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The Best Alternatives to Using Third-Party Services and Software

I have got to admit that I am not as technical as I would like to be.

There are certain aspects of computing that I know on a conceptual level. As it pertains to other aspects, I am really nerdy and I have a knack for troubleshooting them when they break. As for the rest of the love child inventions given to the world courtesy of science and mathematics, I am basically clueluess on their inner workings. I deduce that I don’t really need to know everything, that experts can handle the rest where and as needed.

In any event, I am a workaround-a-holic.

Nonetheless, I could not do much of what I do without building on the groundwork others have created. I would not have anywhere to blog without this content management system, WordPress. I would not have anything to type on without this computer, its hardware and software. I would not have anything if it were not for a bunch of 0s and 1s. Complex as the backend is, the point boils down that simply and beautifully.

All goes to show just how much power there is in an idea. Someone had to think of it before they executed it, which brought it into physical manifestation, anything, everything, essentially.

With all that in mind, I am grateful for the benefits of the software that I use, but there is always some level of risk that one takes on by relying on something or someone other than them. For the problems posed by those risks, I am grateful except in a different way.

I keep in mind a challenging mantra, that problems are an opportunity in disguise.

This is, what I imagine, dips us over into the matters of trust law, the trust of the public and the trust of people overall.

There are some systems, platforms, places, experiences, individuals — lots of things — that should not be trusted; and where some can be trusted, what if they break or get suspended beyond something in their control?

 

Here it is, put another way with a quick but realistic example of the scenario I am referencing:

Imagine that you run a nonprofit and you subscribe to a software as a service (SaaS) platform that handles the billing for donors. One day, you go online to log into their web dashboard only to later discover that

SHIT DON’T WORK!!!

(a.k.a. Example Company Billing, Inc. website will be down due to scheduled maintenance from 11:00 pm PST through 6:00 am PST of the following day. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please contact our support team…blah blah blah because you’re seeing red by this point and could care less)

Someone might make a passing, objective and easy-to-say comment like ‘could you do without it?’ If only they could know your pain and the awkwardness you, or whomever relays the message, feels when they have to inform attendees at a major benefit coming up in two days that you can accept cash only, despite their online registration confirming the acceptance of credit card payment methods at the door.

I recognize a comment like ‘could you do without it?’ would seem dismissive and disregarding, as if to suggest (let alone consider) that someone should disrupt their entire order, their systems and structures for the sake of getting the job done, no matter how tacky or unprofessional the less desirable result turns out.

I am not inexperienced with the disadvantages of bugs or of systems breaking or of losing access to data.

Fiverr’s platform has given me plenty of experience with this type of dilemma. I mention them because, being a middle man for freelancers and freelancing teams, they are one of the primary avenues that help me generate revenue.

More than once, when they have promoted my account, they turned around not too long afterwards and limited my account for some other unexplained reason.

Putting my eggs in one basket: that is how other self-starters who have learnt the hard way might describe my actions.

Believe me, I recognize the risk that one takes on by outsourcing to a middle man of any kind. They hold the cards, they have far too much power to regulate things they probably should not even be regulating. Even when they make a “good” call, it does not mean their judgment would fairly effect the ones on the vulnerable receiving end.

The above describe only one part of the dilemma I have had with Fiverr, but not to worry because I also understand the importance of backups for my backups. Enough about me, now.

Detailing the process of alternative payment methods and general ways to render services to clients would better serve as another post entirely.

In this post, I want to focus on illustrating 3 basic steps:

  1. Getting a general idea of what happens when software breaks down
  2. Finding measures that can be taken to remedy the problems that a breakdown creates
  3. Mitigating future risks of any technical outsourcing

Getting an account shut down because “they said so” is really inconvenient, not yet considering the realm of the consequential legalities from the provider’s decision. I hardly know where to start in even explaining all the forms of the backlash, the unfairness and the loss, not without first addressing the cause that led to the ultimate effect.

There comes a time when one can do but so much commiserating and complaining about the mistake of mismanaging any kind of SaaS. Lessons need to be learned, better and more informed decisions need to be made when choosing these products.

If you are still alive, you still have the chance. Try and try again.

Recall and never forget trust, as the ability to trust underpins everything, every transaction and every decision to introduce the use of third-party software and services–trust is everything.

Remember that. It will help when you realize that you can never really avoid risk 100%, but you can have solid contigency plans for when the problem of risks arise and get activated.

What’s the Solution When Software and Services Break Down or Are Unreliable?

The short answer:

You get the solution customized for you.

This does not imply that one man alone can handle an outsourced task singly, depending upon what that task(s) is or are. Particularly at the enterprise level and in startups that need to scale at a rapid pace, integration and customization is imperative in so many circumstances.

The longer answer:

Assess the 3 steps, as above mentioned and below detailed.

Get a general idea of what happens when software breaks down.

Before you sign up for anything, any trial subscription or download or whatever, understand the product. Know why it interests you and if you need it at all. Once you master this step, you will avoid a surfeit of digital clutter on every level.

Also ask and consider:

  • Do you really need that email opt-in freeBook?
  • Does their brand appropriately respect you and/or your entity?
  • Will they still be around in 1 year? 3 years? What about 25?
  • Does their terms of service mention arbitration?
  • Might this brand eventually violate their own terms?

Find measures that can be taken to remedy the problems that a breakdown creates.

Ideally, it would beehoove you to think about some prevantive action and damage control at the first step. Additionally, it would be a good idea to wait to act until after you have considered all 3 basic steps.

Also ask and consider:

  • What do the tools, systems and platforms you use do for you?
  • What are their vulnerabilities?
  • What are your workarounds for when they have hiccups?
  • Do you have an alternative option ready to implement?
  • Will it cost more or less than what you already pay?

Mitigate future risks of any technical outsourcing.

The first 2 steps do much of the assessment work for you so that, by the time you reach this step, all you really have to do is execute.

Also ask and consider:

  • Will I be able to execute the plan B or will I need a team?
  • If I need and have or am able to have teams, can they handle it?
  • Is it clear how to handle emergent situations with flexibility?
  • How will I monitor and scan for those scenarios?
  • What else might I need to do to integrate these 3 steps into cyclical risk assessment and management processes?

I also encourage you to look into the services of one of my sponsors, FDX, Inc.. They provide unique in-house solutions for people and businesses, focusing on advanced biotechnology and other AI algorithms capable of reducing manual labor.

If you have questions or feedback about the topics addressed in this post, please leave a comment. If there is something you are struggling with or want me to elaborate upon, you can also reach me on Twitter.