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July 2007
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September 2007

The Soft Belly of SaaS

Dvorak wrote an interesting piece called "Don't Trust the Servers". 

The danger of putting your data at the mercy of a company's servers was made apparent when Microsoft's own WGA servers crashed over the weekend.

I'm a big believer in redundancy and having critical items under my control.   Crash Because putting your faith in some web service to be there 24x7 just is asking for trouble.   At least for mission critical items.   When Skype went away I was miffed because I couldn't talk to my brother in the U.K. for a day, but pity the businesses built around Skype.

But they don't make your life any easier.   A couple of weeks ago I contacted because I wanted a copy of my data.  I have a backup Sugar CRM system running on a server and figured that if anything happened I could spend a couple of hours and bring up the system.  So I got the "trust me" email.

We actually backup all of your data for you.
If you still want to do your own backup, you
can either do a data export of your reports to
excel (in the reports tab) or you can request
a weekly data export of all your account
information for an additional $600 per year.

Oh, that's wonderful.  For only $600 I can get my own data I put into the system, back to me.  Inspires confidence, doesn't it?   

When building systems I always look for the single point of failure.  And in the case of SaaS where they hold your data in silos it's a massive single point of failure.   

Moral of this story, when you're designing your system ask yourself what happens to your customers if you suddenly went away for a couple of days.   


Process is for Rookies

A professional has internalized process to achieve good results.   If you impose process on a professional, they become sub-optimal.   

In marketing it would be nice to normalize everyone into "If A then B".   Follow the 10 steps and viola out comes the desired output.    But with new products and new markets that just isn't so.   A professional plays the odds and on autopilot goes down certain paths.  That leaves more time to look for the variables and sense the patterns of what is going on.  Then adjust.   Formalized processes become an inhibitor to good results. 

A classic rookie marketing mistake is finding an indicator but thinking it is a cause.    So a lot of effort goes into improving the indicator without realizing the root cause and frustration sets in.

The most interesting paradox is trying to get a very successful person to give the formula to how they work.  They cannot.   The ones who can explain are those who are not the top in their fields.   So complex processes usually are derived from those who are at best, second best.   Portfolio

But still useful when establishing a baseline for new people and expansion.  You just hope that at some time they grow up to be professionals and internalize those things that work.

What does this have to do with marketing?   When bringing someone into the fold or hiring a contractor, look at the portfolio and not how they got there.

Ooma - For the mathematically challenged

I admit, I was intrigued by a device you plugged into your phone line and Internet connection and you could make free phone calls forever.   Then I got the price sheet.  $440 for two phones.    But you need to keep your land line.   Dividing out the cost of fixed rate long distance into their price and the breakeven point is (drum roll please), 3 years.   Then and only then are you ahead.    Ooma

For those of you who work in corporate, imagine in this day and age trying to float a project with a capital recover period of 3 years.  Oh, and we all know they'll be taking a bath for many years.  Why?  Because the only way they can avoid paying for local connect charges is if someone else's Ooma device happens to be in the local calling area of where you're trying to call.  And also supposed that the local phone company isn't going to put the kabosh on strangers using your phone line, or your ISP for carrying stranger's VoiP calls.........

So of course I replied to the email and asked them the last two questions.  And here's what they sent back (from donotreply):

Thank you for submitting your inquiry to ooma
Customer Support.  In order to better service
our customers, we've created a new and
improved ooma Support Site.

To access the new site, please log into
the ooma lounge and click on the Support
tab.  You'll find new and exciting
features such as a more robust
Knowledgebase full of new and improved FAQs.

You can also email or chat with one of
our ooma Customer Support representatives live!

The new and improved ooma Support Site is
just another way ooma hopes to deliver fast
and accurate responses to your inquiries.

Hmmm, I have to be a paying customer to get information before being a paying customer.   And there is no support email on their website, but there is the White Rabbit area, where I find out that they were giving this away FREE to a lot of people (o.k. a couple of pennies).   So while everyone else got it for free Ooma is telling me I'm a sucker and should sent them money.

I may be proved wrong but this looks like company that is going the way of SunRocket after they burn through the VC money. 


Private Health Insurance has an Image Problem

Health care is the political rage these days.   And the private insurance companies are worried.   So the National Association of Health Underwriters have been fighting back with their Three Myths of Single Payer System.    Some call it socialized medicine. 

NAHU and others are being very deceptive  not telling the whole story.   They paint the picture of either / or.   But they duck the main issue.   There are over 45 million uninsured Americans.  And has NAHU proposed any solution for that problem?  Has any private insurance company?  I don't know.

Here's the truth about private insurance.  They only insure healthy people (unless they work for a really big company).   It's o.k if you get sick and get better, but if you have a "condition" you won't get insurance. 

Check out the winners of "Race Across America" here and here.  How many of them do you think can get insurance on their own?   So even if you're fully functional and useful, if you have a condition such as diabetes you have three options:

1) Work for a big company
2) Have a lot of money
3) Die

I believe in choices in health care including private insurance and basic health care for everyone.   Both, not -- or.    And I really like working with our insurance agent and the program she put together for our company.  But if private insurance does not step up with constructive ideas for the larger issues, they may be legislated out of existence.   And that would be a shame.