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Cloud Computing: Network Janitors

You don’t get Superman by paying Jimmy Olson wages

If Cloud Computing is going to be part of the critical network infrastructure of an enterprise, senior executives better realize that no technology runs by itself. You need people that are very skilled in all aspects of planning, designing, implementing and managing these systems. There are dynamic people and there are also caretakers that can only do minimum maintenance on systems.

The idea that you can run Cloud Computing applications with a bare minimum of skilled people is a nice sales pitch, but in reality organizations better make sure they have skills on staff or skills readily available in times of emergencies as well as day-to-day operations.

When It Comes to Mission Critical, Network Janitors Don't Cut It
There are many titles like Network Administrator or Systems Coordinator that organizations throw out for systems administrators and project executives, but one that should be used when they hire minimally skilled people is "network janitor".

A "network janitor" is hired under the executive assumption that the applications are all worked out and "we just need someone to oil up the ratchets and moving parts" once in a while. There is no need to hire anyone with any depth of skills or experience. The big focus is paying the minimal for skills "just to get by".

This is when organizations get into trouble. In the name of "cost cutting" they get rid of a lot of talent and the people who are left cannot do a lot of complex functions. They are there strictly to "maintain the system". In dynamic markets, this is the wrong approach for having IT and network skills on board.

People Are a Critical Asset, Not a Commodity
Supporting mission-critical cloud applications requires a good group of people who can react quickly in times of emergencies and "one-in-a-lifetime" disasters. The funny thing about "one-in-a-lifetime" disasters is that they seem to happen every year and sometimes quarterly.

Many organizations looking at Cloud Computing have been sold the idea that skilled personnel will not be needed or at least "not needed as much". I have seen organizations where they got rid of so many IT people who had a depth of knowledge of their systems and applications, that every little problem became a crisis because the people who are left cannot handle an "everyday" problem and it escalates into a crisis-level problem.

Users get frustrated because they are not getting answers to simple technical questions. Something that should have been taken care of by a first level technical person has to be escalated up to a higher-level person or even sent out to a third party because there are no skills left in the organization.

How many people have called the "Help Desk" only to be bounced from person to person because no one knows what they are talking about? How many have become so frustrated that they call back and ask to be immediately transferred to the supervisor because they know they are just going to waste time as someone goes through a script of questions like, "Is the system plugged in?" "Is it turned on?"

What is the cost-savings of a couple of technical people, if the whole organization gets stagnated because a simple technical question cannot be answered?

A case in point is where an Illinois-based company cut back on their IT department and when it came to applying some software security updates, they did not have the personnel to do it in a timely fashion and their whole network got hit with a known virus. They were sent the security updates to load into their network and instead of applying them, there was no one to load them so their whole system wiped out all the memories in ALL hard drives that were attached to the computers on the network.

How much money did this company lose as executives scrambled to try to scrape up their notebooks and the information that got wiped out on them? How many hours of executive time were spent in trying to reconstruct lost files and data? They could have easily kept several people on as employees because the money lost in executive time was huge.

As more of an enterprise's electronic commerce is implemented and relied upon as a part of the core business, the skill levels of personnel that support these applications better be adequate so that no problems stall the operations.

You have to spend money to make money and that is true when it comes to people. You cannot commoditize talent. You pay for talent and there is a big difference between a Network Administrator and a Network Janitor.

•   •   •

Copyright 2012 - James Carlini

More Stories By James Carlini

James Carlini, MBA, a certified Infrastructure Consultant, keynote speaker and former award-winning Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, has advised on mission-critical networks. Clients include the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, GLOBEX, and City of Chicago’s 911 Center. An expert witness in civil and federal courts on network infrastructure, he has worked with AT&T, Sprint and others.

Follow daily Carlini-isms at www.twitter.com/JAMESCARLINI

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