Hidden Costs of Choosing a Server Management Team

It’s the age old question when you’re buying almost anything…especially in this economy: Where is that target intersection where price meets quality to determine great value for your dollar?

I was recently working with a potential client on an H-sphere migration. It seemed like a good fit and as we progressed toward coming to terms on the deal, price invariably became an important part of the discussion.

The potential client already had one quote in hand and ours was, regrettably, higher. While I think we both believed there was a good potential match here, they opted to go with the lower quote and, really, I understood. I felt we were probably the best option for their needs, but I also understand that there’s a difficult decision to be made.

Within a few days, I followed up to see how things were going and, unfortunately, the answer was not that well. There were issues with the migration that included some extended down time and while migrations are always difficult, I was left with the impression it was probably preventable with proper preparation and planning.

Further, and this threw me for a loop, they told me the price ended up quadrupling from the initial quote…it was now twice the amount I originally gave them!

Perplexed, I asked what happened and it was an all-too-familiar story. The quote was really a “base quote”. It included the migration of data, but it didn’t include the pre-migration work, IP mapping, etc.

It didn’t include any time for clean-up, installation of the control panel on the target servers, or post-migration troubleshooting to iron out all the wrinkles. In essence, they were sold a car without an engine, transmission, or tires.

We’ve been in business for over 16 years and providing Linux server management for most of those years. While we don’t often get to see what we’re up against when quoting, we often hear about the aftermath of a project that either ended up costing a lot more than anticipated, took a lot longer than anticipated, or ended in disaster, whether it’s an H-Sphere cluster migration, a server hardening, or a simple update.

So, really, this was just another reminder to me that regardless of what service or product you’re looking for, it’s always important to consider the real cost of the solution, whether it’s add-ons, downtime, or lost business/reputation while sorting through the aftermath.

Migrations are always a particularly challenging project given the level of complexity and all the potential for downtime, but if you’re planning for this type of project – almost any project, really – it’s critical to know who you’re working with and what corners might be getting cut to get that more attractive, base price, quote.

Are they including all the preparation and quality assurance steps? Are they using well trained, in-house server admins? Will there be any language or communication gaps that can lead to down time? Is this project part of their core business or an ancillary service they offer for a few extra bucks?

Migration ServiceDynamic NetOther company
Pre-planning (measure twice, saw once)yesNo
IP mapping planyesNo
Complete documented migration planyesNo
Custom operating system partitioning guidelinesyesNo
Control panel installation on target serversyesNo
Data migrationyesyes
Estimated post-migration cleanup & troubleshootingyesNo

Finding the right partner for a migration (or any server management need) at the right price is always a difficult decision for any business, but possibly the most important cost to consider is the cost of choosing the wrong one for the job.

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About the author: Peter Abraham