The 7 Minute Abs Rule of Selling Your Software

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Time, as Ben Stiller’s troubled, spree killing hitchiker correctly intuits, is very much at a premium these days. Perhaps he was a bit optimistic in his assessment of the value of a mere 60 seconds, all that differentiated his 7 minute Abs from his 8 minute competition, but the point is nonetheless well taken.

Yes, even in our industry. Maybe even more so.

As many of you know by now, we at RedMonk are something of a broken record on the subject of “barriers to entry.” Have been for years now, actually. And while said barriers may take a myriad of forms – poor documentation, lack of developer friendly APIs, platform centricity – few are more powerful than simple time. Few cases are more illustrative of this than my years old decision to leverage Zmanda’s ZRM packages for our MySQL backup needs.

Much as it pains me to admit it, back in 2006, our “backup” procedures consisted of a few manual rsync scripts, a bit of duct tape and bailing wire, and an inappropriate faith that our hard drives would never die or become corrupt. Which is another way of saying that we desperately needed a backup solution.

In my capacity as an analyst, I’d been briefed by Zmanda – suppliers of MySQL backup solutions – more than a few times, and I was aware, peripherally, that the solution would meet our needs. But besides downloading the packages and kicking the tires on a test CentOS instance (they didn’t have .deb’s back then), I had never seriously considered applying them to our production instance. Not because it was too expensive: the basic ZRM packages were free and open source. Not because the technical approach was unsound: it was basically automating much of the mysqldump and rsync process I was performing manually already, while providing niceties such as versioning and encryption to boot. No, I hadn’t considered using the technology simply because I didn’t think I had the time.

You can argue that one should make the time to craft a sufficient backup procedure, and I will not disagree with you. But I, like a great many other people in this industry, was busy, and there are so many hours in the day. Given how complicated the setup can often be for backup scripts – particularly because in this case I wanted to push the backups to S3 – I couldn’t be bothered.

Until I came across “How to setup and verify a backup solution for MySQL in 15 minutes – all using open source software!!.” Written by the Zmanda folks, it outlined a very simple procedure for backing up and restoring MySQL databases using their packaged software. A process that took 15 minutes. And even I, busy as I might have been, had 15 minutes. And while they said 15, I think it actually took me closer to the 7 of 7 minute abs. Once I’d coverted the RPMs, that is.

Anyway, three or so years later (here’s how we did things – much of the Amazon S3 sync we scripted is now a feature of the Zmanda product), RedMonk is still a ZRM user. Not really because of the technology. And certainly not because of a mix of industry magazine placements, PR pitches or webinars. We’re a user because Zmanda eliminated the barrier of entry that is time.

Many of the enterprise technology vendors in the audience are probably thinking that 15 minutes isn’t enough to show them their entire product, and they’d be right. But I don’t need to know everything: show me something. Something interesting that can be done in a few minutes. If you can do that, and your product is interesting enough, people will take the time to discover the rest.

And if you can’t, you might want to think about why you can’t.

Disclosure: Zmanda is not a RedMonk client, nor is Amazon.

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