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Custom Infrastructure Products Offer Tremendous Benefits If You Follow These Tips

By Andrew Erickson

December 18, 2022


We're no strangers to custom infrastructure equipment at DPS. Most of this falls under our "remote monitoring equipment" umbrella, but some of it is more general IT infrastructure gear.

No matter what sort of infrastructure project you have on your plate, it can be helpful to understand the typical pro's and con's of using custom vs. off-the-shelf equipment.

My work at DPS revolves around remote monitoring devices like RTUs, but the general tips and advice I'm offering here apply to pretty much any product type. My examples might be specific to my industry, but the general principles are useful almost anywhere.

Custom products can be tailored to your exact needs

Custom infrastructure products offer a number of advantages over off-the-shelf equipment. These custom products can be tailored to fit the exact needs of your business, allowing you to maximize performance and meet specific requirements.

What value do you place on each additional increment of perfect performance? If you're like many of my clients, you might be protecting phone service (and 911), keeping the power grid online, or directly protecting lives in a police or fire capacity.

It's important to remember that you infrastructure equipment isn't just a cost center. You're actually trying to generate (or protect) revenue in order to increase profits.

That's why a lot of my clients are more interested in quality, reliable, easy-to-use equipment than exact product price. Anything within reason is acceptable if it yields a significant improvement in performance or a compensating reduction in time spent installing and using the product.

Savings on installation costs through customized connections and pre-configuration can outweigh most price differences

Consider how difficult it can be to install a new device. Everyone naturally focuses on purchase price because your install team "is already paid for".

For my clients' projects, it's typically expected that $1 in purchase price will be roughly matched by about $1 in installation and configuration expense.

That's why we've taken to providing connector customization and even pre-configuration services for clients who want that.

For one specific device example, there's our NetGuardian ADP (Audio Distribution Panel). It's built to be pin-compatible with the legacy device being replaced, but it also incorporates a lot of new "smart" functions.

Front panel of the (revision 2) NetGuardian Audio Distribution Panel (ADP)
Our second hardware revision included dual, hot-swappable power supply cards (at our client's request). Notice also that the LEDs evolved into very clear RGB lights to support more than just red and green.
Front panel of the (revision 2) NetGuardian Audio Distribution Panel (ADP)
The pin-compatibility of the back panel remained the same in revision 2, but there were differences. The power connectors and fuses were changed to match the design our client already liked from the NetGuardian 832A RTU.

Being pin-compatible is incredibly helpful, as each connector can simply be unplugged from the old device and plugged into the new one.

I'm also working on a project for airports where I'm simply using the client's preferred connectors on my device design. This saves time spent installing, since his install crews already know this particular connector.

Remote Power Switch G6 AB6 with Anderson Power Products connectors.
This G6 version of the Remote Power Switch AB6 PDU includes heightened TLS (HTTPS) security and client-requested power connectors by Anderson Power Products (APP)

Pre-configuration of IP addresses and "cookie cutter" configuration files is another service we offer to make installation as simple as racking, powering, and confirming connectivity. Granted, not everyone wants this ("we don't know what IP it will be until the day we install"), but it's useful for those who plan far in advance.

Custom products are almost always made by higher-quality manufacturers

It's a simple truth that, on the spectrum of "full service" to "bargain basement", custom manufacturers are almost always "full service". It's basically impossible to build commodity products cheaply while also offering full customization.

It requires highly skilled engineers and sales staff to offer custom products, and so this bleeds into unrelated matters like design and manufacturing. When a company can offering custom infrastructure products, even their off-the-shelf designs tend to be better.

Additionally, custom infrastructure products have a much longer lifespan than traditional off-the-shelf equipment, making them a more cost-effective option in the long run. This is especially true if the product needs to be regularly maintained or upgraded.

Quality components and well-engineered solutions can result in fewer breakdowns and longer-term reliability. This can reduce costly downtime, saving your business time and money.

Custom gear integrates with legacy systems

With custom infrastructure solutions, you can save money by avoiding costly upgrades; instead, only replace what needs to be replaced when necessary.

DPS has completed large projects associated with the replacement of one legacy component. The other legacy components are then free to continue running for years. In this way, custom devices help you extract more value from your existing investment, further offsetting any price difference vs. off-the-shelf designs.

Due to their custom construction as a collection of components, custom infrastructure products are also often more modular and easier to maintain. This means that should a component fail, it can be quickly and easily replaced without the need for an expensive overhaul of the entire system.

Do custom infrastructure products cost more?

Generally, custom-made products tend to cost a bit more than generic off-the-shelf equipment. However, when you factor in the benefits of increased performance and improved reliability provided by these custom products, the additional costs are often worth it for businesses looking to maximize their return on investment.

Even so, there are some fantastic techniques you can use to minimize the price difference during purchasing. For example, our general policy at DPS is to offer custom engineering at no extra cost if you want to order about 11 units or more. This varies based on the complexity of engineering required, but that's the general rule.

Once you issue us a PO for the required minimum (of about 11 units, usually), we write up a quote. We price the device as if it was already off-the-shelf. We don't like charging engineering fees, preferring instead that you simply want to buy more than a handful.

This is actually how we expand our product portfolio. It's much better for us and for you if we build something you actually need right now. "Great ideas" our engineers come up with sitting in their offices seldom work out. Your real-world needs drive everything at DPS.

Will a new custom product make me an unwilling "guinea pig" product tester?

If you choose the right manufacturer (and you should absolutely do your homework here), you won't end up as a "guinea pig" product tester.

At DPS, even when we build something new, our equipment designs stand on the shoulders of every prior design. Often, we're simply "repackaging" existing technology "building blocks" into a new combination. Sure, you might need a new connector or a new firmware feature. We're not reinventing our power supply or our aluminum chassis, though.

The key is to find a manufacturer that:

  1. Has quality engineering for its existing products, and
  2. Does custom equipment designs a lot

The presence of these two factors mean that you won't end up feeling like an involuntary alpha tester.

Don't miss your chance to benefit from custom products - and call DPS if you have a project in mind

Custom infrastructure solutions provide many advantages over traditional off-the-shelf equipment. From improved performance and reliability to cost savings and modular maintenance, custom products offer a number of benefits for businesses who require more tailored infrastructure solutions. Investing in custom equipment can be a wise decision that will pay off in the long run.

DPS engineers
You can (and should!) treat DPS as your own personal engineering department.

At DPS, we specialize in custom infrastructure products that are designed to fit your exact needs. Our experienced engineers can work with you to create a product that meets your specific requirements and provides the best performance for your business.

Do you need custom remote monitoring equipment to keep track of your infrastructure health? Contact us today to learn more about how we can provide custom solutions for your business.

Call DPS at 1-800-693-0351 or email us at sales@dpstele.com

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...