An Introduction – When the lights never go off

When my business partner and I had started our company, it was funny when the first year was almost over, and our staff thought that we would shut down business for Christmas.   I am not sure why they thought there would be one day out of the year or more where there was no one to make sure the servers stayed on.  It’s not like the internet is shut off for one day, especially since I have family members on that day going right to right after getting their gift certificates that I so happen to have bought 5 hours into the holiday.   At the time, 60% of our customers were from the United States, and the rest were scattered worldwide.  Not all of those customers took that day off or, for that matter, celebrated Christmas.  While server logs showed less activity, there were still people accessing and not to mention adding / manipulating content.   Perhaps they celebrate Christmas, even if not from my country of origin, that does not mean they will not get online.   Did I mention we got 2 orders that day?  By the end of last year, 30% of our clients were from the United States.  Though that is not because we lost U.S. Clients, but we grew in international clients.

I have been in the hosting industry for 11 years, gladly and humbly serving the world.  Between 4 companies, my part in the ownership was customer service, staff, and suppliers.    During that time, I have seen the rise and fall of many wannabee hosting companies.  Not to mention the number of software fads that I have seen come and go.  I think the only thing that bothers me is that a lot of bad companies are still around.  But this year, I would get out of the business and become a hosting customer myself.

I got out of the business, not because it was failing, but it has been 11 years without a break.  It had never been my plan to be in the industry as long as I had been. I just wanted to raise enough money to go back to school and get into something in the lines of zoology.  But somewhere along the way, I lost track of time.

Customer commitment without a break is not exactly the right way of keeping your health, mostly since I was in my mid-twenties when I got into the business. I went from a gopher/data analyst to web design and web hosting.  My exercise routine was 32 miles a day 4 times a week of biking between work and home. Which now is a rare jaunt on a treadmill.   Waking in the morning was literary a run to my desk where 6 monitors connected to three computers that never turned off, keeping me in touch with every aspect of a business, to see that my business was still there.  Countless calls waking me in the middle of the night to alert me to any problems, and by any, I mean any.   Day in day out, sickness or health, every waking moment was for business.  I sold my share to form new ventures where I am not bound to serve customers 24 / 7 / 365.

But I don’t think working every day was the worst part; frankly, there were a lot of times I enjoyed customer interaction.  You could say there were customers that I did not like for one unscrupulous reason or another, but that was easy to move past.   What bothered me was the server outages.  Server downtime meant no downtime for me when I had to do public relations damage control with customers while technicians worked in the background.  One thing that always comes to mind was customers wanted to talk to the person that was fixing the server, yet they wanted the server up now.  The logic of letting every customer talk to the tech to improve the issue would only delay getting the server back up.    I wish I could say there were not days where some servers were not down for days of downtime, but that is not the case.  Not even the best companies out there can tell you they have never had days of rest.  Equipment failures happen. It’s a fact of life.   Even though downtime incidents were rare, they felt like they could go on forever or lasted the whole year.  Rarer still where servers down for more than an hour, I experienced 3 incidents that lasted for more than 8 hours in my time.  But even a couple of minutes was very stressful.  It always felt like time slowed to a crawl whenever an incident happens, leaving me to anguish.  During those times, I did not sleep and often would not eat.  I could tell my customers this, but I doubt they would believe it.  But I can truly say I was in their corner and was defiantly the squeaky wheel behind the scenes in getting their service back up.  Granted, customers never learned I was an owner when I dealt with them.

Friends and family are the last to understand that time constraints in being self-employed are worse than a nine to five job.  Certainly worse when you serve 24 time zones.  For some reason, they are under the opinion that my hours were flexible.   Often I would get grief from being late because I choose to deal with a customer-first, and usually would state I need to make sure I take care of my income source before they become another company’s source of income…   Simply being the boss meant I had to be my number one employee.  Time out away from a desk in the early years was limited, but as time went on, wireless technology would allow me to venture away from my desks for more extended periods of time.

Granted, I am still self-employed, but time is still not flexible as I have to make new forms of income to supplant what I was making before.  But I can now take a breather.