Your Linux Data Center Experts

Last week on Slashdot someone was asking for advice on satellite pagers. The question was asked by a small business owner that absolutely needs to get pages when there are problems, no matter if he's hiking, camping, or otherwise out enjoying some time off. One of the early replies was, of course, “So now you're out in the middle of nowhere, without cell coverage, and you've got a page that something is wrong. What are you supposed to do about it?”

As a small business owner with clients that rely on us, this is a topic that is close to me. Luckily, I found a way around it that doesn't involve satellite pagers.

Our business, as you may know, provides technical assistance for a wide variety of clients. In order to offer a level of service which these clients need, we have to be available to solve their problems 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In practice, this doesn't mean that we regularly get calls all times of the day and night, every day of the year. However, it does make it hard to take vacations or otherwise be away for any extended period. You don't have to be unreachable for many client emergencies before they start looking for other solutions.

The way we've been able to provide this level of service is by increasing the size of our organization. We have enough staff at this point that we can work together to schedule travel such that at least one of us is reachable at all times. Other technologies such as the Asterisk PBX allow us to typically be contacted for client emergencies with 15 minutes.

The problem is that not everyone can afford to double or more their technical staffing costs, particularly by adding senior-level staff.

This is exactly where we position one of our primary service offerings. For a fraction of the cost of an additional single full-time junior-level staff-member, we offer access to senior-level Linux system and network administrators. We've had success working both in place of as well as augmenting in-house staff. One particular area we have clients come to us is as backup admins in the case that the primary admins are out on vacation or otherwise unavailable.

We also work quite effectively as a part of disaster plans. One requirement for many plans is having data and staff who are familiar with your operation available at least 50 miles away from your primary site. In this way we can offer even our smaller clients benefits that companies hundreds of times their size have problems (or at least elaborate and expensive plans) providing.

Another huge benefit we bring to small businesses, particularly one-man shops, is that we can free up their time for concentrating on their business, while we take care of (some or all of) the technical side. Especially in companies run by technical people, some concentration on the business and marketing side can do wonders to help the business grow.

So, it seems to me that the author of the original request about satellite pagers was just stuck thinking in this particular box, and couldn't get out of it. Rarely has anything but good ever come from hunting for other solutions than what is obvious to you. Worst case, you have more data to support the conclusion that you have come up with the right conclusion.

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