Every day, I learn something from my clients. Sometimes it’s something that helps me with another client. Other times, it’s something that lends credence to common misconceptions in technology. These misconceptions often arise due to companies positioning certain products or services differently than others due to, among other things, profit margins. Other reasons could be lack of a competitive offering, competitive deficiency, or a different brand-to-market strategy that does not involve client need.
This article will share those analogies along with the misperceptions I have encountered recently with you.
Telecom: I’m less than a carrier-grade client but I’d like Fiber
One client, clearly in the Small/Medium Business space (100 or so employees) was looking at fiber as way to connect several offices. Given the nature of the telecom business, carriers merge, consolidate, and change practice and pricing constantly. I explained to the client that it would be prudent to construct a fiber ring for, say, a data center project that revolved around very high capacity bandwidth. Another application might be a network provider (really, any OC+ opportunity).
The analogy I used with this client was that in the SMB world, you don’t “marry” your carrier. Laying fiber is the equivalent to marriage. The process involves a build-out, an amortization of the construction cost (often hidden in the quote) and getting a “divorce” is typically ugly. The alternative: date your carrier. Pick contract terms of 3 years for the best price and reserve the right to change when the contract is up.
Security: My Router can do what these Firewalls can do
This is, unfortunately, becoming more of a thought process than previously. A Router is defined as a network device that forwards packets from one network to another. A firewall is a device or set of devices designed to permit or deny network transmissions based upon a set of rules.
When a particular prospect was of the belief that utilizing Telco-provided routers at each of the company’s branch offices would provide adequate security, I used the following example:
There is a high school-aged child having a party and there are people coming in at the door. The Router is the host who is throwing the party and is just glad that people showed up. He lets everyone in, regardless of whether they’re there to cause destruction or to steal things, or to spread ill will and slow down the party. The Firewall is the person who lets people in that meet the criteria and do not pose a threat, as well as keeping those guests safe while they are at said party. Basically, the keeper of the car keys!
Fortunately, the prospect understood this rationale very quickly!
Business Continuity: We’re going to the cloud – it’s fine.
One of the most prevalent technology trends is to move applications (CRM, ERP, Exchange, etc…) to the “cloud”. The term “Cloud” itself has many meanings, but the main implication is that “it’s safer in the cloud”.
It depends. What is the goal of your company’s cloud initiative? Is it to reduce capital investment and infrastructure and change to an operating expense? Is it to get mission-critical applications in a more secure and robust environment? Is it to get applications closer to end users? Or, is it to place these applications into a more secure environment?
Cloud Providers are a difficult group to define. Seemingly everybody claims to have a cloud offering. If you are using Microsoft Exchange and connecting through a VPN, I suppose that could be defined as “cloud” as well.
There are some fantastic cloud offerings, both public cloud (buying space on servers that are also leased to other companies) and private cloud (creating a custom solution with a server or server set dedicated to a particular client). Examples of these are Quality Technology Services, Colocube, Rackspace, and even Microsoft. These companies have taken the time to engineer the solution that fits all of the pertinent areas (security, high availability, robust network, diverse paths of network, and the people, procedures and processes to ensure that the offering works). Further, these companies are more likely to invest in the technical infrastructure to protect your data, and do proactive testing to take a best-practices approach in preventing a breach.
The flip side of the equation is companies formerly in the low-end Dedicated Server marketplace now offering “cloud solutions”. This group, has, by nature, always had to cut costs and margins in order to compete in a lower-end market. As such, engineering a solution to compete in the “cloud” space is vastly different than the companies who really invest in their infrastructure.
I’d like to issue a disclaimer that there are exceptions. There are some Server companies that have adapted and created top-end solutions with high-availability and top security. It’s a matter of doing your due diligence.
My analogy is that that it’s like the present-day hotel industry. You can go to a few “review” sites. You can go to a referral site, or you can shop online. Either way, everybody usually looks good at an initial glance on paper. When you get under the hood, and really do some digging (in this case, checking the company history if they are an unknown to see if they’re a dedicated server company), you should be able to see what the offering consists of. The top-end Cloud providers will never be the least expensive, but you know you’re in a good section of town, it’s safe, and you’re able to check and check out 24/7 without fear of being locked out. The lower end Cloud providers give you a better deal, but they might not mention that the neighborhood isn’t as good (porn, gambling, spammers, etc….), security may be suspect (cost-containment is the number one goal in hosting) and process may not be nearly as tight (thus, the down-time that you never envisioned could become reality).
The rule of thumb – choose your cloud provider very carefully if you are hosting primary applications. If you are hosting secondary, still choose them carefully. Do you want your company data getting into the wrong hands or a competitor? We’ll explore the issue of that happening in a later article.
I hope that these analogies provided a few answers to common misperceptions and, as always, I welcome your feedback!