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Reputation and History
The very first issue to consider about a vendor is its reputation and its past history. All else being equal, a company is most likely to be a good vendor in the future if it has been a good vendor in the past. To assess how likely the vendor is to provide you with a good buying experience, it pays to take the time to do some research on them, to find out what they have been like for others. You also want to determine how stable the company is, and how likely it is to be around for you in the future.
Assessing a vendor's reputation and history involves doing a bit of "digging". In the past this has been somewhat difficult, but the Internet has greatly changed that, by making available to the masses all sorts of shared information sources. The only thing that you must provide in most cases is: your time and effort.
Next: Time In Business