Backup Software. Disk Defragging. Disk Space Quota Management Software. Regardless of what type of storage management product you need for distributed computing, you need to know what you're getting before you decide to get it. So, don't be afraid to ask the vendor the following 10 questions. Probe until you get the answers. For example, if a vendor has never had its products reviewed by reliable sources, such as Windows 2000 Magazine, find out why this hasn't happened and ask for a list of customer references.
1. Customer References -- Does anyone even use the product? Go to the Vendor's Web site and look for recent case studies from reputable organizations. However, don't take the case studies on face value. Call the individual in the case study or ask the vendor for a list of recent customers with a storage environment similar to yours. If the vendor can't provide you with the names of customers, then the vendor doesn't have any customers or doesn't spend much time talking to its customers.
2. Independent, Unedited Lab Reviews - How can you assess how well the product will even work? Ask for unedited copies of independent, third party lab reviews by trusted sources such as E-Week labs, Windows 2000 Magazine, and other, such as Doculabs. If the vendor doesn't have any reviews, find out why. Perhaps, the vendor wants to hide some product deficiencies. One way to find out is to request a trial version of the product and use it for a few weeks.
3. Real-Time Monitoring -- What type of monitoring capability does the product have? Real-time monitoring won't cause the server performance to take a hit. Scheduled monitoring, such as every five minutes, could put a strain on server performance. You need to decide what's acceptable for your environment.
4. Storage Management Control - Is the product designed to be re-active or proactive? And can it take corrective action? A reactive product enables you to respond to situation before it gets worse. On the other hand, a pro-active product alerts you to a situation, and enables you to make a decision about what to it. Also, find out if the pro-active product has a rule base (policy) that enables you to link certain events to key business functions. For example, can you set a rule that says when files in specific directories became a year old, they automatically get archived to secondary storage.
5. Outstanding Support - How good is the vendor's support? The best way to put the company's support to the test is to download the product and test drive it. Was the vendor responsive? How was the Web support? Don't overlook these important factors in your buying decision.
6. Patented Technologies - Does the vendor have any innovative products that have patented technologies? Those that don't have patented technology could be either an inexpensive substitute for the real thing, or could be in the middle of a lawsuit right now. The latter would mean buying a risky product since the vendor may have to surrender the code to the injured party, as well as ask customers to move their code.
7. Product Awards - Can the vendor point to significant product awards, such as an Editor's Choice for a comparative product review? Recognition for a comparative review holds more significance than an award for a product with the most press mentions in a publications or one that's a personal favorite of some editor.
8. Track Record - Has the published news about the product been good? Look for articles in major computer and or networking trade books that present a favorable capsule overview of the vendor and its product. Look for articles that include quotes from customers, industry analysts, as well the vendors' key executives. Editors like to tell their readers about proven, successful products, and technologies. To this end, check the vendor's Web site for published news clips, not press releases. Sites with lots of press releases and no news clips mean the vendor likes to make noise.
9. Global Presence - Does the vendor have real offices, or value added resellers that can provide support to your remote locations or your European operation? If your needs for the product are global, look for a company that covers the map with its own field support offices, value added resellers and distributors staffed with technical support personnel who can answer your questions.
10. Reputable Partners - Does the vendor have solid technology licensing arrangements or marketing partnerships with reputable organizations? Is the vendor forthright about its technology licensing arrangement with each partner? Which resellers are distributing the product? Do large systems integrators, such as EDS, use the product to provide services to their customers? What others are bundling the product and why? If the vendor is a lone wolf, need to assess whether or not the vendor has a legitimate reason for an empty den.
Elizabeth M. Ferrarini - She is a free-lance writer from Boston, Massachusetts.