Brad Grimes | Logging On: At issue: Information on what, where and how to buy

Brad Grimes, GCN's chief technology editor

Welcome to the GCN Technology Acquisition Guide.

This is the latest step in the evolution of GCN's efforts to focus on products and acquisition, in four special issues that coincide with the time of year when readers tell us they make most of their IT buying decisions. The Tech Acquisition Guide (most recently called GCN Tech Edition) appears monthly from May through August.

In these pages, we will try to give you buying advice we can't normally fit into GCN, particularly when it comes to the myriad IT contracts agencies have at their disposal.

Say your organization is ready to spend some of its precious dollars on 150 Lenovo ThinkPad notebook PCs. There are definitely reasons to shop around. For instance, saving $100 per laptop could mean the difference between affording new network security appliances and weathering fresh scrutiny under the Federal Information Security Management Act. And depending on where you buy those laptops, $15,000 or more could, in fact, be at stake. Do you buy them off a General Services Administration schedule? One of several governmentwide acquisition contracts? Or should you look toward one of a growing number of department-specific, multiple-award contracts?

The GCN Tech Acquisition Guide aims to help with these questions. In addition to the news and IT trends, these editions are heavy on contract and product guides.
In this issue, GCN contributing writer David Essex examines the National Institutes of Health's Electronic Commodity Store III GWAC. Since its award in 2002, ECS III has handled more than $1.1 billion in IT purchases. You might not know it, but certain Cisco Catalyst switches can be had for less on ECS III than, for example, on NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement III contract. And ECS III fees run about 1 percent, though you can negotiate better deals for large volumes.

This is the type of information we want to get into your hands. Future Tech Acquisition Guides will look at SEWP III (soon to be replaced by, you guessed it, SEWP IV), as well as IT services-heavy contracts, including GSA's Federal Supply Schedule, and Millennia and Millennia Lite GWACs. We're eager to hear what else you want to know about IT buying vehicles. Drop us a line at editor@gcn.com.

Of course, what you buy is as important as where you buy it. These special GCN editions, therefore, feature a trio of IT buyers' guides. In this issue, we break down your choices of radio frequency identification hardware, the next (and perhaps still controversial) step in supply chain automation; knowledge management software for improving operational efficiency; and blade servers, ideal for data center consolidation projects.

Among other topics this week, contributing writer J.B. Miles helps you understand why RFID projects must now focus on identifying or migrating to so-called Generation 2 technology, while Essex explains that knowledge management is a bigger undertaking than some enterprises understand.

In the end, we hope you have more than one 'I did not know that' moment as you read these pages. And that you'll join us again in a month, when the GCN Tech Acquisition Guide looks at SEWP III, mainstream servers, videoconferencing and scanner-to-software document management systems. Happy buying.

Brad Grimes is GCN's chief technology editor.

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