Dogfooding: Why We Use Our IT Products Before You Do


Ever heard of “eating your own dog food” or "dogfooding” for short? The expression means using your own products to test them in a real-world environment before you introduce them to customers.

It’s thought the term originated with a 1970s TV commercial in which actor Lorne Green endorsed Alpo dog food by pointing out his own dogs eat it. Since then, companies large and small have adopted this concept for quality control and to demonstrate confidence in their technology applications.

Why should you care? IT performance and cost savings

If you use or are thinking of using a company to manage and secure your IT infrastructure, you should know to what extent they test or use the technologies they sell. Their response will tell you how seriously they take their commitment to quality assurance.

At Summit Business Technologies, before any hardware or software is given the green light, we inspect, compare, test, configure and finally, use it ourselves to see what the client experience is like. By using these products every day, we encounter the same frustrations as clients when products do not live up to their promise.

  • Dogfooding helps improve the reliability, usability, and performance of your technology, because we experience the hiccups before they affect you, and can disqualify technologies that do not measure up.
  • Using technologies before our clients do provides tremendous insight into their actual performance and further builds our knowledge basee.
  • Dogfooding is a client-centric business orientation. Walking a mile in our clients’ shoes is a great way to understand their experience

What we look for in vetting IT and security products

Summit is a living laboratory for evolving business technologies. Our due diligence starts with the question, does the product do what it says it does?

Case in point: storage backup and recovery systems. Simply put, backups are your last line of defense against cyber threats. They are so critical to restoring business operations that we tested 10 different products before we made our selection. Among our criteria:

  • How easy is the product to use?
  • How long does it take to backup files?
  • How frequent are those files backed up?
  • Can we use it for virtualization, for physical servers, and for desktops?
  • Does the software need to be installed on every computer or is it an “agentless backup” that is centralized and requires no installation?
  • Is it compatible with the other IT and security technologies we use and sell?
  • How do the price points compare across products?
  • Is the product flexible enough to provide all the features needed by a broad and diverse client base?

The not-so-humble password manager

A password manager may seem like a simple, limited application, but nothing is simple with IT security.

Summit engineers vetted and compared four password managers before settling on the one we use and implement for clients.

  • We looked at the user interface to assess what it was like for users when they logged in.
  • We tested the software on desktop and mobile devices and on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems,
  • We checked for features, such as the number of users the product can manage, the number of passwords that can be stored, and whether the program generated complex passwords for you.
  • We evaluated the comparative costs and the resources required to maintain it.

Summit provides IT security to hundreds of clients. In addition to client requirements, we needed military grade password protection, remote support services, and documentation for tracking and reporting.

The search for high-level security without high-level hassle

Summit supports organizations across a myriad of industries and professions, including manufacturers, law firms, defense contractors, nonprofits, HVAC and electrical contractors and biopharmaceutical customers to name a few. All of them need to protect confidential data, but the type of protection varies by the level of sensitivity.

The risks couldn’t be higher for biopharmaceutical companies testing new drugs. Millions of dollars are at stake. Protecting this intellectual property requires a high level of validation and access control. At the same time, the authentication process cannot impede the productivity and progress of clinical trials or be unduly burdensome.

After thorough research, we installed "adaptive multi-factor authentication" software, a real mouthful, but a highly intelligent application that provides stringent security controls with one single login, eliminating the need to authenticate every time a new app or resource is opened. The software "adapts" to the user's location, device, behavioral patterns and other contextual cues to identify anomalies, such as attempted logins from different areas of the country using the same credentials.

Narrowing the choice of VoIP phone systems

We know how well VoIP phone systems work, because we have one at every desk in our office and in our conference rooms. We evaluated a myriad of phone systems before settling on two that were right for a broad mix of small and mid-size businesses. We looked at:

  • Reliability and scalability
  • Conferencing capabilities
  • Customer satisfaction rate
  • Company resources and support
  • Ease of administration
  • Costs and contracts

If you’re not an expert on phone systems and carrier contracts, it’s well worth hiring a consultant who is.

The dogged pursuit of excellence

Keeping up with evolving technologies is like wrestling the many-headed Hydra of Greek mythology: cut one head off and two more grow back. As that reality is unlikely to change, the best advice we have is to find a technology pawtner that sniffs out new technologies, puts them through their paces, and eats their own dog food to be sure it's the right choice for you.

Sorry. We couldn’t resist.

Summit Business Technologies

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