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How to Start a Company Without an IT Professional

Have you ever noticed that IT professionals are grumpy? I think that part of the reason is because they never get calls like this: "Hey IT guy, just calling to say that everything is working okay today and you're a great guy!" 

The calls are typically more like this: "Hey IT guy, why is it that the only messages our spam filter filters out are our sales leads? Luckily, however, it does let all the Viagra ads through, which is good because it gives us something to read while we're not selling anything. Did they have classes in spam filtering at the college you supposedly went to?" 

Working in IT is somewhat like being a fireman. You can never respond to the fire fast enough no matter what you do. If I was starting a company today, I wouldn't even buy a server. I would do my best to avoid acting as or hiring an IT professional.  Rather, I would do everything with Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS (which means it is hosted online on someone else’s server). 

I would use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce, and Sugar for contact management, and an application like Quickbooks Online Edition for accounting.  I would outsource my email to someone like Amicus and my document storage to someone else. 

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. 

Servers require updates, maintenance, backups and more backups, which translates into plenty of work. Very few companies, regardless of their size, do a good job with backups. Disks have grown faster than tapes have and this is causing a real problem: Where do we put all the data?  Not only that, but all disk drives fail eventually. After 10 years in business, I've seen a number of disk drives tank, and it is never, ever convenient. 

Consider this: if a tornado (or a disgruntled employee) obliterated all of your servers right now, how long would it take you to get it all going again? How do you know the tapes will work? And where are they? Not in the same room as the servers, I hope. Did you know that tapes can sometimes be written to but not read from due to the technology of the tape drive and the error rate on the tape itself? Are those machines still for sale so you can buy replacements for the ones that were destroyed? Where would you get that copy of the operating system you were running? How many millions of patches from Microsoft did it have on it again? And how long will it take to install them? 

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. 

That frightening vision is very motivating to me. So much so that we have redundant hardware, lots of backups, tapes in a salt mine, multiple sites for data, etc. But sometimes I still don't sleep well. No one can do a better job of keeping our application up and running than we can. 

"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. 

If you're starting a new company today, go SaaS. Get a laptop. Office at Starbucks. If your time, your data security, and your piece of mind are worth anything, it's definitely cheaper. 

Read More In: Services and Support

Tips & Tricks from Software CEO Curt Finch


Tags : ASPSaaSSoftware

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-2 of 2 | Latest Comment

December 14, 2010 3:31 PM updated: December 14, 2010 3:38 PM

This is all well and good, until the first time my email provider decided to aggressively cut down spam and caused me to be unable to receive emails from half (500+) the vendors I dealt with.

"Stop filtering my account, please. I'll accept the spam." I asked.

"Sorry, it's against policy.", they said. "And, even if it wasn't, we can't. There's no way to implement a per-account filter."

"No whitelisting?", I asked.

"No."

That's when I realized, and changed course, as much as farming everything out seems rosy and supawonderfuls, it's a case of greener grass on the other side of the fence. When things don't go your way, how easy is it to change? Are you hooked in, like most vendors want you to be?

The question is, what do you value more: control over your destiny or ignorance is bliss?

Servers are not hard to maintain. It's desktops and laptops, with endless patches and changes, that are more of a hassle.

December 28, 2010 2:45 PM

You are right sir. Desktops are more of a problem. And a vendor can make life difficult, as can a bad employee. Sometimes Adam Smith's division of labor idea makes more sense than others. I don't plan on building my own cars for example. I'll keep outsourcing that. It a question of where do we draw the line on outsourcing.

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-2 of 2 | Latest Comment

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