The idea of transference for avoiding risk came to me as I was helping a friend clean up malware that had gotten on their server. It wreaked havoc and got the server’s IP banned. This is a very inconvenient state for a business that can’t send an email and their web traffic is dropping like a pile of bricks.

I had reviewed the server and there was a ton of old code from long-ago apps that were no longer being used. So after cleaning all of that then I cleaned up the WordPress sites, getting rid of all the old unused plugins and themes and debris in the folder structures from past crud. Which then led to a web server migration.

It occurred to me during this process that prior to this cleanup there was no possible way for him to change servers, or change companies that own the servers, or anything. My client was stuck. And by being stuck the server he was on just aged unpleasantly over time with a deprecated database, codebase, and so on.

I kind of look at the evolution of tech as a moving escalator through a large airport. You don’t need to be the first one on or the last, but you do have to move in the direction of the escalator. As things “improve” with technology, support for older things expires, and we all know this. But in today’s fast-moving changes, no one is going to hold your hand and tell you, “Hey you are at risk here!” Well, not from the company you are buying from anyway. If you don’t keep moving forward on the moving escalator it causes congestion until somebody throws you off over the side into the walking path in front of the Brookstone store.

The point I’m trying to make is we should be looking at the tech we purchase, and the tech we rely on – whether that is servers, emails, smartphones, etc – with an element of risk analysis. I’m talking about things in our lives that we rely on for our business that if something changes or is removed, can we recover. Is there an exit path?

The deeper concern is of course as we rely more on cloud services for our emails, our music, our file storage, our health records, and on and on, we no longer own it, we become adjoined with these services and highly reliant. Rightfully so, they are incredible and getting better every day, but what happens when the owners (not you) come to an impasse? Can you break ties with that service? I know for myself if Google took away “my” Gmail and calendar, I would just go live in a cave and try to live off grub worms from now on. In my book, it would be the apocalypse coming early.

Obviously, some risks you just have to retain because you have no choice or maybe you just think, meh, I’ll play the odds. And that’s fine. However, I’m all about minimizing risk by reviewing these hard-to-change items and trying to figure out the ‘what if tomorrow this ended’ could I keep my server cleaned up? Could I actually do backups of my files in alternate locations, could I have a secondary email system just in case? Simple maintenance – Can I transfer my data or what is important to my business to another service or own it all? At the end of the day, it’s yours to keep or yours to lose.