Vendor Woes

The season has gotten late. I don’t have any recent fishing stories to share; I’ve spent most of this fall hunting instead. I’ll have to take the boat back down to the lake one more time to winterize the motor, but then it will be moved into the garage to await the thaw in spring. It’s always sad when the fishing season ends, but this year I’ve had so much fun bow hunting that I haven’t even noticed.


Two Does Within Range

The lesson from this blog post will not be technical. Rather, it will be about applying good expectations on your vendors. This is probably most important to the DBA folks as they consider using cloud infrastructure.
The company I currently work for uses a third party cloud platform for our website hosting. We have no retail stores, and over 90% of our business comes from internet sales. Additionally, we are very seasonal, doing well over half our sales in the final two months of the calendar year. We spend the other ten months preparing for this busy sales period. Any technical issues during November or December can have catastrophic consequences to our bottom line. As you can expect, it is extremely important that our website remain functional from late fall through winter.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Our website hosting provider, a very well known company, has been abysmal so far this fall. We’ve had several unexpected outages, several scheduled outages, and very little explanation for it. We’ve had periods where our website has been unavailable for over 12 hours at a time. Our management has grown increasingly frusterated with this third party provider and, to a lesser degree, the IT department as well. In examining our contract, we were shocked to see no promise of uptime. I’m not sure how this was missed when we signed up for this service.
We will most likely be seeking to end our relationship with this company before our contract ends. Unfortunately, there is no time to procure another solution before the end of the year. We’re just going to have to live with the results. We may also be sued for breach of contract for seeking an early release, but with all the problems we’ve had I’m not sure that will happen.
Either way, the lesson here is to do a thorough investigation of any company you will be depending on. If you are looking at cloud services, find out ahead of time the expectations for uptime and maintenance outages. I would also be ready for imposing financial penalties on the vendor if those expectations are not met.