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How to Get an RTU for Evaluation & Testing

By Andrew Erickson

December 4, 2019


Purchasing an RTU is no joke. You probably have quite a few remote sites, so you'll be spending a fair amount of your company's money. The quality of your RTU choice can have significant consequences for you (both good and bad).

That's why you can't afford to be guessing. You need to do your homework and select the RTU that gives you the best chance of success.

But no matter how much preliminary research you do, there's nothing that compares with testing actual equipment in your actual network. You should always be skeptical until you've tested a piece of gear under your real-world conditions.

That's why you should use RTU evaluation units whenever possible. You get to test out the hardware and software in a no-risk environment. You might test it on your lab bench. You might deploy it at one actual remote site.

So, how do you go about getting an eval RTU to play around with?

The Simplest Option When You Have Purchasing Authority: A Generous Return Policy

If you're working with an established manufacturer with confidence in their product quality, it's not uncommon to see money-back guarantees. It may seem a bit corny, but this kind of "no questions asked" return policy offers the same safety net as it does when buying a consumer product.

Of course, money-back return policies are intended for typical purchase transactions, but they present an interesting opportunity for evaluating equipment.

If you're able to write a PO for a trial RTU, test it out within the guarantee period, then ship it back on time, you'll have accomplished a trial without seeking any special accommodation.

There's no need for the manufacturer to have a special "eval unit" policy, because the money-back guarantee (assuming it doesn't require a product malfunction to activate) gets the job done.

It's always a good idea to let your sales rep know that a return is likely if you're not impressed by the product. The good ones won't mind at all. If you get push-back when you explain your testing plan, that's probably a very bad sign.

It's also a good idea to confirm that you won't get snagged by a slight deadline miss. A customer-focused company won't refuse a refund after 31 or 32 days (or longer if you asked for it ahead of time).

If Getting a PO is Painful, Try a "Loaner Agreement" Instead

Using a return policy to demo a unit is very simple, but getting a PO issued can be a big hassle at some companies.

For that reason, some manufacturers will help you out with a "loaner agreement" in place of a PO. This is a simple document that you'll sign to indicate your commitment to returning the unit (or buying it outright) after your testing is complete.

You might not have purchasing authority at your company, but you can probably sign a simple agreement.

Just like with the PO method described above, good RTU vendors won't be overly particular about a particular time period. If 30 days isn't enough for you, ask for more.

If You Can't Find the RTU You Need, Ask for a Manufacturer Field Trial

An evaluation RTU to test is great, but what if you need something that doesn't currently exist?

Even though you need an RTU, maybe you need one with a:

  1. Different transport
  2. Different protocol
  3. Different physical form factor
  4. Special firmware functions

To get the exact RTU you need, it's not enough to get a free eval unit. You need your manufacturer to come to you and test a prototype, adapting it to suit your real-world conditions. Over several days (usually 1 week), you'll go from a "first stab" attempt to a finely crafted "perfect fit" solution.

It's likely that you're thinking, "My project isn't big enough to justify an in-person visit, let alone a multi-day visit."

There can be some truth to that. Obviously, no company can justify visiting you for a field trial if the travel and hotel cost more than the potential sales revenue. Still, the field-trial justification threshold is much lower than you probably think:

You should be able to get an in-person field trial if one of these is true:

  1. Your project will require 12 or more units of the newly developed device, or
  2. You work for a medium or large company that will likely have significant projects in the future, or
  3. Your manufacturer will likely be able to sell the new device to other companies after it is completed.

The experience of a one-week field trial can be transformative. The product customization and relationships you build with your manufacturer are huge.

Featured RTU Manufacturer: DPS Telecom

DPS Telecom is commonly recognized as the RTU manufacturer with the most flexibility (both on eval policies and technology customization).

DPS offers multiple paths to help you find the right RTU:

Buying a NetGuardian RTU? Return it within 30 days and you can tear up the invoice

DPS introduced a "30-day no-risk money-back guarantee" into the B2B technology space when that was virtually unheard of. Yes, it sounds a bit like a late-night infomercial, but it's an actual policy you can use for your RTU evaluation.

You can order an RTU with a 30-day (or longer if you ask) testing period in mind. Even if you're just purchasing an RTU, then discover that it misses the mark in some way, you can still return it under the same policy.

DPS has a standard Loaner Agreement

DPS is quite confident that you'll like a NetGuardian RTU if you try one, and it's understandable that you might just want to try the unit first before actually committing to a purchase.

That's why they developed a basic 1-page agreement that allows you to test the device in your own network for 30 days (or for a longer time if you ask for it). Your only cost will be for the shipping.

Your signature indicates only your willingness to either ship the unit back to DPS or receive an invoice (many people actually do choose to purchase the "loaner" RTU outright).

A DPS field trial will change your mind about RTU vendors

DPS wants to make sure that you're really improving your remote site monitoring efficiency. After all, that's the only way you'll be a long-term client.

That's why a DPS team will personally visit you for a field trial.

During a (typically) one-week-long visit, DPS will meet you and your team. This enables both of you to work together and evaluate your company's entire network. Getting to know your company and your network will give the DPS engineers a sense of what your monitoring requirements are.

Every field trial is a different experience, but - ultimately - you'll get a perfect-fit device crafted for exactly what you need.

Get Yourself a Free RTU to Evaluate

Contact DPS to choose any of the 3 options I’ve explained to you above:

  1. Order an RTU and use the DPS “30-Day No-Risk Money-Back Guarantee” (longer periods available upon request)
  2. Complete a DPS Loaner Agreement
  3. Arrange a DPS Field Trial if you need 10 or more RTUs

To do this, just:

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...