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Ok Lets look at some of the issues.Most of your large “legacy’ brokers(Schwab,Fidelity etc.) have trading platforms that were either created or modified in house.

This is both good and bad.On one hand, they tend to be more reliable ,in my experience.The large companies frequently have there own software and operations engineers that can devote full time to maintaining/fixing,and upgrading them.

Sometimes you can even call these experts.The smaller firms frequently buy or rent software from outside suppliers.Many of you may not know that there is a whole industry of creating and selling these software platforms,independent of the brokerage industry.

The advantage to using outside designed systems is that; if something isn’t working right or being upgraded fast enough for the brokers or customers liking it can be replaced.The platforms are branded to your brokers name so you may not even notice this in practice.

Fair enough,but in practice here is what I have noticed;The large firms think whatever they have must be the greatest be cause they “invented it”.They spent a small fortune back in the 90’s developing it,and like that old Chevy,it “still has a lot of life left in it”; regardless of the fact that it is hopelessly dated by today’s standards.

They are unlikely to have much interest in fixing/upgrading any issues you may notice, as the big profits of these firm”prove” that it must be OK.The small firms have a different problem.

The competition is brutal and they are less well capitalized.The tendency is;Let’s buy whatever trading platform is “on sale”.Now that doesn’t mean that all small firms have crappy trading platforms!.some actually have very good ones.You will also find as you shop that many will use the same or similar versions of the same platform.

If you know you like a specific platform BINGO!now all you have to do is shop for who has the best terms.However for most of us ,you don’t have a favorite,you just want something that works properly!

I have described some of the negative policies that Brokers have towards there customers.But that’s only half the story.The broker can have the most favorable policies in the world,but still be a tragedy due to shortcomings in the equally important Systems that he uses to take ,route,execute,and keep track of your orders!.Oh you thought everything was perfected by now?

If you stop and think about it the whole Idea of trading “online” is pretty wacky.I mean don’t you know people who would never think of buying a car on EBAY.Crazy!! can’t see what your getting till it’s too late,right?.

But millions of people are moving millions of dollars around one mouse click at a time.That’s fine ,many of these people are highly trained,but when it’s your money,I bet your going to have little sympathy  for losses caused by failures of the brokers trading platform,or losses that resulted from you not being able to operate it properly.

But why would anything go wrong?(Murphys law again).Before even getting to specifics at the broker…how about this..1)you forget to pay the phone bill or cable/dsl charges and the internet connection is shut off.2)The internet suffers a local or national outage(don’t laugh..in Feb.07 hackers took down two of the 4 master servers that control ip address routing for the whole internet;no one likes to talk about what would happen if they succeeded!).3)The internet slows down and you order is not received/received delayed and causes a lack of trade execution.4)your computer is infected with virus/spyware and trades do not go out properly5)your computer is infected with virus/trojans and your account is hacked and your money stolen.

Recently a gang was hijacking peoples computers and trading in there Ameritrade accounts to drive up prices of penny stocks that the ring owned elsewhere in a “pump and dump” scheme.7)power outage at your house8)power outage or computer problem at major exchange you trade through9)power or computer problem at brokers headquarters/server farm.

In most of these cases the broker will take no responsibility,nor should he for many of these,but some of these scenarios bring up issues of how well the broker has backed up his systems in case of a disaster.I think that is part of his job.You wouldn’t want to go into surgery at a hospital that didn’t have a back up generator would you?.

There are

things that he can do to lessen the impact of many of these such as redundant  equipment,and data feeds.Most of the time everything works smoothly ,but I can tell you I have been at places where it always seems to be a rainy day,and there is another excuse for why something isn’t working right.

As I mentioned the trading platform the broker provides you with is paramount,to the online customer;the storefront,the reception area,the cashier,the complaint department,the order desk,the quote department,the research office.

In the old days this would be done face to face or on the phone,and you would certainly have strong opinions if the carpet in the waiting room was dirty,the cashier gave you a check for the wrong amount,the quotes were on the wrong stock,and the price was $1 more than what you specified.Just because you do it online doesn’t mean the details are less important.

Now your probably saying “I could still phone my order in”(which 90% brokers charge extra for).Well if your trading I can tell you that’s not a good position to be in.

Your order is competing with people that are on line and you will not get as good of an outcome. Honestly most brokers aren’t really set up to handle phone orders in volume,the business has moved online and you will be delayed in placing orders.It is far better to try to find a broker that has good reliability of his systems

OK what kind of stuff should I watch out for ?.Let’s start with this.The Web site or platform provided by the broker is your whole world regarding the customer experience.Sure some of the larger discount houses have offices,but apart from occasional phone calls,the majority of your customer experience will be based on how good or bad the software,website,data feeds,platform design,and functionality is,in the platform provided.

Therefore it follows that you should be very picky and discriminating about using a broker if thing s are missing or don’t work right on the trading platform.

Trust me; there not going to “add/fix them soon”.Someday never seems to come.You will still be paying commissions while you wait!