The AnswersThatWork Blog

Saturday, 14th April 2007

More on assumptions

I was fascinated by KW's blog on Thursday.  What a cracker of a day that was.  That spurred me to do a bit of Googling on assumptions.

The first link I came to made me laugh — so cutting and so true.  Read it here.

However, the highlight of my Googling was the third link I opened, this blog entry in The Aikido Journal  by Toby Threadgill — I love it.  Enjoy !

—— (TUT) SpaceMan

Thursday, 12th April 2007

A lesson on assumptions

One of the first thing anyone who starts work at AnswersThatWork ever hears is :  "Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups"  — Yes, in exactly those words !

The Boss was not the first to coin this phrase in the world, but he is certainly the first you hear it from, and not just once, probably twenty times in your first month at AnswersThatWork.  You either learn to approach everything you do here in such a way that you eventually only ever hear this sentence once or twice a year, or you're out.  It is one of the most important lessons of my first year here.

Well, despite this great training we all got caught last week, The Boss included. (He he).

One of our neighbours, a client, came and asked us to build him a new PC for home.  He has a long established company which has been a client of ours for a long time, but this PC was for his home.  So we quoted him for a PC that had absolutely everything, not one thing missing — card reader, webcam, you name it.  He OK'd the quote and we built the PC.  With Love.  In fact, I built the PC and set it up from start to finish, with total dedication.

He collected the new PC at the end of last week, just before the Easter Holiday.  He didn't need one of us to come and set it up at his home this time round, his son was going to do it.

Now, we know his son.  He started a small Internet Service Provider company many years ago, before I started here.  Over time that small ISP has become the largest business ISP in the country and is year on year voted the best Business ISP.  It is even one of the largest ISPs in the whole of Europe.  He was still running it till two months ago when he decided to sell up and start a completely different venture.  It gets better — our primary broadband lines are with his son's now former company, we put our largest clients through that ISP, etc..., etc...  And when we quoted for this new home PC, we asked him to make sure his son was happy with the specs (we wanted the ultimate approval before proceeding).

Anyhow, today I thought I'd pop down the corridor to ask if the weekend installation had gone smoothly.  No !!!  Why ????  We couldn't connect to the Internet !  But, but....  I tested all that !  Oh, I'm sure you did, but it didn't have a modem.  Modem ???  Yes, I am still on dialup......!!!

So :  a son who built from scratch the #1 Business ISP, a man who has his own successful company, all broadband linked with Remote Working for most staff, and...... dialup at home !

This time even The Boss got caught by this one.

Guess who's getting broadband installed by the end of this week ?

Some lesson on assumptions this was.......

—— (KW) Wiz Kid

Monday, 9th April 2007

Your Worst Website Nightmare ?

For some people their worst nightmare is the one where they discover that their entire website has gone, disappeared, deleted... and they have no backup.  All that work, design and content plus all the money it cost to develop and market it.  Just thinking about it could bring you out in a cold sweat.

Well it happened recently to a neighbour company here in our business park, a medium size charity, and I think it's a story that anyone who has a website should read.

What happened was this.  Around two weeks prior they had a two-line email from their ISP telling them they had exceeded their disk quota limit (webspace).  This got lost for a couple of days as they were in the run up to a big festival they were organising.

On the 14th March (The last day of their festival — the busiest day in their year) they had another two-line email.  This time they replied asking how far they were over their limit and what did they need to do in order to fix it.

No reply.

A couple of days later there was another email, once again telling them they were over their limit and this time threatening to delete their website if nothing was done about it.

They replied to this one asking the same thing.  How much are we over ?  How can we fix this ?

No reply.

Then they came into their office one morning to find that their ISP had deleted their entire website !

Which is where it all gets interesting.

To start with they had no backup of their website and neither did their ISP.  The ISP didn't because they don't.  We deal with a lot of ISPs and web hosting companies here and they all make it very clear that it's the client's responsibility to keep a website backup.  A small number of the very biggest companies do keep backups of sites they host but it's purely for customer service reasons.  It isn't part of the contract.

Our neighbour didn't have a copy of the site on any of their computers because they had been using Adobe Contribute to update the website a page at a time, a paragraph at a time, one or two words at a time.  Along with some other programs, Adobe Contribute allows you to work directly on the site without necessarily keeping a copy on your computer.  We do not recommend this approach.

Now our neighbours are actually quite resourceful people, and immediately planned their website disaster recovery, and worked out that they should start searching for themselves on Google, Yahoo, MSN and elsewhere, and used cached pages to help reconstruct the site.  If they're lucky they might be able to replace half of what, in truth, they should never have lost in the first place.

What they should have done, what anyone with a website should do, is use an FTP program either to update their website, or at the very least to take backups of it.  There's lots out there and not all of them are expensive.  We like FTP Voyager and you can download a trial version from our Downright Useful Downloads page.  By using an FTP program to update your website you have a situation where there's always a current copy of the entire site on your computer just in case something like this happens, or if you still want to use Adobe Contribute then you can at least backup your website with the FTP program.

And there are other aspects of this to consider as well.  How come a company that's supposedly a reputable business :

  • Didn't allow the normal month or more to resolve this that most businesses would ?  People go on holiday for two weeks.  Even the IRS Man waits 30 days before repossessing your first born.

  • The obvious one, why not reply to the customers' emails telling them how to resolve the problem ?

  • The one I personally really cannot comprehend however many times I rethink the situation :  how come the ISP did not have business sense to simply send a bill for the extra space  ie. try to make more money out of our neighbour...?

  • And what's wrong with temporarily denying access to part or all of the site until the matter gets resolved ?

Then of course there's the big question – website ownership.  Who owns the website ?  Does  any ISP or web hosting company have the right to destroy your website, or any part of it, for any reason at all ?  This particular ISP seems to think that they do.

As far as we can see your website belongs to you, the same as any other piece of property, intellectual or otherwise.  The only thing your ISP does is to provide, free or otherwise, the space to put it on.  That space is all they own.  They may decide they don't want you to use it any more but they have no right to destroy your property in order to take back the space.  If your landlord decides to evict you can they destroy all your furniture in order to get their property back ?  I don't think so.

So we're going to be watching this one with great interest.  And if you are looking for a company to host your new, fabulously expensive, cash generating website or considering moving it from where it is now; you might want to dwell on this story, and it's implications, for a few moments.

Now, want a laugh ?  Just to prove you can't be too careful here's the story of the technician who reformatted the hard disk, then reformatted the backup hard disk (!!!), of a bank account worth a cool $38 BILLION.  If the story had appeared on April 1st, I would have said it was an April Fool, but, hey, incredibly,  the story is real !!
—— (MM-2)

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