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Do yourself a favour: Trust but VERIFY

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Blocks and Files When a vendor says it has feature X, how do you know it's true?

Storage arrays are mighty complex boxes and vendors' marketing of them can sometimes take a bypass around reality. How can you detect if this is happening?

One way is to look for independent reviews of the product by a trusted reviewer. For example, product reviewers paid by a media outlet should be more independent than ones paid by the product's vendor. It is, to be frank, inconceivable that a vendor would pay for a product review and publish the thing if it was negative, if, for example:

  • the reviewer pointed out that, although the vendor said a product had feature X, the reviewer had been unable to find it, or
  • the reviewer said deploying feature Y caused a significant loss of performance.

A review of a product's claimed specifications using supplier-provided information is not enough on its own to justify a purchase. All such reviews or product comparisons should be discounted unless there are independent reviews of the product.

How do you select independent reviewers of good standing?

  • As a rule of thumb they must not be paid by the vendor
  • They should be expert in their field and have full and unfettered access to the product hardware and software
  • They should have published reviews of product in the past which mention negative features
  • They should have an independent stance
  • They should openly and fully reveal any sponsorship or other vendor-related inducements they might receive

A reviewer's bona fides, the trust that you can place in them, are absolutely vital. In my experience, product reviewers like Howard Marks of Deep Storage Net, John Toigo, the Register's Trevor Pott, Hans de Leenheer in Belgium, Chris Evans in the UK, and Steve Duplessie's ESG can be trusted absolutely to take hardware and software apart and test out vendor claims with a strongly independent stance.

That's my personal experience. There are probably others which I don't know of. There are certainly others whom I do know of and whom I wouldn't place in the same category as the people above. I have, by the way, no financial arrangements of any sort with any of these people, none whatsoever.

Any vendor who will not submit their product to review by a third party of your choosing must have damn good reasons for not doing so. If you come across a storage product with no independent reviews, using the criteria above, then I would suggest you walk away.

If a supplier can provide customer case studies instead, then ask for the customer contact details and talk directly to them, not through the vendor. Case studies age and vendor personnel change. If you can't talk directly to a customer with its own direct experience of the product, then the case study is, at best, marketing, and not a believable purchase support document.

What do you do if there is no independent review, according to the criteria I've set out above, and no facility to talk on your own to other customers mentioned in vendor case studies, and, yet, the product seems ideally suited to your needs?

Trust, as the late President Reagan said, but verify.

Get a try-and-buy deal and test out every feature; see if it's present and see how it affects product operation. If you don't have the facilities to do this then pay a trustworthy person to do it for you. If you can't afford that and the potential vendor won't submit their product for testing, I would suggest you walk away. You can get into far worse trouble through buying a poor product than by not buying a product at all. ®

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