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One of the things I need to keep in mind as a lead is that the list of things I need to know in order to be effective has grown. It’s not just the details of development, design and architecture, along with a baseline knowledge of requirements gathering, project management and QA, but also things like business strategy, budgets and, as proved important today, vendor agreements.

We’ve been looking at changing the web hosting provider for our new site since a little before I came on board. When I joined, it was among my first tasks to compare our current provider with our potential new provider — to assess value of the services for the price.

Part of what I did was review the contracts — in particular, the uptime and support guarantees, and made note of what each was offering. (As the company has tens of millions of dollars a year in sales, every hour of downtime is a potential loss of thousands of dollars — during prime time, tens of thousands.) And by making note of these facts, I was able to recoup a significant chunk of change for the company today.

As it happens, this morning we found the staging site — the one hosted by our current provider — was down. It was down because the load balancer*, which is entirely in the provider’s control, was failing. This halted much of our development. Amazingly, this premium web hosting provider to which we pay several thousand dollars a month was unable to have the site back online by the end of the day, and we since learned it was down much of the weekend before that.

Much frustration ensued, including a push to switch us over to the new provider ASAP. But towards the end of the day, I mentioned to the CEO this little detail of the contract with the provider: For every hour of downtime, we are entitled to be credited 5% of our monthly contract fees. It’s also important to note that the contract does not specify that this credit caps at 100%.

The dollar signs appeared over the CEO’s eyes when he brought up the contract and confirmed that information. Gleefully he asked me to put in a request with that provider for a refund — and forwarded me the pertinent clause of the contract.

I just earned my pay for the month, I think. And I also earned a strong measure of the confidence of my CEO, which is very important to achieving my goals for the company. And I also had an important lesson of being a lead reinforced. I’m going to remember the importance of keeping apprised of the details of many things beyond the development process itself.

*If you don’t know what a load balancer is, it’s a server at the front end of the web server cluster that routes incoming traffic evenly between the web servers so that the servers handle roughly equivalent “load” of that traffic. Basically, if it stops working, your entire site fails.


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