biggest bang for your bargain buckOnce upon a lifetime ago, I served on the front lines of a big-box store as a sales associate during the holiday retail season. Our army’s objective was to make your shopping experience somewhat more tolerable and your purchase more profitable. Unless you live in a remote part of the US where the local bait shop doesn’t have a Black Friday sale, you know that the holiday shopping mania commences this week. ‘Tis the season when retailers strive to eclipse the sales of years past by offering what many of us look forward to most: Bargains.

Bargains are a good thing, right? Aside from the feel-good sensation of buying something for a low price, the value of bargains is also important. Of course, it could make for interesting conversation when you tell a friend that you bought a 70” TV for roughly the same price they may have paid for their 55” set. But, underneath that emotion of “winning at shopping,” how do you measure the value, or the distance that your dollar takes you?

Like so many bargain-minded shoppers, guilty of letting price guide my buying decision, the story of the computer I bought my freshman year of college begins like this: “I got a great deal.” It’s true. I did get a great deal on a computer that had “everything” I needed. It met all the specifications necessary to help me do my homework. It was built using the latest technology by a reputable manufacturer, and was small enough to fit on the tiny desk in my tiny dorm room. It was great… until I realized during my second semester that I wanted to play video games on it, too. The lesson learned: Truly understanding your needs beforehand increases the feeling of satisfaction derived from a purchase.

Not coincidentally, the same philosophy holds true when evaluating the IT infrastructure needs for your business. The vast majority of hosting companies will lure buyers in with attractive pricing and industry-standard specifications. But, how does the solution meet your specific requirements? Will it help you adapt to the changing needs of your business?

For example, as an IT decision maker searches for a cloud server, it may be tempting to base the purchase on specs and price alone. Without more thorough research, they may subject their business needs to noisy neighbors in the cloud, disparate systems from multiple vendors or servers that can’t support the business’s changing needs. What would happen if an online gaming company based their infrastructure purchase on the number of users they have currently, instead of establishing an adaptive environment to accommodate high traffic volume if their game becomes hugely popular? Poor infrastructure decisions can be devastating to a company’s bottom line and impede the scaling of a company’s operations to meet growing demand.

While the computer I bought on Black Friday may have been a “good deal,” it did not ultimately meet my needs as I failed to consider other factors in my buying decision. So, buyers beware! A bargain is only a bargain if what you bought suits your needs. If it doesn’t provide the value you expected or take you as far as you thought it would, you could end up spending more money on what you should have bought in the first place.