Awhile ago I posted a bit of a rant about an experience one of my businesses was having with a particular ISP who didn’t seem to understand the concept of customer service. Briefly I told the sorry tale of woe that we experienced with our site hosted on a traditional ISPs VPS offering.

I got a bunch of comments on that post, but one really got me thinking. Ben Reid, Founder of Memia a cloud development company, left a remark asking:

?Why aren’t you eating your own dogfood?

Meaning why aren’t I, as a cloud evangelist, using a true cloud hosting service. I’ll not dwell on the definitional issues here – a number of people commented that a VPS is cloud hosting – that’s one debate I’ll leave aside for now.

What I did want to talk about was Ben’s contention that our business should be using cloud as a philosophical decision.

I responded to Ben saying that:

Oh but we are totally eating our own dog food. The dog food that says “A business should stick to it’s core”. You see Cactus is in the business of making the best outdoor equipment in the world – NOT of being a great sysadmin.

Yeah I’m a cloud evangelist, but first and foremost I believe that a businesses should focus on what is valuable to them. SaaS is valuable precisely because it avoids the need to have in house IT – moving hosting from (supposedly) supported hosting to completely unsupported and self administered cloud infrastructure makes little sense unless the organization in question is specifically in the business of systems administration. We’re not.

This got me thinking about a conversation I had with Ian Sweeney, CEO of billFLO (more on them here). We were discussing the strategy that SaaS vendors selling to SMB customers should use when messaging their products. As Ian said:

As vendors, I think we all agree that Saas works really well for us (easy upgrades, no OS compatibility issues, etc) but we haven’t thought much about what traditional SMBs want. Speaking to traditional SMBs (builders, carpenters, retailers, etc.) they don’t care either way about always on, available anywhere SaaS offerings.  They only care about software that gets their tasks done quicker.

If the Saas offerings (working together) can outperform desktop software in that dimension, then it will hit the mainstream. And I think we can, with our unfair advantage of connectedness and open data.

So… dogfood huh? I’ll see Ben’s original dogfood and raise him a knitting – businesses should stick to their knitting and not try and do stuff that isn’t core to their point of difference.

Oh and SaaS vendors, if you can’t articulate that value in terms SMBs can understand, you’ve got a big problem.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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