links for 2005-07-30

  • Very thorough listing of port numbers. Standard /etc/services style layout, but much more thorough than anything I”ve seen.
    (tags: ip ports)

Acceptable Downtime

Brad Feld wrote a post yesterday titled “Acceptable Downtime”, where he explains that he has a position on the board of a startup which is considering adding redundancy to their web based service to mitigate the possibility of a catastrophic failure of their systems.

I have found that consumers are much more accepting of downtime than enterprises. When working with the enterprise, especially something like a Telco that offers near 100% uptime itself, their expectation is automatically delivering 5 9’s of uptime.

I think the more important part that is most often overlooked is the calculation of uptime. Many many companies do not include scheduled downtime for maintenance in their downtime metrics. This is very dishonest in my opinion, but they justify it to themselves somehow.

The problem with developing redundancy is not that the capex expense is 50% more than what you’ve already developed, but usually it’s more like 200% of what you’ve already developed. Redundancy is incredibly expensive, and I would think that the risk/reward ratio on the expenditure would be very very high. Whatever problems would result from downtime I think are nothing compared to the crippling effect it would have on most startups and small companies to offer the kind of redundancy that larger companies offer. If the systems and networks are designed for easy redundancy from the start, it can often be done cheaply, but most times I find that redundancy isn’t factored in in the initial architecture, especially for small companies and startups.

The cheapest alternative to redundancy is good process. Hire experienced IT operations managers that enforce good change control processes. Implement processes that standardize architecture among a minimal number of hardware platforms, and implement processes that require a consistent stock available of maintenance spares for every piece of equipment. Implement processes that require backups and processes that require restoring backups frequently to verify their integrity. Implement processes that require exacting documentation before implementing something in your production environment, and keep your organization split between operations and implementation. An operations person is generally not good at implementations (too much attention to detail and an inability to get things online and worry about smaller problems later), and a good implementation person is not good at operations (I fit into this bucket… inattention to detail, get it done at all costs attitude, disregard for most processes). Those people belong in their jobs for a reason, and the turf battle if kept in check is valuable to the organizations stability.

The best way to measure downtime in the end is customer satisfaction. If your customers don’t notice or don’t care that you’re down 2% of the time, then that’s acceptable downtime. If they notice .001% of downtime, then you have meet their expectations. It’s important for sales personnel to set proper expectations and it’s important to focus, at least initially, on more forgiving customers. A good support staff can also mitigate downtime issues. At the end of the day, the number of 9’s of downtime as a metric is only one piece of the puzzle that will make up the retention/churn rates of your customer base.

links for 2005-07-27

Clint on Tech: Episode 4, Ad-Hoc Wireless Networks

On my way back from New York, my wife and I were forced to stay overnight at a hotel room in Dallas. We had one Internet connection to share between us and two laptops. I setup a ad-hoc wireless network between the two computers to share the connection, and I thought it’d make a good subject for a Clint on Tech episode. Couple of things I’m trying different to improve the production value, so let me know what you think. First, I’ve purchased some additional lighting. I’m still trying to learn how to place this stuff in such a small room. Secondly, this is my first hybrid of a screencast and vlog entry, which I think worked out really well. Let me know what you think.

Click here for video. [ QuickTime ]

New York Times misses it again

The New York Times has ran an article on vlogging. Like most of the mass media coverage on vlogging, they’ve once again missed the point. We are not TV! Chuck Olsen has summarized the problems best on his blog. I wonder when the general public will begin to realize that reporters and the mass media generally spend very very little time becoming acquainted with the subject they’re writing about before publishing. It would have taken less than an extra couple of hours to contact the people mentioned in the article to get sound bites and get a decent overview of what the community is about, like Wired did, but I guess since they’re the NY Times they need not bother with such trivialities. Sad.

Watch Life Happen: Episode 2, Part 3, The Journey Home

The third installment in this three part episode. Enjoy.

Click here for video. [ QuickTime ]

Watch Life Happen: Episode 2, Part 2, Vloggercue

Second installment of Watch Life Happen, with Clint & Mel, Episode 2. This is footage from Vloggercue in Hoboken, NJ at Adam Quirk’s apartment. It was an excellent event, and much food, fun, and beer was had by all!

Click here for video. [ QuickTime ]