Monday, May 11, 2009

Wost Practices: Vendor Lock In is Your Fault

Wonder why people think IT people are from another planet? Take this complaint about Google's Android Operating system from a discussion on Slashdot:
"The OS is still missing native MS Exchange support. Our company currently utilizes T-Mobile as a wireless provider and this is the single biggest hangup from us deploying the G1 handsets. I do realize that there are 3rd party apps that provide this functionality, but that gets expensive when you roll out 100+ devices."
First, MS Exchange support is not a feature of an operating system, second, choosing MS Exhcange is what is limiting your choices on phone handsets. 

IT pros need to get something through their heads:

Vendor lock in is caused by selecting vendors who use lock in to retain customers and protect profits.  It is not caused by the company that just came out with an incredibly useful and impressive new product that is not compatible with your locked up proprietary solution.

It's time for IT pros to stop blaming the new products for not being compatible with your software that "features" vendor lock in.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Shared Hosting is Still a Good Option

Cloud computing is getting all the attention right now, and rightfully so as it has great promise. Problem is, the cloud just isn't the answer for small websites with less than 200,000 visits.  Even when you cross 200,000 visits, a dedicated server may be a better answer.

Clouds come in thee flavors:
  • Systems that can't do parallel execution and rely on simple starting processes on different CPUs, much like Linux or Windows do today on a multicore CPU. That means the system can't really accelerate complex tasks, but can run a lot of little tasks quickly.  This gives you scalability for most web applications, but does not help with that
  • Systems that can do parallel execution if you use their software development kit and toolset. These tools, like Amazon S3, give you pretty amazing capabilities at the price of near ultimate vendor lock in. You will not likely be able to move out of the cloud today, or possible ever. While today's cloud solutions are cheap, it's not clear that will remain the case forever.
Here's why control panel based shared hosting is still very much relevant: a modern Linux server is pretty damn fast. And cheap. And requires no changes to code when you move. cPanel servers are a great way to get started . With a solution like cPanel, even fairly large companies can get almost everything they need.  Why?
  • Web server needs scale with traffic, not with company size.
  • Server features are pretty comprehensive and pretty standard.
  • So, if you have less than about 200,000 visits, shared hosting can be a great deal.
  • Most shared hosts are actually very good, even at $5-$10 per month.
Great Sources for Shared Hosting
There are lots of great hosting companies out there, but for the money these are the two that I use:

Incredible Hosting Deal - Linux based hosting, choose US or Europe data centers. Great support.
Lunar Pages - Linux, Windows, VPS and Dedicated servers.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Email Marketing: The Truth on CAN SPAM

If you manage a mailing list, market your product, do billing by email or operate a social network, you probably have had at least one run in with a hostile recipient. You know, the guy who gets one email confirming that he filled in the "join" page and is going to report you to everyone ranging from the town constable, to his ISP, to Spamcop to the POTUS for spamming. Our hostile recipient probably has the rules wrong, the question is, do you have the rules right when it comes to spam?

Instead of wasting your time with my opinion here are the facts:

The Law
You can get sued and/or fined for not following the law. Read it, know it, and accept it. Make sure you know exactly what every email has to have to comply wih the federal CAN-SPAM law:

The FTC's Spam Site
The FTC's CAN-SPAM Act Site

The Blacklists
OK, so the law put some big limits on you. Prepare for more. Ignore blacklist rules at your own peril.  The penalty is your email being stopped cold.  Oh, and there's probably nothing you can do about it, so better to conform that be crushed.

Spamhaus's FAQ
Spamcop's Service Description - What gets blocked.
The SORBS Blocklist's definition of spam (scroll down)
MAPS Guidelines on List Management

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