At one time or another you’ve probably heard someone proudly proclaim, “We eat our own dog food!” Isn’t this really the epitome of the rhetorical statement? Does anyone expect to see Papa John chowing down on a Domino’s pizza or learn the CEO of McDonalds sneaks out to have a Whataburger for lunch (even though that Monterrey Melt is wickedly good)? Of course not! They would never do that ... until circumstances force them to. And the same is true for us in the data center industry: We always eat our own dog food, until it decides to bite back.
Since we at Compass build data centers whose function is to support the flow of data via the internet, we naturally avail ourselves of all the technology has to offer. We store all of our documents in Box, use VOIP, have our own website hosted at Softlayer (ahem, I mean Big Blue), and prefer to send emails on Office365 rather than letters. So you could say that, like most of you, we regularly dine on our own metaphoric dog food. Unfortunately, as we recently found out, sometimes being a large consumer of your own Alpo can be problematic when the cupboard runs dry.
For reasons known only to God, or at least that’s what our internet provider told us, our internet connection went down the other day. At first, it was no big deal, these things happen from time to time, but it soon became apparent that this was not your run of the mill temporary outage, but the dreaded “we’re going to have to send someone out” type of service disruption.
As you might expect, the mood around the office began to turn. The general good will characterized by all the standard jokes, “Guess you won’t be able to watch any cat videos,” soon gave way to hostility, “When the heck is this going to be fixed,” before succumbing to outright despair, “How am I ever going to get this done with no internet?” It was kind of like those five stages of grief that you hear people talk about — except no one was dead. Obviously, this was way more serious.
Although no one was happy about the situation it did seem to impact each organization differently. The finance people were mildly annoyed, but they were working on a spreadsheet so connectivity to the World Wide Web wasn’t quite top of mind. Our product delivery people decided to assuage their frustration by having a conference call using their cell phones — are these guys adaptable or what? Since the phones and email were both going to be down for the remainder of the day, the sales folks just decided to pack it in. My marketing guy was apoplectic over the whole situation. Since I’m never sure about what he’s doing, I couldn’t quite understand how this lack of internet access was affecting his ability to do whatever it is he does, but, based on his level of frustration, it must have been real important.
As for myself, I was forced to deal with the mound of paperwork that had built up on my desk, while periodically popping in to ask my IT guy how things were going just to watch him sweat. Sometimes it’s good to be the boss. Oh yeah, and I finally figured out how to work that personal hotspot thing on my iPad — sheer genius!
As the day progressed and the restoration of service became ever more elusive, a general air of hopelessness hung over our office. Folks kept busy working on things that they could do locally, a spreadsheet here, a white paper there, but without internet access were these just pointless acts of futility? Some even began to wonder aloud that if our service wasn’t restored, “What’s the point of even coming in tomorrow?” While this behavior may seem a little overwrought to many of you, South American governments have been toppled for less, and I was quite relieved when our service was restored.
I suppose you could say that this is just another example of how we have become slaves to technology and you’d be right. I don’t think this means we should regularly conduct “back to the past” drills to prepare ourselves for some major service interrupting event, but it does indicate that we need to become a little more adaptable in how we perform our work-related activities. In other words, while eating your own dog food is always the best policy, maybe Papa John does order from Domino’s every once in a while.