I followed a recommendation from CompTIA to visit their website CompTIA Software CEO. The first article I found there was titled How to Start a Company Without an IT Professional. I hope I’m not the only one who finds the title alone to be inflammatory. Go ahead and read the article, then I’ll see you after the jump so we can have a discussion about the article.
If you already thought the title was picking a fight, you won’t find any comfort with the article’s opening line:
Have you ever noticed that IT professionals are grumpy?
It goes on to mend fences after that saying that IT Pros only receive calls when something is broken but it is still starting off with a generalization. Lumping all IT Pros together with a single personality fault is not fair. Particularly if this is written towards C-level individuals, you have control over who you hire or fire and establish a positive work environment that exists within your organization.
In a nutshell, if I were starting a brand new company today, I would really try to have no servers at all, thereby sailing pass the stale Linux/Windows debate. Without servers and their accompanying headaches, I could focus on serving my customers instead of building a bunch of technology infrastructure that is, at this point, redundant.
If you were starting a company, I would also hope that you might try to get by without hiring a custodian as well. If you’re starting small, hopefully you can clean up after yourself during this startup period where income may not be flowing in as regularly as you’d like. Just because your office has pipes running through it doesn’t mean you have a plumber on staff. Similarly, it may not make sense to have an IT Professional clocking in or servers humming away when you have minimal employees creating your product. Many organizations will work with an IT Consultant as needed instead of hiring a full-time IT Pro. While the IT Consultant may charge a higher hourly wage, you don’t have to pay benefits and you’re only paying for the hours you need. The trade-off is that you may not be the IT Consultant’s top priority should something happen to your site. It’s hard to meet a Service Level Agreement when you’re working with another company with different goals and objectives. If your new company does become successful and continue to grow, at some point you will want to hire an IT Professional. At some point, you may also wish you had hired them earlier because planned growth is cheaper and more efficient than chaotic growth. If you can hire and IT Pro and pay them a wage you’re satisfied with, you can focus on serving your customers and developing your product, allowing you to reach the same goal.
The real argument isn’t to not hire an IT Pro, it’s to not have any in-house servers to maintain. I am not against Software as a Service. It certainly has its place and allows individuals to gain an economy of scale advantage despite their physical location or smaller size and also allows outsourcing to companies that can perform a task better and cheaper by specializing in it. Let’s say you don’t even need end-user support, either by making users responsible for their own computing resources or using something like Google’s Chrome OS. So that brings up two questions: how do you connect to “the cloud” and do you trust it? Are you just leaching off your neighbors’ WiFi or are you going to have an Internet connection coming into a switch and network jacks distributed through the building? Ok, somebody is going to take care of that part. (Even if it’s you or a consultant, it seems like you’re hiring an IT person.) Do you trust it? Do you trust the cloud to be there when you need it and do exactly what you need it to do? While Amazon has made some amazing strides recently in making the Cloud practical, I am only one of many that have seen and dismissed the hype of the Cloud as the perfect solution.
But wait a minute. “What if a tornado destroys the SaaS site of my chosen vendor?” you ask. That’s a great question.
At my company, Journyx, we have hundreds of customers who run their business on our SaaS site. If we weren’t up and running pretty much immediately after such an event, we would be out of business, and I would be out of a job. Moreover, some of those customers would come and find me and kill me.
What if the SaaS company goes out of business? With the Startup culture that we’re currently experiencing, many companies are flying on investors funds and are desperate to deliver. What if your SaaS of choice can no longer get further funds? What if your SaaS is acquired and is no longer offered or is to be incorporated into another, more expensive product like DimDim?
Stuff happens to the Cloud just like it could happen to your little Startup. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it pours. The reason this author is telling you to trust and bank on the cloud is that he runs a SaaS site, Journyx. Do you solely trust a salesman or do you check things out yourself and verify them against an independent credible source? SaaS is in the future. There are tons of awesome things being developed that exploit the Internet in new and amazing ways. But would I start a business on it? That depends on my business and what the product is that I provide. Just consider what the costs have been for various businesses that have come to depend on Gmail and experience down-time. Timely e-mails could be life or death for some businesses that are in the middle of a big deal. Their uptime might be better than an in-house product but it’s also not something you can control. It could also be something as simple as changing the interface that throws off your productivity and user experience. Uptime and control doesn’t even get into the more threatening security concerns.
“But what if someone nefarious and evil steals my data and gives it to my competitor – or my mother?” you ask.
The bank has all of your data, and you aren’t worried about them giving it away. What’s the difference? What about the phone company? They know a lot about you. SaaS companies should be under the same constraints for protecting your company’s privacy as banks and telephone firms are. And so far, they all seem to be doing a fine job. I’ve never heard of anyone swiping a competitor’s sales leads out of Salesforce, for example, and they have a lot of customers.
Ah, but it has. Not specifically sales leads from Salesforce but data security is a big concern for SaaS. User access to data and regulatory compliance are two big things that will keep data in house for quite a while. Just consider how HBGary is fairing after angering a beehive. A computer security company with data in-house wasn’t even safe.
There may even be a market opening up to counter the Cloud and the SaaS monopoly on your data. Unhosted has come about specifically for that purpose.
Unhosted is a project for strengthening free software against hosted software. With our protocol, a website is only source code. Dynamic data is encrypted and decentralised, to per-user storage nodes. This benefits free software, as well as scalability, robustness, and online privacy.
There’s plenty of reason to be wary of banking it all on the Cloud and there’s plenty of hype to want to utilize the cloud. Where does that leave us?
Starting a business: You’re going to have to evaluate it carefully and get your Service Level Agreements in writing. The Cloud is designed to be “One Size Fits All” but that doesn’t mean it will fit you best.
As a long-standing business: Leverage SaaS where you can after carefully evaluating that it doesn’t expose your company to any unnecessary risk without bringing the benefits to make it worth it.
Just like anything that has been the recipient of a lot of hype, you’ll need to weigh the decision for yourself and try to find the truth in the matter. I utilize the Cloud where it makes sense and run other things in house where those are better fits. As somebody in IT, I hope you’ll hire an IT Professional when the time is right for you who can make your infrastructure their pride and passion and assist in the decision making where the Cloud is a right choice.