If you're not in the IT business, what the hell are you doing in the IT business? Being in business is hard enough without also being in the IT business. You should focus your efforts on your business and leave IT to the people who do it for a living. Focusing on your business means finding a third-party company to do your IT work for you. Let them run the web servers, the database servers, the VMware hosts and the storage arrays and you concentrate on making a better tasting french fry.
Don't fool yourself into thinking that you can do IT as well as a company whose primary business is support. You can't. The sooner you realize that, the better off you'll be. You'll also be money ahead on the deal.
Supporting a living infrastructure isn't easy and I should know. I've done it for almost two decades. At times, it gets to be a little more than just a job. Outages, downtime, maintenance, patching, planning, finger-pointing, slacking and everyone yelling at me to fix it. Now!
It's enough to make you want to pay someone else to do it.
Nice segue into a discussion of hosted services, don't you think?
Find yourself a company that provides hosted services and engage it.
Hosted services, as I define them, are those services that you use but do not host on your local network or on your hardware. You don't virtualize them, you outsource them.
There are several reasons for this. Look at a list of advantages to using a hosting company for some of your more labor-intensive, time-sucking and money pit services.
- Disaster Recovery
Using a hosted service for some of your workloads makes sense. It's a convenient way to work on and access your services without a lot of hassle. Sure, you still want some control over changes and governance over who does what and where but come on, you have to admit that a hosted service is a liberation.
You don't need to host your own Email. You just don't. It's a pain to mess with it. Spam, antivirus, security, space constraints, archiving and user complaints are just more than most companies should bear. Same goes for services such as customer management systems (CMS), Wikis, sales automation software, time-keeping applications, e-commerce applications and transactions. And, someone please say that it's not a sin to use a hosted service for web services.
Your stupid web site with its dancing icons and flash movies should run somewhere else other than on your own systems. Convenience. Crazy concept. Learn about it.
Any business owner looks for ways to cut costs and outsourcing some of your services is the way to do it. When you can place your entire web presence online, on someone else's hardware, what's stopping you? Think of the money and headaches you'll spare yourself by doing so. You won't have to deal with hardware maintenance, support issues or the phone calls associated with running your own services.
When I had my own business, I ran my own services. That is until I counted up the amount of money and resources I had tied up in supporting those sources. It's overwhelming. I could host everything through a provider at one-twelfth the cost of doing myself. Yes, one month's worth of doing it myself bought me an entire year of service. Enough said.
I've seen many companies come to the same conclusion that I did and they're happier for it. Yes, I'm still on the supporting end of those services but I'm not in it alone anymore.
Though a lot of naysayers quote security breaches as a good reason not to use hosted services, it's not a great reason. However, if you look at the list of compromised businesses, they probably self-hosted those services. Look at it this way, if you use hosted services, your web site or CRM or some other service might get hacked to bits but you can restore them and get over it. The Mother Ship (your company's systems) are still intact and unharmed because the hackers didn't have access to them.
And, that's not "security through obscurity," it's security through separating hacker wheat from hacker chaff, as they say. But, here's a better question, "Can you do a better job of securing your network?" Be careful how you answer that. Hopefully, you won't find yourself standing in front of your next potential employer having to make up a lie when asked, "Why did you leave your last position?", when the truth is that you let your systems get hacked.
Growing a business is difficult under all but the best of economic conditions. Agility is important. What if you're working remotely and you can't connect back to the Mother Ship for something that you need? If you used a hosted service, that question would be pointless.
It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark and if you wait until you need a disaster recovery solution, it's too late to build that recovery Ark. Hosted services, including Cloud services, can offer your company disaster recovery solutions at a fraction, a tiny fraction, of what you'd pay to build your own. When uptime is important to the life of your business, you'd better plan for disasters, because they will happen. Ask anyone who's lost their primary facility to a flood, tornado, hurricane or fire.
Use all of the virtualized systems in your network that your heart desires but be smart and host some of those services elsewhere. Focus on your business. Let the hosting companies focus on theirs. You have to decide whether you're running an IT company or doing whatever it is you do. And, do you want fries with that?
Does your company use any hosted services or do you do everything in-house? Use the Talkback area and let me know.