Friday, October 07, 2011

Sometimes 2 Really Is Better Than 1

I'm a soppy, sentimental old soul. I must be cos whenever I hear talk along the lines of proper broadband access being a ‘fundamental human right’ and an ‘essential commodity’, I've always felt a touch uncomfortable. It just don’t feel right, while I’m still frequently being exposed to images of millions of people who can’t even access food and water!

Anyhow this is not to be some kind of political diatribe. I’m not that guy and this is not the platform. Of course, in our reality, the discussion has moved on rapidly. When we talk democratisation, we’re talking 'software'. And of course, we all know how democratised software is delivered. I guess if I’m one thing, I’m some kind of *SaaS fanboi* (*insert as appropriate*). Consequently, I do believe that in this day and age, access to quality broadband should not even be an issue – in the same way that access to food and water etc should not even be an issue.

Simply put, we have 2 carriers in the UK – that’s it. You can pick from a multitude of logos for your bill, but if ain’t Virgin, then you’re using BT. My broadband service is delivered by Virgin Media; in practice (without a doubt) the better service e.g. my service never drops below 80% advertised and is usually over 90%, while my ‘BT’ neighbours rarely get over 10%! 

For about a decade I’ve had no real gripes...until the last month or so. Over the last 5 weeks my broadband has gone AWOL just as many times. On all but one occasion, I was offline for the whole afternoon. It has been driving me crazy! Sorry sentimental types, but this is now my life-blood. 

On one occasion, I was 10 minutes in to a (much-anticipated) 5-way online conference meeting...and I was the 'Presenter' and 'Organiser'. The meeting collapsed of course. Fortunately I was able to use the Skype app on my iPhone (3G) to ping email addresses to a colleague who was able to step into the breach so to speak. And this was not the only uncomfortable moment. Simply put: ‘it’s not funny’!

If your organisation is run in the cloud, then good on you: you know it makes sense. The benefits so leave installed software in its wake, that it’s a no-brainer. So much so that we all know, before too long, it will all be done that way. In a few years time, we’ll be looking back and laughing at the ‘good old days’ - that’s if we’re not already! And so the antiquated ways of accommodating back-ups, disaster recovery et al: nasty, cumbersome and clunky, massively resource intensive processes consigned to the dustbin of history. Nice:)

It may be tempting to think that in the new SaaS reality, we now hand-over responsibility for our service reliability to our carefully selected vendors. Wrong! We all know that, barring rotten apples, service up-times already piss all over the old-guard. But, my experience is far from unique and a stark reminder that there are still some things that are down to us to sort out. 

If you don't have at least 2 separate feeds, one from each of the carriers, to run your business you are being at least negligent and most probably, stupid.

This is the most cost-effective insurance policy you will ever invest in for your cloud-powered business. 

Same goes for the vendors and related providers of course. In the same way that you have multiple back-ups and mirrors located hundreds of miles apart, all set-up to kick-in at the flick-of-a-switch should half the country get blown to smithereens or you are the number one target for tech uber-terrorists a la ‘Die Hard: 4.0’, you also make sure you’re not left prone to the vagaries of the service provision of the ‘monopoly’ that is Virgin/BT. Don’t you? 

Honestly, I know there are still SaaS start-ups out there offering superb, well subscribed solutions to the world, who are leaving themselves vulnerable by having the one feed. For the cost of a handful of users per month! 

Head Office reliant on Virgin or BT, but not both, to stay connected to the world. Seriously, what is that all about??

My experience with Virgin and dealing with their Customer Services raised a few issues worthy of comment - stay tuned. 

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