Posts Tagged 'Outsource'

March 26, 2009

Use Caution when Outsourcing!

Outsource IT! I have been saying that for years now. But now I say; outsourcer beware!?!?! Really? How do you know if the company you are calling upon to keep your business up and running is safe and sound? Do they have certifications? Are they registered with the Better Business Bureau? Do they have scary fine print in the Terms of Service or User Agreement? Do you actually read those and understand them? How do you find out about all the questions above? Do you go to trade shows? Do you read about companies on the Hosting forum sites? Do you hear it from your friends? There are lots of ways to get that kind of information in today’s social internet jungle. Do you follow the company on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Linked-In, or all of the above? Should you? So many questions…

I am going to assume that you think this blog is going to be about how SoftLayer is a reputable, certified PCI compliant and SAS 70 datacenter, with competent and caring employees that can put themselves in the customer’s shoes and understand the frustrations that can go along with outsourcing your datacenter needs. Nah, that would be too easy and not very much fun.

This blog is about mud. Yes, I said mud. I was driving down a county road in Texas recently and we had a bit of rain in the days leading up to my trip. If you aren’t from Texas then you need a quick definition of “County Road”. A county can be paved, gravel or dirt topped and can be a great road or a horrible road, it just depends on the county that it is in, the tax base, and the abilities of the crews hired by the county to maintain them. I was travelling down a very wet gravel top county road, following along on my cell with GPS and Google maps and was about a mile from my destination. In what seemed the blink of an eye the road surface went from wet gravel to dirt and within about 10 feet my truck simply slid off the road into a nice 4 foot ditch filled with rain water. Looks harmless in the picture below doesn’t it?

Mud

It was a nice soft splash landing but my city slicker tires had no chance of getting me out of that ditch even with 4X4 engaged. So when water started coming under the door into the cab of the truck, I knew it was going to be a bad hour or so. It was time to outsource. I called the ranch to see if they had anything that could pull me out but they said that I was in a pretty tough spot and didn’t think they could help. So what would any techie do, I googled mud towing in the closet town. Of course I picked the first place on the list and gave them a call. They said they had a mud recovery truck and they would be out in about 45 minutes. Awesome, just 45 minutes! This was at 4:30PM and it was pretty cold and still raining and the ditch was filling up even further with water. Outsourcer beware, I was expecting a “Mud Recovery Truck!” I had visions of monster trucks dancing in my head. Fail!

Mud

Now I have to say that there weren’t ten forums about mud towing in Navarro county that I could visit, or customer references readily available so I just had to take that leap of faith and trust in the skills of my saviors. And I have to give credit where credit is due, that truck really is a monster! It did things a Transformer would love to be able to do. It got stuck at least 30 times in the 5 hours it took them to get me out of the ditch. Yes, I said 5 hours. Did I mention that monster trucks can do very bad things to city 4X4’s? Thank goodness I have an Echo to drive back and forth to work.

So I don’t want to leave you hanging but my truck is in the shop now and I am still waiting on an estimate. Things I know are wrong; front right A-arm damage from forcibly pulling the truck over a stump in the ditch, alignment issues, check engine light on, cruise control doesn’t work anymore, passenger side back door pushed up about half an inch including damage at bottom from the same stump, muffler caved in and exhaust pipe dragging the ground, front bumper air damn ripped off and metal bumper bent outward, yea you guessed it the pesky stump again and last but not least I need an entire new jack assembly because it is either broken or lost in the mud or both I should say (attempting to jack the truck over the stump).

The moral of this blog, if you have the tools available to research the company you are going to outsource to and they have references be sure to use them. They might save you a $300 mud recovery bill and a $1000 deductible somewhere down the road.

September 22, 2008

Yikes!

For starters, let me say that if you were affected by IKE my thoughts are with you as you try to cleanup and get life back to as close to normal as possible. I can’t even fathom what it would be like to be away from home and work and not know what lies ahead or even be allowed back to see the damage.

A few friends of mine live in the area surrounding Houston and I have heard from them that they still don’t have power and gas is hard to come by. It sure makes me understand what I take for granted every day. Even with short power outages at my house due to spring storms I find myself opening the microwave and then realizing that my burrito isn’t going to be very warm when I think it is done.

This particular blog came to me when I emailed one of my friends in far north Houston at his work email address. He works for a company that is also located in north Houston. After no response I decided to call him to get an update but ended up leaving a message. Before he called me back that evening my email to his work bounced. When I did talk to him I asked him a simple question, “are your company’s servers sitting in a closet onsite at your office?” He responded with what I already knew, “Yep!” Now, he is a national account manager and he has been meeting at his boss’s house this week to go over what they will need to do once things are back to normal. I asked him if it would help them if they could still receive emails from their customers and if they could post updates on their website if it was still up and running. He of course said, “Yep!”

So here is my plea to all you savvy IT gurus out in the world. Outsource it! Then you don’t take the brunt force of the storm when everything is down. Your servers, whether or not you are still receiving email, and whether your website is still up and running will probably and should probably be the last things on your mind when a disaster like IKE strikes. Leave that part to us.

-Skinman

June 10, 2008

Have to Be Technical to Outsource? Nah!

I know what you're thinking; here I go again talking about why you HAVE to outsource your datacenter and infrastructure. Not this time. In previous blogs I have talked about doctors and baseball players, etc and the ways they outsource. It hit me that everyone most likely does some sort of outsourcing every day and it is just part of our evolving society.

Think about how fast things changed from Y2K until now. So much technology; the way we listen to music, HDTV, BluRay, Hydrogen, Electric, and Hybrid automobiles, the green movement. Change is everywhere. If you look back to 1900 or even the 1950's changes were much slower and they weren't nearly as life-changing. A change to someone's daily routine back then wasn't a life changing stressful event like it can be now.

So how do we cope with all these fast changes today? Some form of outsourcing. Think about it, even going out to eat is outsourcing. Some of my single friends have never even used the kitchen equipment in their homes. They outsource their kitchens! Most use the fridge to keep the adult beverages cold but that is to drink with the Papa John's pizza they have delivered.

Ok, so now for the real reason this blog fell out of my head. I was talking to my mom yesterday and she was talking about quilting. She is a quilting nut. My whole house is buried in quilts. My wife loves them. I am pretty sure my brother's house has quite a few as well. We have a wedding quilt with pics of the wedding and signatures and quotes from people that were at the wedding. We have a "charm" quilt with 1020 or so different fabrics in it including fabric from my favorite shirt (at that time). We have too many quilts to name and I don't know what about half of them are called really. They all have "quilty" names.

So for those of you who don't know a whole lot about quilting (and I don't either) there are machine quilted quilts and there are hand quilted quilts. Machine quilted quilts are faster to finish but aren't worth as much money and can stand the test of time better. Hand quilted quilts take much longer to finish and can't stand up to as much punishment but are worth more money in the long run.

So, I have always wondered how my mom can bust out all these quilts so fast. The ones that are machine quilted always made sense. She can make them faster and they are tougher. But she gives us several that are handmade and I could never figure out where she got all this free time. I mean she is retired and sleeps till like 11am! Anyway, to make a good quilt you have to go search for all the right fabric, sew the top all together, then the bottom, and then quilt it all up nice and pretty - like toilet paper really. Batting on the inside makes it fluffy.

It takes time to do all those things and she just keeps on making them at blazing speed. So I finally figured it out yesterday when on the phone with her she mentioned she dropped 3 quilts off to be quilted. It didn't even faze me at first and then it hit me, she is cheating! I said, "You did what with the quilts?" So I learned yesterday that some of my quilts I thought my mom hand quilted, were finished by people I don't even know! I guess outsourcing is even to the point where grannies can do it to trick their grandkids! Where will it all stop!

In this fast moving age, it probably won't so don't miss the outsourcing train; it can save you some time - time you can spend with your family making quilts if you choose.

-Skinman

P.S. I wonder if I set the record for using the letter "Q" the most times in a single blog?

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May 24, 2008

SASafras

Filth flarn foul filth! You all know by now that my brother and I both work at SoftLayer. We are both smart enough to know that it is THE place to work. Ok, well I work and he just sits in his office dreaming of money (He has done that most of his life). I am pretty sure he still has the penny he took from me (forcibly) when I was still his “little” brother. Anyway, I have since outgrown him and he no longer wants to wrestle or play fight. Go figure, I think he got scared. As I have said before he can’t even beat me in racquetball anymore. So what does he do to pay me back? He gets a SAS-70 Type II review (Statements on Auditing Standards) underway and then somehow strategically gets it dumped right in the middle of my desk.

Now let’s review, Customer Service = Accounting, NO. Customer Service = Compliance, NO! :-) Somehow, somewhere I forgot to either skip that meeting or hide accordingly. I think maybe a sick day was in order. I should have been invisible, something, anything. But alas, here I sit reading, writing, editing, and screaming at new better cooler policies and procedures that will make auditors understand that we know what we are doing and we do it well. Now he could have simply selected SAS-70 type I and then we could just “say” we do all this extra stuff and we do it well and whala! SAS-70. But NO! He had to over achieve and pick Type II which says that we have to let someone else inside to make sure we do what we say we do. Not a problem really except that part about it landing in my lap! I’ll get him back, no worries.

In all seriousness (as serious as I can be anyway), this SAS-70 review is a great thing. It is making us look pretty closely at ourselves as a company and as individuals and making us make sure we are the best at what we say we do and making us do it. It will also allow larger enterprise companies to use us as their outsourced IT solution. I keep talking about why companies should outsource and this is one more reason. We are under review currently and should have a decision by the end of the year. Once we get it then you can have the best servers, the best portal, the best network solution, and the best support and have it all outsourced to a “hopefully” SAS-70 certified datacenter.

I am sure my blog-hogging brother will have a rebuttal for this one, and probably Mike Jones as well for using his coined word of blog-hogging again. Blog on!

-Skinman

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March 24, 2008

I Want to Be Your Agent!

Professional athletes have them. Doctors have them. Lawyers have them. Chefs have them. Movie Directors have them. Writers have them. NASCAR drivers have them too.

Are you lost yet? Wondering what this has to do with hosting or small businesses? It's really very simple. Let's dig into a few of them.

Athletes - most are very good at what they do, hit the ball, kick the ball, throw the ball, shoot the ball, swing the club, etc. They are so busy learning to be the best at their trade that they don't have time for the business side of their business. What do they do? They outsource that to an agent. Jerry Maguire might be the SoftLayer of agents. The best, the top of the line, the cutting edge, like us. He gets what the players want and more and was a master at customer service. The players don't mind giving part of their hard earned cash to him because of the benefit they get from him. It is a very symbiotic relationship.

Doctors - they are paid to fix people. They have to keep up with the latest threats to our health and the ways to fix us. They have almost continuous education to worry about and don't have time to worry about the office, and the bills, and whether they are getting timely insurance payments, etc. They are there to do whatever they can to help their patients. What do they do? They outsource to an office manager who takes care of the day-to-day tasks that a doctor just doesn't have time for and frankly shouldn't have to worry about. It's really just another form of outsourcing.

Chefs - this one is interesting because I am going to make the assumption that the chef owns the restaurant. I agree that many times there are restaurants that hire chefs, but the argument goes both ways. Let's say you want to open a restaurant but you can't cook. You outsource to a chef. To turn it around, a chef can cook but wants his own restaurant. He is a master at cooking and has studied in culinary schools for years to become a great chef. What does he do about running the place? He outsources to a restaurant manager. The manager takes care of HR, and guest services, and the chef does what he loves - cooks.

So where does this leave you? Are you an individual who knows (insert what you know here) and have studied it for years and you are the worlds expert on it? Are you a small business owner who is looking for ways to make the hours of the day last longer and find that competitive edge? Are you that IT manager who has hit the technology roadblock and your company doesn't have the large capital for the things you need to continue to scale your infrastructure? If you are then you need to consider hiring an agent of your very own. SoftLayer can be your technology agent and allow you to focus on what you do best!

-Skinman

P.S. Lance is the greatest CEO EVER! Now pay up! (Worth a shot, right?)

Categories: 
March 5, 2008

Outsource IT: Part III

Third in a series of three! In other words you won't have to read this stuff anymore after this one. I will get back to the fun ones. I might try to make this one fun along the way. So I left off on the last one discussing some of the financial reasons and technical reasons to outsource your servers. This blog will be geared towards some ideas floating around in my head on what would be some good examples of outsourcing.

You have to step back and look at it from a different angle. If you aren't ready to outsource the whole farm just yet, then you can go about it in a couple of different ways. One, you can outsource your sandbox, development, and/or test environment. We all know that with SAS 70 and SOX you have to have all of these (or most of them anyway). And outsourcing might be a good way of getting them in place. The cool thing about outsourcing any or all of those are you have a pristine environment and if it does get polluted somehow you can just reload the OS quickly and painlessly and try to tear it up again. Outsourced servers are great for this type of scenario. You can even get a few servers and carve them up virtually and have even more toys to play with. Now, you can just go buy new servers and have this in house but when they break or they are obsolete then you get to buy more. With an outsource model you can buy 1 or 100 and have them for 1 month or 2 years, it's up to you, your needs, and your budget. You can add hardware, memory, change the OS daily, and only buy the License for a month instead of having to buy it outright when you buy your own servers. I personally believe this is a really good way to get acclimated to outsourcing and test the waters both with yourself and your boss. You always have to make sure they are ok with the way you are doing things. Well, sometimes anyway.

Another option with outsourcing is outsourcing production. Some bosses out in the world aren't ready for this yet, but they will be. They like keeping their data close by and having multiple copies and instances and USB keys with copies on it, etc. That's just the nature of data. Now we all know that you can have the same if not more redundancy in the outsourced model too, it is just hard to explain to them sometimes. I have to give them credit. Think about all the data in the world and how much of it we need to use every day. If folks like them didn't demand that we techies keep it safe the world might have a bad day, I know I would. I use tons of data everyday (might be a fun blog).

If you decide to outsource dev/test or production you have the ability to scale quickly and accordingly when dealing with technology. Not having to be bogged down by worrying about hardware lead times, dealing with accounts payable, the receiving dock, and all the other worries you have when buying hardware is a liberating feeling. I know what you are thinking; I have been over this side of it a few times so I will just leave it at that but the numbers and today's technology make it all come together and make good business sense.

Outsource IT!

-Skinman

November 6, 2007

Stress is Free

Wikipedia defines stress as the condition that results when person-environment transactions lead the individual to perceive a discrepancy, whether real or not, between the demands of a situation and the resources of the persons biological, psychological or social systems. In a nutshell that says Stress is your mind telling you that you are in over your head for a multitude of reasons. I have worked many jobs in the past where those transactions were out of control and they became high stress jobs. Let's hit the "wayback" machine and relive the stressful ones. I am assuming some of you will relate to this and some will just think it's funny.

The Burger years - It all started at Burger King. I know if you haven't done the fast food thing you are thinking, "Right, that isn't a stressful job!" I'll tell you though, during a lunch rush when the order screen is full and backlogged and you are the only one making burgers and you are about 30 behind, it can be a little stressful. Then there are the times when non-paying customers are eating food from the salad bar and you have to tell them to leave, but that is a separate (and funny) blog entry. Anyway, I decided that the burger future just wasn't for me and it was adding to my ham hocks so I left for...

The Factory Months - Repetition became the word of the day for the next 8 months. I lifted 100lb bags of powder repeatedly, then cut the bags and dumped the chemicals into a vat. After hours of mixing it magically and chemically became glaze for toilets. I even made pretty colors with Black being the most time consuming, specific, and expensive (if you have ever priced a black toilet now you know why it is so high). Really the only stress there was just trying to get it all done in 8 hours correctly and not hold up the day guys and make them wait on me. Driving the forklift through the wall and losing 50 pounds of Burger King induced ham hocks was just a bonus. After that it was off to…

The Mall years - Any of you ever hear of Babbage's? I took a store manager position and you would be amazed at how stressful working from 9am to 10pm during Christmas hours was. Normally it was just the kids kicking and screaming but during Christmas it was THE PARENTS! "I was first in line! No! I was" All that for games for the Linx hand held (it was SO cool and so before it's time), Nintendo, or Sega. Even during the slow months the monotony of standing there just waiting for a customer was almost as stressful. I thought it was time to get a real job so I went to work for...

The Clone wars - Computer clone manufacturer as a sales person. A sales position is very stressful. I bet all you folks out there that have to meet a quota know exactly what I mean. The last day of the month you are popping the champagne corks and getting big bonuses and commissions and then the very next day your sales are at $0.00 and you are at square one again. It's numbing and nerve-wracking. I am no longer a sales guy after 5 years of that hell and my hat is off to those of you who are good at that gig. I learned a few technical things while being in sales so it was time to try them out.

The "Internot" years – Phone support at its finest! Phone support in the early days was different than today. Today we have remote control tools and things of that nature where in the past it was all trial and error with some folks who just bought that new computer (and very first computer) with a Winmodem in it. Oh, the good old winmodems (I just shivered). I can't even begin to explain how stressful a 12-hour shift of phone support talking about winmodems can be. If any of you remember that I bet you just shivered too. Two years of phone support was enough so...

The Geek years – Systems admin/engineer. I stressed out like crazy taking my MCSE all to get this phone call while working at a fortune 500 company. "Email is down! For everyone! Fix it! We can't do anything without it! We are dead in the water!" MORE STRESS! I have found that CEOs can't live without email anymore when in the past they actually played golf on the golf course, now they claim to still work! I worked with Terminal services, Citrix, and Exchange, the things that companies just CAN'T live without. Sleep was optional during this time so I decided...

Management! – Get the title. Manager, Director, I want to be a VP, etc. Life will be stress free closer to the top. What was I thinking? I think this one is better broken into two categories, managing up and the WIT method (I just made that up!). We will start with managing up. Managing up? It's the fine art of making your boss think you are interested, patting yourself on the back, seeking new "out of your comfort zone" responsibilities, getting noticed at all costs, act like and work like one level above your title, and knowing what matters to your boss and his boss even if they don't matter to your group or the people you manage. So for the short definition Managing up = Stress! I took pride in being the laid back easy going manager that gains respect from his employees by trusting the people he puts in a place to do their job and letting them succeed and helping when necessary. If you mix that style with a micromanager you are looking for trouble. I think stress starts at the top and is instilled in everyone all the way down to the very bottom. A workaholic CEO = a stressed out workaholic staff. I'm not saying that you shouldn't manage up as it is a very good form of getting promoted etc. I am simply saying it adds stress to your life. On we go to...

WIT – Whatever it takes. There is something to be said about a company that has one simple motto from the top to the bottom; whatever it takes and at the same time actually living to that standard. I have found that place. When my alarm goes off now in the morning, I hit the ground running. I can't wait to get to work and be part of the fun and productive team and do whatever it takes. I can honestly say that everyone at Softlayer has one goal - to be the best! THAT makes for an extremely stress-free and fun workplace. We don't need to work in the Bank of America tower in beautiful downtown Dallas to be happy, we are happy already! Just keep up the free coffee and Monster and I am good to go!

If you own a small business then you most likely deal with stressful situations daily. Why not let us ease some of your IT stress and outsource your infrastructure to the best stress-free IT Company out there - SoftLayer!

Disclaimer:The events depicted in this blog are true. Any similarity to a company living or dead is most likely coincidental.

-Skinman

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