With the Internet boom, it's gotten harder to cut through the marketing hype and find the product information you really need, says Russell Rothstein, CEO and founder of IT Central Station.
"Technology decision makers have to find products that fit their company size and needs, including scalability for the future and budget," he says. "Determining these needs can be a difficult process."
Russell created IT Central Station to help technology professionals evaluate enterprise software solutions through crowdsourced, vendor-neutral reviews rather than marketing spin. Here, he shares how his site works and offers his insight on navigating your next big tech purchase. Read on:
Can you tell us the story behind It Central Station?
I'm a firm believer in starting a business based on helping people solve business problems. In developing IT Central Station, we talked to lots of tech buyers and decision makers who consistently mentioned the difficulty of due diligence. One CIO I talked to, for example, was frustrated that his staff had to spend hours sifting through websites to collect information. Buyers like this want access to their peers to learn from their experiences and get reliable information outside of what is provided by analysts and vendors. In fact, Forrester research shows that tech buyers seek out peer experiences and product reviews more than any other type of non-vendor content. IT Central Station fills this need by providing a platform for crowdsourced vendor-neutral reviews of hardware, software and services and guides users to a network of enterprise technology professionals.
IT Central Station also just made sense. People today increasingly check Yelp rather than a food critic's column and TripAdvisor rather than travel columns and books. IT Central Station serves a critical gap in the market with our peer content.
In order to ensure that this content is unbiased and based on real experiences, we have a triple validation process including community monitoring, interviews and LinkedIn. This process provides transparency, which helps buyers know which users are in similar industries to allow them to make the most informed decisions about how a product will fit into their work environment.
How does IT Central Station work? Who should be using it?
IT Central Station is intended for enterprise tech, meaning software, applications and hardware, including SaaS and Cloud. You can use our site to check out any category of solutions to see what real users have been saying about it, whether you are looking at network performance monitoring systems or specifically, NETSCOUT TruView. This information helps to keep users informed about what options they have as well as provides a greater understanding of what their experience with the products could be like. We also have comparisons between different solutions, forums, discussion on the products, and an option for users to message each other, in case they want to ask more personalized questions about a review. Our growing community is made up of over 94,000 members and 8,000 reviews.
IT Central Station is for IT networking professionals and other enterprise technology professionals including marketers and anyone who is either researching or is involved in the process of purchasing enterprise technology solutions. I did an interview not too long ago with Denny Miu on his blog LoveMyTool, where I mentioned some of the other specific types of users we have on our site. We are fortunate to have great contributors in the networking space from real users to industry thought leaders such as Tony Fortunato. Some of our other top contributors in the networking space include David Varnam and Paul Jasina.
Why is it important to you and your team to give IT decision makers a platform to share reviews and ask questions of other IT pros?
According to LinkedIn, 67 percent of the B2B buying process is finished before even talking to a sales representative. When this is true, we need to make sure there is a way for buyers to get real information early on in the research process. IT Central Station provides unbiased reviews that expose professionals to the products they are interested in. Our site is important to help keep IT decision makers informed so they can make the best choices for their company.
What do you think the process should be for tech buyers when it comes to evaluating their investments?
It varies depending on the solution you have invested in, but generally buyers should examine the features that the product offers and the stability of the product. Then, depending on how big the organization is, buyers should look into scalability and support offered by the vendor. We provide some questions for reviewers that point reviews towards what users want to see answered. IT Central Station fits in as a place for buyers to reflect on their purchases and share these evaluations, as well as a place for buyers to see how peers benefitted from their investments to evaluate possible purchases.
What do you think are some common red flags that buyers should be aware of that a vendor might not be reputable, reliable and/or a good fit for their business?
Too many reviews that are all positive can actually be a bad sign. In fact, research shows that 68 percent of customers trust reviews when they are mixed, while 30 percent suspect reviews are fake or censored if they are all positive. If a vendor seems too good to be true, that is probably the case. To find a good fit for your business, you really need to understand the product and whether it works with the size of your company and the demands you will be placing on it.
What are the tech leaders on your site talking about the most these days?
APM is a hot topic on our site right now. Our users have been saying that APM is gaining increasing importance in improving performance and reducing downtime of web-based applications. Since January of this year, our viewership of application management software reviews has increased by 48 percent. NPM is another hot area right now.
What trends or innovations are you most interested in right now? Why?
I'm interested in finding more ways to help serious tech buyers get more information about products they are interested in in order to make more informed decisions.
To learn more about Network and Application Performance Monitoring from NETSCOUT, read the reviews here: