A Certificate for Every Admin and a Chicken in Every Pot

Michael PhillipsYears ago, at another hosting company, I was interviewing a systems administrator. His resume was full of Microsoft certifications, so I assumed he would be a good fit for our company, which was a unix/Windows hybrid.

Now I’m not a system administrator, but in those days (circa 1997-98) I did a lot of work on the Windows servers – manually setting up new accounts and database connections, troubleshooting, crying. You couldn’t host more than 250 sites on one box, no matter how powerful it was, and even at that relatively measly density, memory leaks were so common and rampant that the servers had to be rebooted at least once every day. I drove in on weekends, just to reboot dozens of NT servers.

So I did the usual interview with my new friend, then – since I was interviewing him in our “server room” (really a glorified broom closet with an in-wall air conditioner) – I said, “Why don’t you log in to one of the servers and I’ll show you what we’re up to around here.”

But he couldn’t.

Not because he didn’t have proper login credentials, but because he didn’t know how to log in to an NT server from a lock screen.

admin-passwordUp until that point he had been a very persuasive speaker, and I felt as if I may have been in the presence of a great and wonderful mind. I may well have been, but if Einstein couldn’t figure out how to sharpen his pencil, he would have been kind of limited in what he could have accomplished.

All this is to say that you shouldn’t be inappropriately dazzled by a new, upstart host’s claims of employing MICROSOFT CERTIFIED ENGINEERS. It doesn’t mean they know anything about the realities of hosting your site.

Make no mistake, we’re lousy with Microsoft certificates around here. They are spilling out of filing cabinets and getting stuck in the ventilation system. Technically it’s probably a fire hazard, we have so many certificates. The certificates are very important. Everyone who works here is encouraged to gain certification, we even provide a financial incentive for them to do it. We have to have a good deal of the staff certified (and keep those certifications current) to maintain our “Gold Hosting Partner” status.

Maintaining that status has recently become considerably more difficult, and you may notice that certain hosts no longer label themselves Microsoft Gold Hosting Partners, because they can no longer qualify. We still qualify, because we’ve got a lot of very smart people in our midst.

So certification is important and we encourage it. But – just between you and me – in reality, experience is far more important than certificates. Interviewing that certified system administrator who couldn’t log in to a server taught me that. As it happens, we’re lousy with experience around here too. In fact, some of the same people who I worked with in 1997 are here in the office with me every day. Along with a system administration team that has an average of 13 years of web hosting experience per person.

That’s critically important – the “web hosting experience” part. Someone who has 20 years of experience building corporate intranets or managing SQL servers at a hospital isn’t necessarily the person you want running a commercial shared web hosting network. They might be great at what they do, but you’re shopping for web site hosting, not a count of how many Advil are on the shelf at Cedars-Sinai.

So let’s recap:

  • DiscountASP.NET: A ridiculously large (and constantly growing) stack of Microsoft certificates.
  • DiscountASP.NET: Experience running commercial, shared web site hosting that extends all the way back to the Neolithic era of the industry.
  • DiscountASP.NET: A decade-long track record of excellence, awards, kudos, innovation, industry leadership and competitor jealousy.
  • DiscountASP.NET: Brilliant blog authors! (?)

What more could you ask for?

This post is apropos of nothing, as they say, but today I saw a new competitor’s web site that made quite a fuss over their “Microsoft Certified Engineering Team,” but no mention of how long any of those engineers had actually been supporting commercial hosting servers. So here we are, me typing, you reading, and now we’re finished.

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