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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Understanding PC Sources, Vendors and Prices | Vendor Evaluation Factors | Reputation and History ]

Time In Business

For any vendor you are considering using, you should determine how long they have been in business before you make your purchase. While time in business is not a perfect indicator of the quality or stability of a company, it's a useful data point that tells you something about the company's legitimacy.

If you are looking at a company that is strictly a vendor--that is, they are just selling items made by others--the length of time they have been in business is of somewhat less importance. It provides a "ballpark" indicator of their soundness and to what degree they have been able to build a loyal customer base. Few companies stick around for years unless they are doing something right.

Where time in business becomes much more important is when dealing with a PC or component manufacturer. This is because you need to count on them being around in the future to provide support and service, whereas you are usually "done" with a vendor 30 days after the purchase, if not sooner (for the purposes of this discussion I consider a company that sells what they make a manufacturer). A rough rule of thumb that's worth considering is this: a company should have been in business in the past, at least as long as the length of the warranties it offers going forward into the future. So for example, if a PC maker is offering a two-year warranty, then I would be look to see if they have been around for at least two years. (While I wouldn't use this as a hard-and-fast rule, if a PC maker offers a three-year warranty and they've only been in business for two months, I'd be hesitant to trust that they'll even be around in three years to honor that warranty.)

The easiest way to determine how long a company has been in business is simply to ask them. :^) In my experience, most companies will be honest about this because they know how easy it is to verify the figure, and they don't really figure they have any reason to lie. If a company doesn't want to tell you, consider that a "danger sign".

If you find a vendor that appears in all other respects to be very good but has not been in business for very long, you may still have a good experience with them. Many new companies are quite excellent, and everyone starts out new at one point. But you should take precautions to protect yourself, by thoroughly researching the company to ensure that it is legitimate. The less time the company has been in business, the more important this is.

Finally, recognize that there's no guarantee that a company that's been successfully manufacturing and selling for a decade won't go out of business next Tuesday. By looking at the company's length of time in business, though, you are putting the odds in your favor. You can further increase the odds by considering the company's time in business in the context of their financial stability.

Next: Vendor and Product Reputation


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