Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Learning to roll with the punches

In the aftermath of my New York inspired meltdown I spent some time looking at the other players in the market. It turns out the market has matured somewhat since I last did this seriously, which was obviously far too long ago.

Mostly I found products with similar price tags to New York. There was one product though, which I'll call London, which is comparable to Sydney in both features and pricing though based on the Application Service Provider (ASP) model. Their monthly charges are very reasonable and their features include most of the planned features of Sydney. To be honest I'm tempted to start using their service myself right now.

The ASP model is something that I had considered for Sydney but as a future step. I don't have the networking experience to run a 24x7 service and I don't have the funds to pay for someone else to do it for me.

I can't say that I wasn't worried by this discovery. When I found the London website late one night I just turned off my computer and went straight to bed.

"Well that's that," I remember thinking, "I'm sick of all this IT stuff, time to find something new."

I don't think I was really serious about that but at the time it was quite liberating to think that I could just walk away from it all. I didn't have a clue what I'd be walking away to, but I did realise for the first time that there were probably other options out there if Sydney doesn't come about.

Thankfully morning brought with it some perspective and renewed enthusiasm. I realised just because the potential market isn't quite as open as I originally thought that doesn't mean I should give up without a fight. I wasn't quite sure how but I was resolved to find a way to adapt to this new challenge. Amongst other things I went back and re-read the comments I received from readers when I wrote about New York a few weeks back. Once again, many thanks to those who took the time to give suggestions and encouragement.

I haven't got around to reading the books that were recommended to me as yet, but I did follow the suggestions from Brian, Adam, Chris, Tom, Glenn and David. I listed London's strengths against Sydney's and looked for ways that I can differentiate myself using the flexibility I have as a one man operation. I've got a few ideas and I'll keep looking for more, but unfortunately London looks pretty darn good and it's available here and now. The main point of difference between the two appears to be the deployment models, with Sydney being a more traditional onsite application against the ASP model of London.

I'm interested to hear what others think about this but I'm of the opinion that most people fall into either the traditional onsite application camp or the ASP camp and don't often shift between the two. If I'm correct there should be plenty of room for both Sydney and London without the two even needing to go head to head.

If I'm wrong and London does turn out to be a direct competitor to Sydney then I'll need to play on the usual fears about losing control of one's data and the potential privacy implications about using an ASP. I'm not particularly worried by these issues myself but there are plenty of people who are. Another point of difference could be the increased flexibility of running Sydney inhouse and being able to more easily integrate it into existing systems than London.

It's this integration with existing systems that I'm investigating right now. If I can work out a few technical integration details I'm thinking of altering my development schedule and maybe initially targeting a smaller niche to test the waters. More on that soon.