Anti-Buzz Management Security

Anti-Buzz: Infrastructure Perfectionism

newface-620x461To turn to non-tech news, as you know, the southern U.S. has seen some unusual amounts of snow and cold this winter. The highest profile instance was the inch of ice that covered Atlanta some weeks ago, resulting in a fairly catastrophic situation on the city’s freeways and roads. The governor of Georgia took some heat for a seeming lack of preparation and response, perhaps somewhat undeservedly. If you live in Minnesota or Wisconsin or anywhere else that regularly sees this kind of weather, (or worse), it can be easy to snicker at poor Atlanta. Of course a colder city is well equipped with snow plows and other technology, as well as the staff to operate them. Dealing with snow and ice is part of the infrastructure in many places, but in Atlanta, a fleet of snow plows would be an obvious waste of money. Even where I live in Oregon, where snow is not strange, snow is just uncommon enough that the cost of being always-snow-plow-ready is greater than the cost of just shutting down the city as occasion warrants.

While the leadership in Georgia isn’t above reproach – there was certainly some failure to react to the situation appropriately – making a laughing stock of the citizens of the city because they were bamboozled by a “measly” two inches of snow is rather unfair. In fact, this sort of “infrastructure perfectionism” is at the heart of a lot of technophobia and technosnobbery.

For the former, we can see this every time somebody doubts a new technology because of infrastructural concerns. It’s not as common now, but one of the refrains against going paperless was “what if I lose my files?” Well, fine. What if the power goes out? What if you lose your file cabinets in a fire? This sort of techno-hesitation would be akin to a Minnesotan refusing to move to Atlanta because they don’t have a fleet of snow plows at the ready. Your experience in Minnesota has justified snow plow infrastructure to you, never mind that the “technology” of warm weather renders them obsolete. (Yes, I know, the metaphor isn’t perfect because the difference between Minnesota and Georgia is space and not time).

On the other hand, you /can/ invest in too many gadgets. Backing up your records is prudent, but you can certainly go overboard. Saving a snapshot of your records every hour, powering your office on a back-up generator, installing a redundant wi-fi network, these would all be akin to Atlanta, well, investing in a fleet of snow plows.

The advice here, is to step back and be honest about your infrastructural needs. Again, there was that one time Atlanta could have used those snow plows. Just because you might need something once one day maybe doesn’t mean you should invest in it. And just because something might go wrong one day maybe, doesn’t mean a technology is deeply flawed.

Another way of looking at this is: what could happen that might cripple your business, and are you protected against it? The single biggest threat, IT-wise, is that you might lose your records. If the power goes out or you lose a machine, these are inconveniences. Losing your records however, is maybe only slightly better than burning down your entire office. (By the way, burning down your entire office is one way you might lose your records). Taking steps to back up your data and, if possible, store that back up remotely, is probably in your interest. The idea of remote storage opens up another can of worms in regards to trust and technophobia; this is the calling card of infrastructure perfectionism. The converse, of course, is to be addicted to the buzzword, to gloat about how you are using “cloud” storage, and to assume that a cheaper alternative would never be good enough. If you have to have the latest and best, for fear of the unlikely, then you are also an infrastructure perfectionist. Perfectionism in general does run both ways like this. Fear of not being good enough can lead to inaction, or it can lead to obsessive behavior, and I think these two poles really do inform how we interact with technology.

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