Fear is one of our most primal survival instincts. But, as such, sales people around the world have made a business out of selling their products on fear and making them out to be a necessity for survival. Below, we will highlight some of the current and historical fear-based triggers used to push oftentimes unneeded items with respect to the networking industry.
1) CALEA compliance — A little over a year ago, we were besieged by frantic inquiries from many of our ISP customers about the need to do something for the new CALEA laws. Basically, these are laws that require data carriers to provide access to law enforcement agencies upon receipt of a judge’s order.
We spent the next few months researching what the intent of the CALEA laws were, and what that meant to our customers. Yes, CALEA is a real law with teeth, but it was intended to help law enforcement agencies track criminals using data networks, not force ISPs into bankruptcy.
There are some low cost options available to operators wanting to conform, so before you break the bank, do some research. But, also be aware, as somewhere along the line CALEA became the Next Y2k fear-driven windfall for unscrupulous networking sales reps. Familiarize yourself with what you need and then find a product that works for you. While we were more than happy to help users of our products comply, we felt than an informed customer was more important that one that was simply panicked and afraid. More info on the NetEqualizer approach to CALEA compliance.
2) Secure credit card transmission over the Internet — In short, credit information becomes the most unsecured once it reaches a corporate database. A hacker or employee with bad intentions is many times more likely to lift credit card information from a fixed database rather than in transit over the Internet. Therefore, the paranoia that abounds over submitting a credit card to Web a site for fear of transmission piracy is way out of proportion to the actual risk.
Consumers will gladly hand their credit card off to a random strangers behind the cash register at a brick and mortar establishment, but for some reason, submitting your credit card to a Web site creates an unacceptable risk for many. This fear has given rise to a cottage industry around secure Internet transmission. The bottom line is that stealing a credit card in transit over the Internet would take extreme patience and inside help from a carrier. To top it off, the credit card issuers have mastered the art of shutting off your card at the first sign of any anomaly (at great inconvenience to their customers in many cases, but worth it in a true emergency). However despite the relative lack of risk, there is a significant amount of money and technology spent on securing merchant sites.
Related article “Do we really need SSL“
3) Y2k – This is an old one, and yes, there were some critical systems out there that might have suffered. My firsthand personal experience from that time was just a wake-up call. My employer had me doing Y2k upgrades to our product line and the scare pushed our sales to their biggest year ever. However, within 3 years revenue had dropped 65 percent. Perhaps we should have been doing real product improvements?
4) Virus protection for your laptop – Yes, viruses are real and they attack all the time, but I simply just save off my critical files daily and re-load my windows box when I get a virus. I prefer this method over being a slave to a Norton pop-up box. You can also convert to MAC or Linux desktop, which seem to carry some form of natural immunity. New York Times writer Paul Boutin agrees in this recent article.
5) Lack of technology for our schools — Yes, there is some level of computer literacy required in the work force today, however, with the billions (trillions?) spent by schools today, you’d think there might be some increase in standardized test scores. I’d much rather see the money spent on increasing teacher salaries and smaller class sizes, even if it meant learning to calculate on an abacus. Training the mind to think and reason critically is a skill for life that transcends technology and requires encouragement and challenge from teachers.
6) Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) — I almost gagged when I read the blurb below from a UPS sales VP from a trade rag. Originally, I was thinking of including UPS power supplies on my list, but I had no evidence that they were being miss represented. And, yes, in many situations a good UPS will save your computer and computer center from crashing, so please understand they are important pieces of equipment for a data center. But, the context below confirmed my suspicion. The lead touts ways to speed up network performance, essentially implying that if your network is slow, you need UPS servers to correct it!
Are their desktops locking up every time someone runs the microwave oven? “If VARs aren’t selling UPSs [uninterruptible power supplies] with each new server or desktop, they are doing their customers an injustice, and they may be leaving money on the table,” says ….. name and company omitted.
This quote and full article is written to infer that your desktop computer and network may run “slow” because of a lack of power. The fact is, your computer will crash hard if power drops below a fixed tolerance. It is not an electric motor that winds down slowly. It is either on or off. A UPS prevents crashes due to lack of power, but it will not make your network faster or more efficient.
The point of this article isn’t to completely discount the six issues discussed above, but rather to provide some context. In many cases, fear is based on a lack of knowledge and understanding. Therefore, the problems mentioned here may not necessarily be best solved with one tech product or another, but instead could be remedied by a little bit of research. As a consumer, doing your homework goes a long way.