Getting Started

16Oct08

I’ve received a bunch of flack lately from people about my lack of posting….HEY I’VE BEEN BUSY!

Seriously though, work has just been insane.  There are a bunch of new companies we are starting and that has been sucking more of my time than it should, especially since I am not measured on helping them.  That however is a topic for another post.

Since I am up to my neck in meetings, quotes, and more meetings I thought it made sense to ramble a bit about what I am seeing out there.  Having spent close to 5 years consulting and working with startups I had to plan my fair share of build outs.  Ordering lines, planning space, wiring, servers, switches, routers, firewalls, phone systems, and the list goes on.  I learned a little with each engagement but never thought it was all that difficult since I understood how it all worked.

My experience over the past couple months has been a bit different.  I want to see these companies thrive so of course I am willing to help, but it is tough to simply give advice rather than pick up the ball and run.  Instead of someone who understands the technology, it is usually the founder or similar trying to pull everything together but without knowledge or experience with what they are doing.  It isn’t all their fault, after all build outs is not what they specialize in.  This causes many problems and I am going to highlight a few that are driving me crazy.

1.  Ordering Phone/Internet Lines:  You need to first determine what your needs are.  If you are a two person company you probably don’t need a T1 dedicated to voice.  If you are hosting services onsite that are bandwidth intensive a fractional T1 is probably not going to meet your bandwidth needs.  Figure out what your needs are and plan from there.

2.  Dealing with vendors:  When you talk to a vendor try to understand what you are asking from them before you open your mouth.  Throwing around buzzwords like “V-O-I-P” and “Fiber Opticals” will instantly send the message that you have no idea what you are talking about.  This opens the door for you to get taken advantage of.

3.  Comparing quotes:  Do not just get one quote, shop around.  This is the only way you will know if the pricing you are receiving is legit.  It also allows you to get a reality check.  If one vendor quotes you 100 hours for a build out and another quotes 50 something is wrong somewhere.  Also, make sure you compare apples to apples.  You wouldn’t compare a Porsche 911 with a Ford F150, they may both be vehicles with 4 wheels but they are not to be compared.

4.  Enlist the assistance from a third party:  Find someone to review things for you.  There are right ways to do things and wrong ways to do things.  I could build out an office using equipment from RadioShack with no contingency and come in really cheap as opposed to using best of breed solutions and best practices.  If you do not know the difference you should find someone who does and have them review things.  A six pack or a couple hours of consulting can save you  a lot of headaches down the road.

5.  Do not skimp on everything:  There are certainly areas where you can save some money but don’t do it across the board.  An example here is backups.  It amazes me that people still, in this day and age, want to skip buying a tape drive or vaulting to save a couple bucks.  You are starting a company, took funding, and plan to grow…make sure you are ready.

I could go on and on but going to end the list here.  I would however like to complain about vendors for a minute, specifically consulting companies.  There are so many to choose from, willing to provide quotes and build out your infrastructure, but how some of them want to do it is scary.  

The willingness of these companies to skimp on important pieces to keep the price low is a dangerous game.  Low end equipment, little to no redundancy, improper configs, insecure designs…..and the list goes on.  When called on it the answer is always the same, “Yeah that isn’t the best way to do it but we are trying to keep the costs low like they asked.”  As far as I am concerned these consulting companies have an obligation to provide sound and secure infrastructure at the lowest price possible.  Possible is the operative word there!  It may not be possible to get a quote under a certain number, if that is the case then so be it.  Don’t deliver crap just because you can.

Rant done!

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