Saturday 26 October 2013

Pet hates - credit munching

One business practice we find particularly annoying is "credit munching".  Credit Munching is where the organisation arbitrarily decides to cancel credits a few months after they've been purchased. Not only have you already given the company a free loan for the period, they then decide they confiscate the credits because you've not used their services recently. It is little better than an act of corporate theft, like people stealing money from a fountain where people have thrown coins to make a wish and/or donate to charity.

Those organisations think they can justify this practice by sending you reminders warning that credit you paid for is about to expire and can be saved if you do business with them.  If the are so concerned about the (non-existent) administrative effort of maintaining the credit records they should refund the credit to the original card. 

When an organisation plays this deceitful little trick on my company we automatically blacklist them. In our terms that means:
  • they automatically become the last choice for any future business;
  • we never recommend them to clients or friends;
  • their domain name is added to our email blacklists, so we are never troubled by their emails again.
If the majority of consumers adopted these reasonable defensive measures the despicable practices of Credit Munching would stop. We apply the same rules to loyalty point systems.

Here's our current blacklist:

British Airways (as a consequence of Air Miles, Avois) -
The Air Miles organisation - for loyalty points munching - - for credit munching
Hilton Honors - the hotel chain - for loyalty points munching.

BA and the Hilton have lost substantial amounts of business from us as a direct consequence. They'll come off the blacklist when they apologise and refund in full the credits/loyalty points.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

It looks great a great Data Centre, but ...

I've just visited a small data centre which had been developed by someone who's had little previous training in creating such rooms/buildings. This lady has good business qualifications and has had plenty of experience as a general manager, but little in the operation of a data centre. 
She was proud at the low development costs of the site, partly achieved by using lowest bid general contractor. The overall decorative appearance of the "Data Centre" is good, but when you dig a bit deeper into the construction methods the picture changes. 

To spare her blushes I won't go into too much detail but there were some basic mistakes. I've made some recommendations relating to safety which shocked her as there's now no budget to fix the issues and she doesn't want to interrupt operations with additional works.

There are many factors to consider when planning and designing a Data Centre, but here are the main factors I put into consideration:

  • Power
  • Cooling
  • Resilience
  • Weight bearing capabilities of the building structure
  • Noise and vibration
  • Insulation
  • Security and safety
  • Lighting
  • Personnel
  • Access
  • Data, telecommunications and power cabling
  • Shared Mechanical and Electric facilities
  • Space allocation
  • Storage
  • Maintenance
  • Expansion and upgrading planning
These factors overlap and are often interdependent leading to many careful design decisions being required.

In the case mentioned at the start of this blog article. I've recommended an increase in the fire rating of a couple of walls and doors. It is possible to retro-fit this, but the process will require some minor building works. I've also recommended one stud wall where there is public access should have greater security by adding security mesh lathing with a surface covering of lightweight wallboard. I'm sorry to ruin the wallpaper!

Monday 14 October 2013

Interest Rate Swaps to small business debacle

Just watched a BBC article about a small childrens nursery business which had taken a loan from Barclays and which bundled in an Interest Rate Swap trade to "protect" them from interest rate increases. The additional cost above the loan so far has been £100,000.

I'm not surprised by the reports of small businesses being caught out by interest rate swaps. The banks who sold these to businesses can have no defence. I was working in a City of London Moneybrokers in the 1990's and remember the banks being forced to unwind similar IRS deals made to the treasury departments of Local Authorities. If Local Authority had been caught out by such trades it is obvious that small businesses were in a much worse position when it comes to being aware of the risks.