November 30, 2017 Stewart Marshall

Cruise Control – The Dangers of “Set And Forget” IT Systems

Without a doubt, “set and forget” is one of the most frightening phrases any serious IT professional can hear.  It’s one of those throw away lines that non-IT people casually use in a conversation about hardware and software solutions when it turns to the nearly always thorny subject of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Total Cost of Ownership

Actually, before I go any further, let’s take 30 seconds to make sure that we understand what this means in the wonderful world of grown up Information Technology. TCO refers to the hard earned lucre that you’re going to have to part with once you’ve bought some software or hardware. It’ll be used to cover support costs, maintenance or upgrades, bespoke package changes, training, productivity losses during transition and so on.

It’s a bit like having to inflate your tyres or put oil in the car. TCO is simply the time, effort and money that goes in to making sure your car keeps moving in a generally safe and comfortable manner.

This stuff goes along way to helping us understand why people so often think of IT systems as a cost.

“We’re gonna crash, Clyde”

Having got that out of the way, let’s get back to setting and forgetting. For the sake of continuity, I’ll stick with the automotive analogies.

So, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of cruise control. It’s not that I don’t trust it, it’s simply that I’ve always driven my car myself, so I’m quite comfortable maintaining an appropriate speed. But I do understand that it makes life easier for some people, so I’m happy to endorse this particular technology and its use.

However, like all technologies, we must ensure we’re aware of its limitations, and cruise control has one that has been known to be over looked, which is of course that it doesn’t do corners.


Cruise control helps us travel the highways and byways with minimal effort, but when there’s a change of direction or circumstances, we need to adjust the direction of the car so that we can continue in the required direction.

Setting and Forgetting

Just like roads, businesses don’t (ok…shouldn’t) travel in straight lines. They twist and turn, adapting to subtle changes in the market, suppliers, staffing, legislation and a great many other contributory factors. IT systems however tend to be somewhat less pragmatic, and, just like a car on cruise control, they continue to travel the same unwavering path.

So, should we metaphorically fall asleep at the wheel, when we wake we may be lucky enough to find that the road has been straight and pothole free while we were away in the land of nod.

We may however find that we’ve missed a junction and we’re now many miles from where we’d like to be. It’ll cost us a little to get back on track, but there’s no real harm done.

Or we could wake to find that there’s a bend in the road and our only viable option is to quickly ensure we’re buckled up, brace for impact, and hope that it doesn’t hurt too much.

Annual Service

Roads are rarely straight for very long, so we regularly correct our course. Similarly, only the simplest of simple enterprises continues without change, so IT systems need to be adjusted accordingly.

A regular health check will ensure that your IT systems will continue to travel in the right direction. You service your vehicles regularly to ensure they stay on the road, so why not apply the same logic to your computer systems?

So just one more cautionary note. You know that noise that mechanics make? It’s the “you’re not going to like it, it’s going to be expensive” noise, they make by sucking air through pursed lips.

That’s a noise you NEVER EVER want to hear that from software, hardware and support providers when they come to assess the wreckage.

Perhaps then, a few little regular adjustments, like an annual service, will ensure that your IT continues to operate efficiently and effectively, and heads in the same direction as the business that it serves.

Today’s Top Takeaway

Look after your kit and your kit will look after you.

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