Do you suffer from this disorder?

11Feb08

Not too long ago I was catching up with a friend and former colleague of mine; sharing stories about what we have done recently, what we are currently doing, and what we are planning on doing. We hold somewhat similar positions in similar companies but you would not know it based on the conversation. I went on and on about a new VoIP phone system, unified messaging, server virtualization, FC SAN, redundant internet links, redundant firewalls, multiple layers of firewalls, endpoint security, network and systems monitoring, client encryption, multi-factor authentication, and the list goes on. When I stopped to take a breath and give him a chance to tell me about all his cool projects, he just looked at me as if I was speaking German. I asked what was wrong to which he responded, “Are you serious?” I responded with a “Yep, so how about you?” He sat back grinning and told me that he recently changed audio conferencing vendors, bought some new Blackberry handhelds, might have to replace a few aging servers, and is thinking about bringing in an ISDN line for internet backup but didn’t think it would fly because of the cost. Now it was my turn to look at him funny. Why such different answers? I have been rolling from project to project with no end in sight while he is like the Maytag man, just waiting for something to happen. Turns out he suffers from the “We are just a small company” disorder. In his mind a small company doesn’t need much to get by and thereby deserve less “features”. As an example he could not fathom spending the extra money for a redundant firewall when there are only around 50 people in the company. He also doesn’t understand how I justify buying Cisco equipment because evidently they are too high quality for small companies.

The scary part of this is that he is not alone. The “We are just a small company” disorder is one of those things I have heard numerous times both by techies, managers and business owners when recommending solutions. Often times this comes up around security solutions that are trying to be implemented but I have heard it for various reasons. Usually it revolves around budgets but too often is is related to either lack of knowledge or laziness. If the right solution does not fit in the budget then you need a bigger budget, don’t cut corners that will eventually come back to bite you.

I do not think the size of the company should have much of an impact on the solutions that are put in place. While it is obvious that a 10 person company does not need the same infrastructure as a 10,000 person company, it is not necessarily the number of employees that defines this. So what does you are wondering? Well instead of looking at the number of employees look at the numbers with $ in front of them. Money drives business and the goal is generally to have the fewest number of employees while being successful (profitable).

So in the comparison between our two companies, both are managing BILLIONS of dollars…no that was not a typo, that was BILLIONS with a B. At that point, who cares that it is a small company? Regardless of how many employees we have, that is a lot of money on the line and as a result the business requires technology solutions that are up to the task. The people managing this business need solid and stable solutions. They don’t want to hear the email server is down, the internet is down, remote access is down, network is slow, etc. There is too much on the line for downtime to be in your vocabulary. Securing the company is just as important as uptime since being able to communicate about the secret sauce won’t matter if other have access to it.

This is why when I design and recommend solutions the number of employees doesn’t really affect my decision. I may not do things cheap, but I do them right. I go to sleep at night knowing that my backups are running, hardware is redundant, systems are patched and security is in practice not just a buzzword thrown around. My clients and employers knew going in that they need to open up the check book, but thats a good thing because if they weren’t willing I wouldn’t be interested.

So…..do you know someone that suffers from this disorder?

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