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I'm currently working in Tokyo for a smaller company that has just started serious online business. Recently we have been hitting the maximum open files issue on a rented VPS server causing services to stop functioning temporarily (more or less temporarily actually). Now being a good citizen I informed my boss and asked him to get another server, since once the server goes down we will be loosing money not being able to sell anything.

Surprisingly, nothing happened.

To make matters worse he just LOVES to procrastinate on anything that might actually cost us money.

How do I get the message to my boss, that the server going down is actually a BAD thing? OR is there anything we can actually do to fix it using other ways? (And no, we can't raise the file limit :))

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I saw the question title and my first thought was "ServerFault is NOT a bad thing, you jerk!" =) – Wesley Aug 8 '11 at 23:46
Sorry for the misleading title =( – Ben Aug 8 '11 at 23:50
Or maybe this is a misleading domain name... – Wesley Aug 8 '11 at 23:52
Err... why just not increase open file limit. Default is just too low for many uses. – rvs Aug 9 '11 at 8:09
up vote 21 down vote accepted

You can't "make" your boss understand anything. All you can do is try to present the situation in a way that he will understand -- remember, communication is what the listener does. If the listener doesn't understand, you're not communicating.

We can't tell you how to do that successfully, because we don't know your boss, but hopefully you do. Does he like numbers? Give him numbers. Does he only talk in terms of hard dollar amounts? Then prepare a cost/benefit analysis of the status quo and your proposed solution, showing him how much better your proposed situation is. Perhaps he only responds to doomsday scenarios -- then invoke a digital godzilla to freak him out.

If all that fails, all you can do is put your concerns in writing, explaining clearly and without any possibility of misunderstanding that the current situation is sub-optimal, and that certain problems will occur. Be factual and reasonable. Keep a copy of this missive yourself, at home. You're beyond the realm of reason, into the realm of cover-your-arse.

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That seems like the best way to go, especially the cover-my-arse realm, since we are also running credit card payments over the server – Ben Aug 8 '11 at 23:47
The answer to any negotiation is building a case. Build a business case, gather support, etc etc. – surfasb Aug 9 '11 at 7:49
The amount of money you lose in a outage is a tiny proportion of what you lose in repeat business - do some research to get an estimate of how much this is really costing you. – symcbean Aug 9 '11 at 12:12
@smcbean, very good comment the cost-benefit needs to be done realistically including all the costs and all the benefits for all analyzed scenarios. – Unreason Aug 9 '11 at 13:44

Put together an ROI. Show your current and projected income on this site on charts (C levels love charts). Also calculate how much money would be lost during an unexpected outage (be honest and figure out how much money you make during peak hours. Also figure out how much time you would be down when rebuilding a new system. $ per hour x hours = money lost). Put this up against the cost for a new server. Let the boss weigh out the cost/benefit.

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I'd use an analogy of some sort... something along the lines of kitchen staff in a fast food joint maybe.

If you've only got 1 guy making burgers and you get a rush of people then a big queue is gonna form, and people at the back (or just coming in) are likely to walk out because it's taking too long to get served. If he hires another guy, the throughput will double and the chance of people leaving is massively reduced, meaning more sales and more $$$.

You need to show him that the money invested in the new server will be less than the money he stands to gain over, say, a 12 month period.

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My advice is just let it happen and he will get tired of losing money and do it eventually, some people just cant be helped...

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This can be hard on your current employment (if the company you work for goes out of business, you tend to stop getting paid) and future employability ("Yeah, I left the last place because they didn't listen to me that one time, so I just shut up and let them drive their ship into the ground.") – Slartibartfast Aug 9 '11 at 6:05

I'd mention that server outages happen at "peak times" (I'm guessing that this is the case, but it would make sense). In other words the times at which this happens is also the time when you cold be making the most money.

It's like closing your restaurant / snackbar at lunchtime.

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