Web Reliability

43. Reducing Infrastructure Friction

Mitchell Kimbrough
Written August 17, 2020 by
Mitchell Kimbrough
Founder

Want to know the first rule of reducing infrastructure friction? Pay your bills.

At the execution level, “infrastructure” refers to the systems in front of the web applications that bring customers in, such as paid search and lead generation systems. It also refers to the systems that support the customer while they are visiting the site, such as the server and CDN assemblies, and content management and user permission software. And it describes the constructs that support customers once they leave, such as fulfillment and tracking systems. In all of these examples of “infrastructure”, the most economical of these systems tend to be those that have a very specialized function, and integrate themselves with others. In nearly all cases they have to be paid for.

We have a client who filed an urgent help ticket one Saturday morning. Their website was down. Customers could neither find nor buy the specialty products offered by the company. We reached out to the hosting company who ran the servers for the site to see if they could locate what had failed. We were worried that our development team might have made a code change that unexpectedly took down the site when triggered by a sudden surge in traffic or some such thing. The hosting company responded promptly with a simple and direct message: "Your client needs to pay their bill."

We went back to our client and they tracked down what had happened. It turned out that they had made a staffing change involving the individual who was the relationship owner with the hosting company. After that individual left their position, the credit card on file had expired. But because the relationship owner was no longer there, the emails requesting new credit card billing information were not being received or read by anyone. No one at our client's company knew that the credit card had expired. No one knew that hosting was not being paid for. The hosting company was receiving no response from requests to be paid. And so the hosting company turned off the website. This resulted in them being paid very promptly.

At the execution level, preventing and reducing friction means making sure that all systems critical to the technology stack are turned on and running well, with proper support and no potential for ruinous events in the foreseeable future. Paying the bill to maintain all of the parts of your system is a first order priority.

The reduction of infrastructure friction is a key element in supporting the customer journey through the sales pipeline. Similarly, team systems that help to maintain a site must also monitor and reduce friction.

Don’t create the opportunity for friction to bring your business to a halt. Pay your bills.

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