Those of you who know me (or have read my blogs) are well aware of my deep-seeded belief in customer advocacy. We use well-known phrases like “trusted partner” or “true partner,” which are about as worn as the tires on my old high school car. But, overused or not, these phrases say what they need to say, and there are few words that convey the message in another way. 

When I’m working on a project, whether in a data center or at home, I deal with people and solutions I trust. Sure, there are times when I know exactly what I need and I simply go buy it (usually from a company I know). But when I’m buried under a project, I always look to those I trust (and those who are true to my success and the success of my project).

Let’s say that you’re working on a home improvement project, and you need something (you may not even know exactly what you need). Where do you go? The shop that has a friendly, knowledgeable, and highly experienced person behind the counter who can answer almost any question you ask (or tell you who can)? Or will you go down the street to the shop that offers plenty of home-improvement products at inexpensive prices, but may not be able to answer your questions – or help you fix your problem?

The same question applies in our world of data center network infrastructure. There are many situations where you will have to choose to work with a partner vs. supplier. Which should you choose? And what’s the difference?

Suppliers are plentiful, easily replaced and their options are available from many different places. They can be relied on to provide products (generally not solutions) following a standardized transaction process. When the transaction is complete, typically, so is your contact with the supplier. Do they understand your needs, applications or environment? Most likely not. Can you end up with a cookie-cutter or piece-part solution that isn’t the best fit? Possibly. More importantly, if your project blows up, who’s got your back?

On the other hand, a partner is an organization that has a very specific support channel in place made up of players interested in developing a business relationship with you and your company. They do much more than get you products when you need them. They take time to learn about you, your needs and your environment, and they share in your successes and failures. When the train comes off the tracks – and it does – you know with all certainty that the cavalry will arrive and run to the trouble!

In comparing partners vs. suppliers, a true data center partner can help you:

  • Stand out among your competitors
  • Shorten your speed to market
  • Find solutions to your unique problems
  • Reduce overall costs
  • Recover from/overcome unforeseen negative impacts of a project

What are the other benefits of working with partners vs. suppliers?

Advances in Multifiber Connectivity

1. A Partner Should Equal an “Advocate”

When it comes to making a tough decision that doesn’t have a black-and-white answer, data center partners can be trusted to help you make decisions that are best for you, your business and your customers. A partner doesn’t just sell you “stuff.” A partner serves as a subject-matter expert, an instructor, a guide, a consultant, and a problem solver, investing time and energy into understanding your organization and your business.

Providing you the solutions that you need, keeping you updated on potential changes to standards or legislation that could impact your data center, reminding you about upcoming deadlines or important dates, clueing you in to potential challenges as a result of current or future technology, offering training to help your staff members stay educated, providing tools and resources to help streamline your processes and uncovering ways for you to reduce costs are all things you should expect from your partners; however, a true partner is a business ally, constantly advocating for your success, and the success of your customers, through any means necessary.

2. Partners are Team Members

A key differentiator between partners vs. suppliers is how closely they are connected to you and your team. A true data center partner will understand how your team works, what your team prefers and what challenges you face. A partner won’t feel like an outsider, but like another member of your team that can offer an unbiased, objective opinion and help with your data center strategy. They know enough about your goals and processes that they can provide you with valuable input and feedback, and are personally interested in your success.

3. Partners Protect You Against Failure

A project that goes south should be just as upsetting to a data center partner as it is to you. When you are backed by the experience and knowledge of a partner, you can rest assured that you don’t face challenges alone – and you won’t be left to fail. They take on risk, embrace the chaos and find a remedy to the problem, sharing with you the reward that comes with successfully thwarting the trouble.

Greg Fisher, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Management & Entrepreneurship Department at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. He says:

“Any person wishing to be successful in business, whether they are leading a large corporation or operating as an independent consultant, needs to confront the challenge, the joy, the frustration and the positive synergy that can come from entering into business partnerships. The essence and value of partnering goes back many years but it is more relevant in business today than it has ever been.”


When comparing partners vs. suppliers, partners routinely go well beyond simply delivering a product or service; they go the extra mile in delivering the project. Developing a relationship with a data center partner can help you stand out among competitors, shorten your speed to market, find solutions to unique problems reduce costs and ensure that you can recover from, or overcome, unforeseen negative impacts of a project.

Belden invests in clients, taking time to get to know you, your team, your data center, your challenges and your goals so we can earn the “Partner” title. Learn more here.