One of my self-appointed roles in life is to provide something of a foil to the hyper-optimistic claims of just how fast the world is changing technology wise. Now of course I’m an evangelist for the enabling aspects of technology generally and my pet topic SaaS specifically, but I’m also a realist at a macro level. Change simply takes time and there are barriers, real and artificial, that stand in the way of this progress.
I was reminded of this the other day when a friend of mine who works as a web designer sent me an SOS email for help.
A client of mine i’m designing and building a site for has got it into his head (by a stupid salesman) that he should buy and run his own server and vpn, and then host his own website on it… i need to convince him why this is a bad idea.
The main reason he wants it, is because he’s going [overseas] and he wants to access his home computer files from there… so he thought it would be a great idea to run his own site from there as well to save money.
He reckons he’s expanding rapidly and they can see a need for it – there are only34 people in the company at the moment.
So he’s had the IT salesman around to his house to talk it all up, and he’s gone away now to cost it for him.
I’m trying to tell him he can run the site from the web based e-commerce solution still, as it’s all self contained, and he can use other online resources (such as basecamp) to run files etc… but he’s not listening. Did i tell you he has NO experience running servers or VPNs?
Is there anything you can think of to help me convince him?
I actually had to send an reply to the writer of this email, wondering if in fact it was some sort of delayed April fools joke – but no, this was a legitimate case.
Obviously there are a few thing going on here – there’s a salesman that obviously forgets any notion of providing the best outcome for the customer – I mean a combination of some web apps, a standard web hosting solution and some cloud sync/backup/fileshare options would fulfil all of this users requirements at a low price and with none of the complexity that self hosting would entail.
But I wonder just how much of an outlier this case actually is? There’s a whole world out there that has the double issues of not knowing about the availability of “easier ways to do things” along with the (generally unsound) concerns about giving up control – and it’s this very mass market that needs to be converted if we want to move the world along at an aggregate level and beyond just the early adopters.
As a post script, I found out from my friend that in fact all the customer wanted was a micro cloud system for him and his team to upload files to, and download from. Apparently a “friend” had built him an expensive (over $1000) system to do so, which would have needed to run on it’s own server, but he was shown several SaaS alternatives – SugarSync, MobileMe and Syncplicity among them that do the same job, if not better.
Crisis averted – but how many other cases like this are there out in the real world?