Avoiding the Money Pit

How to change your system without getting fleeced

Nothing is worse than being sold a bill of goods, and that goes double in building a multimillion-dollar TV facility. But that's what can happen if you don't select the right integrator.

"You always want to look at the kind of projects [an integrator has] has done to see the nature of the work they do," says Tom Canavan, president, A.F. Associates.

Increasingly, that means seeking out an integrator familiar with IT-based technologies. Otherwise, he observes, TV production centers end up in "having constant battles for turf."

Integrators don't want to get in the middle of that. Instead, they try to make peace by getting the IT and engineering staffs to understand the ins and outs of the plans.

The station's personnel could, in fact, find themselves having to put personal technology preferences aside for the good of the facility. "It's more than just going out and choosing what you believe is the best server. That's only a small part of the process," Canavan explains, adding "It's about how technology can help the customer, and, in a lot of instances, that will limit the equipment choices."

Experts say integrators with their own engineering staffs are important. Fred Beck, president of Beck Associates, says use of an integrator's in-house engineers improves quality control. When an integrator brings in third-party engineers to work on the project, he says, there is a greater chance that something could go wrong.

Also, the pros caution, watch out for integrators that tout equipment from a particular vendor. That's a good time to wave goodbye.

"If they're pushing particular products or not listening to your needs, that's a bad sign," says Canavan. "A firm needs to listen and understand what your goals are and not tell you they have the solution for you in the form of a product."

That also means making sure the facility has the most capability for the buck. One of the biggest pitfalls that can really turn an installation into a money pit is not laying down a network infrastructure flexible enough to meet future demands. For example, a 1GB Ethernet infrastructure may be suitable for the next couple of years, but, with IT technology advancing a generation every 18 months, it might soon have to be ripped out.