On a lonnnnng international flight from Sydney, Australia, I sat next to a small business owner who was flying from one of his offices to the other. I’m not usually much of a plane talker. Neither of us were very tired, and we were both far from “economy-sized” guys in economy-class seats, so it would have been an awkward 15 hours of thinking, “I hope this guy doesn’t hog the armrest,” if we didn’t at least acknowledge each others’ existence. So we got to chatting.
He asked me what I did, and after the standard follow-up questions about what in the world a Web Hosting Evangelist does, he started telling me about his business. He owns a growing sunscreen company that does a good amount of business online. He wasn’t a technical guy, but he had a high-level understanding of how his business was using technology.
To begin, he asked me what kinds of facilities we operate. Then he rattled off a lot of other questions like how we ensure that servers stay online; what we do in the event of a site going down; how much servers cost; how we could scale his infrastructure; and how he could be sure support is available when he needs it. After a few minutes of evangelizing, he seemed pretty impressed with how well we were prepared to accommodate the needs of small business owners, but he didn’t say much.
I could tell that he was thinking about something, and after a few minutes, he revealed, “As you were explaining all the safeguards you have in place and the precautions you take, the whole thing seems too good to be true. I was just thinking that I am completely owed good answers to all of these questions – that you need to convince me why I should trust you with my data. Then it struck me … Why should I trust me with my data?”
It’s reassuring for business owners to have complete control over every aspect of their operations, but that control might come at the expense of not getting the efficiencies, expertise and pricing third-parties can provide. He explained that if I asked him the same questions he asked me, he wouldn’t have a single response. But the fact that he could see his hardware and touch his server was the subconscious reminder that he was in control.
His site is hosted on a shared server with a company in the U.S., and his offices in both countries operate from a centralized accounting platform. The server hosting the platform … an administrative assistant’s workstation in one of the offices. This setup worked very well as long as 1) the admin didn’t need to use the workstation while the accounting system was being accessed; and 2) the office’s power and network connections kept the server online 24×7. While he wasn’t setting any records for uptime and speed, his system worked the way he needed it to, and he didn’t have access to any other ways of doing it.
That’s how a lot of small businesses operate: a sort of “just get it working” mentality. The fact that you are reading this blog would suggest I might be preaching to the choir here, but if you’re holding back on a decision to make a change in the way you manage your IT until you get all of your questions answered, make sure you’re concurrently asking yourself the question, “Why do I trust me with my data?”
To make sure this mid-air observation wasn’t a fluke, I posed a question on Twitter this morning: “What do you think is the most important aspect of a business relationship?”
The first response: “We don’t think there is one lone aspect that can be singled out. There are many important aspects. Trust would be considered one.”