Save your clients from email FUD

Karl Palachuk

A few days ago Microsoft made history by challenging the authority of a U.S. Federal Prosecutor to subpoena archived email stored on servers in Ireland. They have been fighting a search warrant for six months on the basis that U.S. courts and prosecutors do not have jurisdiction over servers physically located in other countries.

Data-storageI don’t want to go into all the messy details, but simply want to point out that this IS a mess. Judges and attorneys who don’t specialize in cloud services have no idea where the data lives and who has jurisdiction. They don’t understand virtualization. They are making decisions to the best of their ability – but that just demonstrates the gap between technologists and the legal community.

When we talk about cloud services, we frequently address the questions of:

  • Where is the data?
  • Who owns the data?
  • Is my data separated from other companies’ data?
  • How is my data secured?

Most clients don’t know to ask the really tough questions:

  • If a judge shuts down a server with my data on it, what happens?
  • If a judge subpoenas data from another company whose data is in the same cloud as mine, what happens?
  • Do I have to store data inside my own country?
  • and so forth

Now consider this: If you are unsure about all those answers (and you probably are), then your clients are absolutely unsure. They are experiencing FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. That will keep them from adopting new technologies, even if they know that they are currently using outdated technologies or something that’s out of compliance with various laws and best practices.

I have long believed that FUD is an acronym for money! You can prepare answers to each of these questions. In fact, you can create some handouts and demonstrate to clients and prospects that you’ve thought about these issues. After all, as the outsourced CIO (chief information officer), it’s your job to be educated about this stuff.

Do It Yourself Disasters

Do-it-yourselfUnfortunately, we live in a time of perceived competence. Clients can “educate” themselves with a Google search and think that they’ve found the answer. So then they create an offsite backup solution for themselves with Mozy or Carbonite – and they think they have a real backup solution.

It’s particularly difficult to go to a client, tell them they’re wrong, and then convince them that you want to sell them a solution that costs more money and you’ll be charging them by the hour to implement it. But that’s exactly what you need to do. You’re the consultant and now is the time to consult.

Eventually, some of the people who have created these Do It Yourself backup solutions will lose data. Fires, floods, crashed hard drives, theft, etc. Then they’ll discover that they didn’t have a good backup, or they weren’t backing up some of the data, or that they don’t know how to restore. In the worst case scenarios, all of the data will simply be gone.

You need to have a never-ending campaign with clients and prospects, promoting the need for business class solutions. That means solutions that are reliable, documented, and compliant with both the legal requirements of their business and the industry-specific requirements of their business. More and more, this means a combination of PCI compliance and other standards (ISO, HIPAA, etc.).

When clients think they can hobble together a series of cheap alternatives and turn them into a viable business solution, it’s because they don’t understand the difference between alternatives that are out there. You need to have compelling descriptions of your services and good comparisons with the consumer-focused services that are being marketing to small business.

You actually have to make sure the client experiences FUD. They have to understand that hosted email is more complicated than they thought, hosted backup is more complicated than they thought, and making it all work together is more complicated than they thought.

If nothing else, you have to have great documentation about how all this fits together – and how to access the pieces when something goes wrong. When we were selling all-in-one solutions on a single box, accessing everything was easy. Even if a password was lost, it could be reset. Even if all the passwords were lost, you could still break in, or simply mount those drives on a different system and hack your way to the data.

These days, if you lose access to your cloud-based services, or they stop talking to each other, it can be very messy and complicated. That’s why it’s so important that clients

  • Choose the right services
  • Make sure the services are set up properly
  • Document everything
  • Create a good disaster plan 
  • and test it all on a regular basis

At Least Two Opportunities

EducationIn this big, complicated world of cloud-based technologies, two clear opportunities exist for the I.T. consultant. One is to be the educator. The other is to create your own unique solution set.

As the educator, you need to make sure your clients hear about things like the Microsoft case above. They need to hear about security breaches, government regulations, and success stories when companies survive disasters. Whether you put these things in newsletters or casual emails, assuming the role of educator will make you the person they turn to when they have a question.

The second opportunity is much more directly related to sales. When you create your bundles for services (hosted, on premise, private cloud, etc. combined with your service offering), you create a unique SKU that competitors cannot offer. When you have something unique, you have no direct competition.

One of the great sales tools you’ll ever have is your knowledge. Think about what it means to be the expert: You’re THE person to go to for answers. You’re not just another techie who can talk about techie stuff. You really are THE person people can rely on for good information.

Yes, you have to pay the price for that. You have to educate yourself. You have to keep up on technology news. You have to translate it so your clients and prospects understand what it means for their business. And you have to combine the “news” along with recommendations that make sense for them. And most importantly, you need to keep doing this again and again.

Ideally, you will be the first person your client and prospects think of when a technology story hits the news. You might even find that people contact you to ask what it means. That’s a sure sign that they understand the need for this information and rely on you to fill in all the details about what it means.

I don’t know what will happen with the Microsoft case. But I do know this: There will be waves of similar cases in the years ahead. It will settle down at some point. But you can be sure there will be plenty of juicy stories about companies fighting to gain control of their own data as governments from all over the world figure out how to manage jurisdictional disputes in an era when data has no borders.

FUD = $

As always if you have any thoughts to share, feel free to leave a comment below!