The Four Tech Groups – Balance in Your Tech Diet

Sham Harga had run a successful eatery for many years by always smiling, never extending credit, and realizing that most of his customers wanted meals properly balanced between the four food groups: sugar, starch, grease, and burnt crunchy bitsTerry Pratchett, Men at Arms

In the spirit of Sham Harga, one runs a successful law practice by always smiling, never extending credit and having your tech properly balanced between the four tech groups: security, redundancy, utility, and cost. These are dynamic forces often in opposition with each other. If I want my systems to be perfectly secure, I must sacrifice utility (for others not to access my tech, I must also limit how I may access my tech) and invest in cost (firewalls, DMZ’s, encrypted communication, and 24/7 monitoring come with large price tags). Should I wish perfect utility – unlimited access, 24/7/365 availability – I must sacrifice security and invest in redundancy and cost. But there is a point where all four forces lie in balance – costs comfortably within our budget, security contained comfortably between extreme paranoia and laxness, and systems that are sufficiently redundant so that they can attend to the tasks required of them now and for the reasonably foreseeable future with only minor, rectifiable hiccups.

While there are undoubtedly precise mechanisms that will spit out one’s ROI when investing $X in amount Y of security or amount Z of redundancy, this point of balance is more than a simple evaluation of a couple of the forces in isolation. This is more a matter of personal intuition for what we are evaluating is a fluid system and the balance we achieve today may not be the right balance tomorrow. It is a bit like yoga – today I find my balance in child’s pose and even though I might find it in mountain or tree tomorrow, right now a simple solution addresses my needs and that is all that matters for the moment; let tomorrow bring a new balance with it when tomorrow comes.

Yet being in tech balance is more than simply being able to find the right balance between the four tech groups – there is finding balance while engulfed in the ever-present white noise of our interconnected tech; of finding those small moments of quiet midst the cacophony of social networks, list-serves, RSS feeds, blogs, and e-mail if for no other reason than to find some time to actually do some paying work. I find that when the din becomes too much and the well-considered advice of the efficiency experts no longer lifts me above the noise I take a retreat from my tech for a few days – deliberately disconnecting from the cacophony of interconnectedness – choosing instead to regress to more primal state of tech. One in which afternoon naps are more likely to be interrupted by the dulcet tones of a landline than the strident chirp of a cellphone and where word processing is a product of ink on paper rather than electrons on phosphor.

Admittedly, putting one’s tech on hiatus is not easy (a small town’s lack of reliable connectivity goes a long way in helping me ignore tech’s siren song) but I find that doing so reminds me to have a more deliberate, purposeful relationship with my tech; that my tech is there to facilitate my mission, not dictate it. Seems everything needs to be rebooted ever now and then.