Today, we’re going to talk about relationships. In particular, ones that are one-sided.
No, Glen didn’t let me start an advice column on the blog. (Beyond good advice for hosting Blackbaud CRM, of course.)
I can’t help you with your romantic quandaries, but I do know a few red flags when it comes to a hosting set up for Blackbaud CRM that just isn’t that into you.
Whether you have been playing matchmaker for your Blackbaud CRM for a while, or are just getting into the game, these are some things to watch out for in an off-site provider or even your internal team.
Has scheduled down time ever dropped in on you without any warning?
Since it was scheduled, a warning would have been nice, right?
I want to talk about communication: open, honest dialogue between you and your host.
Are they letting you know about upcoming upgrades? Are they aware of downtime before you are?
Whose email reaches who first when something goes wrong?
If there isn’t an open communication channel between you and your hosting provider, it’s going to be nearly impossible to optimize and customize your Blackbaud CRM installation. These things require lock-step coordination and without it, you're going to be operating half in the dark.
If they aren’t cluing you in on their schedule, how can you ever match up with it?
If you aren’t aware of scheduled down time, how can you prepare for that big release?
Working relationships require people to be on the same page: If they aren’t communicating with you, there isn’t much of a relationship to work with. If they aren’t working with you toward your goals, you don’t have truly managed hosting: You have somebody holding onto your systems for you, and they are going to put their attention wherever they feel it’s necessary, without any concern for your projects.
It’s a bad sign. If your host isn’t communicating, start shopping.
You ask a question. You get an answer. That’s communication.
You ask a question. You get everything BUT the answer you wanted. That’s a red flag.
Yes or no questions are pretty binary. You expect a Yes, or a No, but you might instead get a lot of information that’s only semi-related to the subject in question.
Let me demonstrate:
The right way to answer direct questions, such as these...
Q: "Are you PCI DSS Certified?"
Q: "Is the SQL server down?"
Q: "Is the sky grey?" (I live in the rain belt.)
...are direct answers, such as:
(See how easy that was when I don't have anything to hide?)
Now, I'll try ducking the question like a dodgeball:
Q: “Are you PCI DSS Certified?”
A: “We take security very seriously. We install sophisticated anti-virus software on all of our host systems, and they are monitored by our staff 24/7. Anti-Co Fictional Anti-Virus includes the latest virus definitions from the worlds ranking security research teams to ensure that your copy, copy, copy, more anti-virus marketing copy.”
Security could very well be something I take seriously. But I didn’t take your question very seriously.
It ALMOST looks like I answered your question: You asked a security question, and I tried to assure you I'm secure. But I obviously never touched on PCI, and there’s probably a good reason for it.
Security is hard. Not everybody is equipped to get PCI compliant. And if you aren’t, you should be looking for a host that is.
If you aren’t getting yes or no answers to yes or no questions, there might be something they aren’t willing or ready to reveal. It could be that they straight up aren’t listening. And touching back on communication, none of that is open communication. It’s naive, at best, and dishonest, at it’s worst.
How often are you wishing that Blackbaud CRM just "Ran Better."
There's something to be said about "If it ain't broke...".
But how much obviously broken performance are you dealing with because it "works"?
That query that hangs out of nowhere. SQL getting stuck, again. That system-wide freeze that ends as soon as you start a support ticket.
Sure, the issues resolve themselves at random, or with another try, but how confident can you feel about your scheduling and processes when you are at the whim of a system that misbehaves, seemingly at random? Do you feel in control of your CRM? Or does each move feel like a gamble?
To make matters worse, even if you can catch the ear of your current hosting platform about the problem, there's no guarantee that they are going to be able to grasp the issue without an in depth knowledge of Blackbaud CRM. Without a lot of background, my money is that they will try to upsell you on upgraded host hardware. That's a good start, but throwing ram/CPU at the issue won't resolve it.
They don't WANT to waste your time, they just don't have the understanding of Blackbaud CRM to know where to look.
You shouldn't have to walk on egg shells with your Blackbaud CRM. You shouldn't be nervous about a simple refresh. You've re-written queries, you've reconfigured processes, you've put a lot of work in to making it "work". And how much time, effort, and funding do all those little interruptions cost you when you add them up?
We see it too often. There are nagging, obvious performance issues that are chalked up to "That's just the way Blackbaud CRM works."
And to an extent, they're right. That is how Blackbaud CRM runs when it lives on a hodgepodge of laptops that shipped with XP. (Want another case of Double Speak? Try asking your current provider about your hosting hardware.)
If you've already formed your processes around the finicky behavior of a poorly-performing host system, you are still stuck in the mud. You're progressing through the quagmire, but you don't have to be there in the first place. You shouldn't have to fight this hard to make progress.
It starts with a solid foundation. Concourse Blackbaud CRM clients are hosted on enterprise level hardware, purpose tuned for Blackbaud CRM and BB CRM alone.
Refreshes happen quicker. Queries run faster. The server stops throwing that mid-day tantrum. Those little interruptions get out of the way so you and your team can get things done.
Look at it this way: Any host can drop a V8 in your CRM hotrod. But without an expert tune, you aren't going to be getting ahead of anyone, and it's never going to run at it's best.
To recap, I’m not saying your current hosting provider is parasitic and villianious. But I’m willing to bet good money that they don’t have our specialized focus on Blackbaud CRM, and there WILL be a knowledge gap when the time comes.
They might not be aware of how and where to harden your host system. They might not be aware of how BB CRM demonstrates symptoms of poor performance. They might not see the advantages of full PCI Compliance. This might work for some systems, but are you willing to settle that much when it comes to your CRM?
This is the difference between a Swiss Army Knife and a Scalpel. One can do many things, and do them OK, while one is purpose built and precise to get a very particular job done, and done well.
You don’t have to make two phone calls. You don’t have to decipher coded messages. And you shouldn’t have to deal with poor performance.
Want an attestation of compliance? We’ve got it. SQL Server acting up? We’re already on it.
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Until next time!
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