Buyer Beware: Purchasing Grey Market WiFi Hardware Can Cost You
As trusted providers of wireless design and support services, we are often asked by potential customers: “Can I just purchase my own WiFi hardware (access points, controllers, switches, and the like) and partner with you for design and installation?”
Our answer is sure, you can do this, but we generally advise against it because of the large up-front costs involved and the relatively short life cycle of the technology you’d be buying. In other words, you’d be spending a bunch of money only to find that in a few short years, your equipment will be obsolete and you’ll be looking at yet another large capital expenditure for a new system.
But for some organizations that already have the capital assigned to purchasing WiFi equipment and are committed to owning the system rather than bundling it into their ongoing WiFi services, we can absolutely help select the right hardware. Because SecurEdge is product agnostic, we put our customers’ needs first and match them with the technology that will best fit those needs, rather than try to promote certain products because of business relationships with third parties. So whether the products we work with to build your WiFi network come from Aruba, Cisco, Ruckus, or another manufacturer, we’re going to make sure they’re the right products for you. And we’ll facilitate the relationship and the purchase between you and the product manufacturer.
Another dimension to this question of purchasing WiFi hardware is whether or not it’s a good idea to go through unauthorized third-party channels in an attempt to save some money—in other words, off the grey market. No, we’re not talking about back-alley deals with a guy named Jimmy selling access points out of the back of a truck. But there are vendors who sell wildly discounted networking equipment, and in most cases it’s not technically illegal for them to do so.
For example, without naming names, there are some online vendors that offer primo deals and discounts on all sorts of things, including wireless networking hardware. Why pay full price for a product when you can get a substantial discount and have it shipped to you in just two days?
Even though you wouldn’t be doing anything illegal by purchasing WiFi hardware through these unauthorized third-party channels, you’re still sidestepping the manufacturer’s intentions for how these products are meant to reach customers, so there are a ton of problems with this method. Here are the three biggest:
Counterfeit/defective products. When the product manufacturer no longer has control over who has their hands on a product and what’s put in which box, you run the risk of spending good money on a bad product. The product may have been tampered with or could be an outdated model that won’t be compatible with the new mobile devices and business applications it needs to support.
Buying WiFi hardware from an unauthorized third party is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get.
The product manufacturers will not support these products purchased through unauthorized channels. What does this “support” entail, and why does it matter?
- Guarantees: that promise from a manufacturer that basically says, “You don’t like the product, or it’s not what you had in mind? No problem! we’ll replace it with a product you do like.”
- Warranties: a protection around a product that says if it doesn’t work, or stops working within a designated span of time, the repair or replacement will be taken care of by the manufacturer.
- Software upgrades: those periodic updates that are required to keep things humming along and compatible with the newest devices and applications.
When you bypass the manufacturer, you are basically operating in a wilderness, a WiFi wild wild West, where no one has your back when the products fail and your WiFi goes down.
You run the risk of over- or under-purchasing equipment. Too many access points can be just as problematic as not having enough. A well-designed, secure, reliable wireless network is a system of components, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Having the right number of access points is just as important as where each one is placed.
We like to say that wireless network design is just as much an art as it is a science. Slapping up a bunch of APs (or too few of them) and then trying to make the installation process follow from that simply isn’t going to result in the blazing fast WiFi you’re hoping for. Every WiFi environment is different. That’s why customized wireless network design, done right the first time by certified wireless professionals using the right products, is key to achieving your WiFi goals.
WiFi Hardware That Fits Your Budget
We understand that our customers are eager to save money wherever possible through the process of selecting, installing, and supporting WiFi equipment. That’s why we’re passionate about making sure our customers understand that buying discounted equipment from unauthorized vendors to save money short-term is a bad idea, and it will likely end up costing you more money in the long run.
It’s also the reason why we offer all of these services as a subscription package. Our WiFi as a Service solutions are completely customizable and combine all of the hardware, software, and ongoing managed services your WiFi network needs to support your business and end users.
Part of partnering with us is trusting that we have done the legwork to compare vendors and identify the best possible equipment on the market, then matching it to the specific needs of your business. We take this trust seriously, and we are committed to recommending not necessarily the priciest hardware out there, but rather, the hardware that is best suited to support your space, types and numbers of WiFi users, and applications.
In the market for a new or upgraded enterprise WiFi network? SecurEdge can help.
Dana Adams blogs regularly for SecurEdge and other tech companies. She believes technology should serve people, not the other way around. When she's not blogging, you'll find her enjoying the outdoors with her family and two rescue dogs.