Since starting The Partnership, I had always been comforted by the reassuring whirring coming from the dark and chilly cupboard which housed our servers. This was the beating heart of the business and, given my paranoid fear of hackers, we stored every single byte of data we had ever created behind that locked door.
This meant we had over 40 trillion of those bytes sitting there, and we guarded them with our lives.
Every now and again, I would pop my head around the door of the room and gaze lovingly at the cupboard that housed those precious machines. Sadly, despite my very best intentions, this was truly the stuff of nightmares. Inspiring more fear than its menacing cousin, Japanese knotweed, this technology greenhouse was instead home to a veritable field of hideously multi-coloured sprouting weeds of network cables.
Of course, it was never supposed to be this way.
When I started out, I dreamed of neat rows of cables, each trimmed to the exact correct length. There would be no crazy loops of cable and it would be a joy to behold. When visitors to the office would gaze admiringly at our TVs displaying our scoreboards and be wowed by our three-screen desktops, we would say: “Well yes, they are okay, but hold on – have you seen our network cabinet?”. They would swoon at the sight of our ruthlessly organised patch panels with their wonderfully synchronised and colour-co-ordinated cables. They would run back to their own offices, asking their IT suppliers: “Why can our cabinets not be more like theirs?”
Only it is not.
Like most things to do with conveyancing, you start out with the best intentions but then get caught up in the hurly-burly of it all. You spend all your energies making sure that every system keeps working – 24 hours per day.
In this particular case, it all went wrong about five years ago. A former colleague promised to “tidy up that messy cabinet”. This was no idle promise. With over 100 cables that had to be unplugged and replugged, it took a whole Saturday to complete. As we did not have IP telephones, every cable had to go in the right socket. Any mistakes would mean the wrong phones would ring and the Monday morning would be even more difficult than normal.
Naturally, I went to the office very early that Monday to be met with what can only be described as a disgustingly terrifying mess of yellow, blue, red, and green cables. Considerably more chaotic than before. What made it even more upsetting was when my colleague glowingly explained how happy he was with the result.
But here is the thing.
Today, all these years later, we are still too scared to touch any of those cables.
Every now and again, we walk into the server room and agree that we really need to sort it out. “We will come in over the weekend – it will be fun”. Then, we close the cabinet door and back silently out of the room, defeated, returning to our desks to push back the Trello due date another few months.
Having recently moved to the cloud, we no longer need to have the servers onsite. Last week, we took the brave step of turning them all off. Apart from one server, which we use to back up our cloud-based data every night. We know this is really not necessary, but old habits die hard.
This means we have got a server cupboard with no live servers in it. We have also switched to IP phones so we can plug any cable in any socket. Tidying up those messy cables has never been more simple.
The problem is, like most things tech, it is not broken so we really do not need to fix it. However, our experience from migrating to the cloud has taught us that there are some occasions where you just need to grasp the mettle and get on with it.
All we need to do is book in that Saturday…
Peter Ambrose is the owner and Managing Director of The Partnership. A boutique legal provider specialising in the delivery of transparent and ultra-efficient conveyancing services.