-standard distribution. Some of the major players in our industry for traditional distribution are Ingram Micro, Tech Data, Synnex, Dell and CDW. These companies have also seemed to tighten up on credit lines, and it may be that it is tougher for the average managed Service provider to get the credit necessary to service their clients?

All of these companies have done a great job of improving their systems to make searching and finding product easier. I can remember times navigating some these systems was an art form in itself, but many of the improvements made have followed internet and e-commerce standards allowing easier navigation.

That makes me wonder, if it may at times be, a disconnect between client expectation and distributor policy? I have experienced a number of clients wanting to return a laptop after a 14 day or 30 day return policy has exceeded, and not having any recourse, but to be left holding the bag when it came to this situation. Flexibility has not been the typical experience I have had with larger distributors.

But there are also advantages to working with larger distributors. MDF funding from vendors can be a significant part of an MSP’s marketing budget and can help drive new business. Credit lines can help to free up cash flow, and provide a much needed cushion between project, installation, and final payment. As well, working with specific account reps can provide an easy point of contact, to help research, and provide the right solution to the client.

But really I would like to hear from the MSP community. What drives you to step outside of the traditional distribution model, and what brings you back? Are you using any of the titled companies, and why? What are your thoughts?