Top 20 universal truths in the data center

In this column, Mark Holt lists the top 20 truisms gleaned from his years working in IT.

Like death and taxes, we can always depend on some truisms in the IT world. And although Webster's defines truism as "an undoubted or self-evident truth; especially: one too obvious for mention," I'm mentioning a few gleaned from many sage sources.

1. Users really do understand their jobs. They don't understand IT and don't have the time or interest to learn.

2. Upgrading hardware is cheaper than improving software.

3. The best technology doesn't always create a successful solution. But then the best technology may not be what's required.

4. A new idea is no match for an old habit.

5. "Free" isn't.

6. Vendor wars always impede progress for customers, slowing standards and integration.

7. If nobody else is doing it, there's usually a reason. Maybe not a good reason, but worth asking.

8. Buying new hardware doesn't solve business problems -- unless the business problem is the hardware.

9. Bandwidth is the same as energy. As more is provided, more is used. (See Jevons Paradox.)

10. Employees look out for their own interests. If you take away a needed tool, they'll get another one with or without your approval.

11. "We've never done it that way before" usually trumps a cost/benefit analysis.

12. Functionality isn't the same as usefulness.

13. When you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Most IT people only have technology.

14. It is always costlier and more time-consuming to wait and fix it later.

15. By the time the CEO has learned enough to ask about a technology, it's no longer a strategic advantage.

16. Exactly what you want will cost more than you budgeted.

17. Old ideas don't go away because they're proven and useful.

18. Data isn't information and information isn't knowledge … and knowledge can't be managed.

19. The hardest problems are solved last.

20. And the classic IT project haiku: Fast, good or cheap … Pick any two.

ABOUT THE MARK HOLT: After a 15-year climb from desktop geek to manager of complex enterprise IT projects, I joined the million-man-and-woman march of laid-off citizens. Competing with the zillions of sharp knowledge workers who are now on the street, I have been forced to learn the rules of 21st-century job hunting. I'm a resident of Virginia, a native of California by way of Kansas.

What did you think of this feature? Write to's Matt Stansberry about your data center concerns at [email protected].

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