My favorite author on business and leadership is Jim Collins, who wrote two books which have been required reading in a few of my companies “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” and “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t”. While we cannot all run companies such as those described by Collins, we can certainly learn some important business lessons from them, and I firmly believe they apply to all businesses, including your server strategy.
One subject that Collins spends a significant time discussing in his books is technology and how successful companies are able to use it appropriately within their business. Specifically in Good To Great, Collins describes technology as an accelerator of success and not a creator of it. This is especially true in small business where we cannot afford to spend as much time and money on technology as our larger competitors. We need to focus on what makes us great, what we can do better than anyone else, and then use the technology we need to use to execute on that deliverable.
One technology decision that I would challenge every business to consider carefully is whether you should have your own servers or not. The fact of the matter is that few of us in business are qualified to run a production server that the business relies upon every day. We simply lack the resources to have our own servers and we are in no position to handle the challenges when problems occur. Despite what the marketing materials might tell us, servers require constant maintenance and upkeep, and in today’s global economy that probably means your servers need attention 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Speaking personally, my businesses were never in a position to give our servers the attention they required, and we paid for it dearly with hard disk crashes, computer viruses, software incompatibilities, backup system failures and we even got hacked once. At that period in the life cycle of personal computers in business, we accepted this risk and dealt with the issues as they came up.
In today’s business environment, there is a better way.
I am sure you have heard of some of these buzz words: Cloud Solutions, SaaS (Software as a Service), Hosted Solutions, IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) or even something as ubiquitous as the Internet. How do they apply to your business? Well, to keep it simple, they are a way for you to stop having servers maintained by your business. We still need some of the same capabilities we use servers for today, such as email, accounting, project management and scheduling, but we can use these solutions from other business providers who specialize in maintaining the servers so we can focus on what our businesses need for success.
It can be hard for any business to stop using their own servers because that is the way we have done things for years. However, it became very clear to me as I reread Good To Great that businesses really need to rethink their position on having their own servers. Most businesses have not been great at maintaining servers, so we need to partner with someone that is great at it. Once we let another organization focus on the health of servers, then we can get back to focusing on the success of our businesses.
In Good to Great, Collins proposed the theory of the Hedgehog Concept where high quality business decisions are driven by passion, economic drivers and what you can be the best in the world at. Unless maintaining servers is part of your Hedgehog Concept, the time has come to embrace a new way of doing business and to find a business partner that can help you make this change successfully.