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I'm shopping for a complete laptop "solution" for a staff of 20, in four cities, including hardware, software, service, support, data transfer, training, backup, etc. We need it to "just work", and we don't have the staff to do much beyond basic support.

I've priced machines from Dell and HP (no idea if those are good vendors), and asked them if they offer, and what it would cost for, the other services. In some cases, my questions to the vendor fall into an admitted "gray area". Asking whether they can help with transferring data from old machines, for example, is met with a suggestion to buy a Detto cable. I can't ask everyone to do that for themselves, and I can't do it for them on the West Coast, when I'm on the East Coast.

Thoughts on any of the questions involved would be most welcome.

  1. How to choose hardware (for basic office needs) that's likely to be reliable and low-maintenance
  2. Whether it's reasonable to expect a hardware vendor to offer any of the other services
  3. If not, if there's another outfit to whom it's cost effective to outsource multi-city support
  4. Windows 7? XP?
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Edited your title to better reflect your question (I also didn't want it to head to SU, as I think this is the best place for it). – Kara Marfia Jan 28 '10 at 17:12
Thanks, Kara -- much improved. – Jamie Jan 28 '10 at 17:24
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Instead of going for a large Vendor like Dell or HP, can you contract to a local IT provider near to each of your offices? They would be more than happy to go out to your sites and provide support, data transfer etc. You could even purchase the hardware and get them them to install and support it.

If your trying to support users on either sides of the country, and not do it yourself, your either going to need to find a large multi national company to do it, or get a couple of smaller more local companies.

Companies like Dell and HP will happily sell you the hardware, with support contracts that will mean you can get you things like telephone support or faulty swap outs, but your never going to get them to go out onsite and walk through a data transfer with a user.

Yes, managing multiple local support companies will be a bit more of a pain for you, but the end result for the user is going to be better.

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Thanks Sam. Good points. And I'd rather support a small company anyhow, if it's feasible to do and also meet our users' needs. – Jamie Jan 28 '10 at 16:53
I tried to support a West Coast office from East Coast HQ, and I couldn't agree more - you're either going to fly out there from time to time, or find a local IT outfit you can trust, who can pop over there (the better option for lots of reasons). – Kara Marfia Jan 28 '10 at 17:05
so I'd get next-day onsite parts and labor for the hardware from the vendor, and then contract with the local IT outfit for anything that doesn't cover, you think? – Jamie Jan 28 '10 at 17:29
Thats what I would do (and have done in the past), the vendor handles the hardware (and often your local support are able to liase with your vendor to get replacements if you let them), and then your local support handles setup, configuration, user support etc. With that many users, you wouldn't expect to need alot of time from the local company, per month, so can hopefully get a good deal. – Sam Jan 28 '10 at 17:32
Good ideas, thanks. Now, how do I find/evaluate reputable local or national IT support companies? ;-) – Jamie Jan 28 '10 at 17:38

I think Sam nailed it, tho I'll add that there's probably no reason not to go with a big vendor for your hardware. But this will be something you'll likely hash out with your local IT supplier, in terms of where the manufacturer support leaves off and their support begins. In your place, I'd probably opt for a "premium" support option to make sure that replacement part will be shipped straight to your user (with someone to install it onsite) rather than the "ship your laptop to us, and you'll get it back in 4-6 weeks" standard support.

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