Today’s illegal downloaders are the entertainment industry execs of the future.

The entertainment industry has been slow to embrace the internet, and it’s fair to say that it still hasn’t got its head around a business model that enables consumers to purchase music and films at a reasonable price, online, and without heavy-handed restrictions on use.

itunes was (is) only successful because it’s easy to use. For people with one computer, one iphone or ipod, and an itunes account, it’s the easiest way in the world to purchase music and film downloads online. However, if you have more than one computer, and/or more than one playback device, the DRM imposed upon itunes downloads restricts your use and enjoyment of your purchase measurably. The alternatives are to use Amazon, play.com, or another DRM-free download outlet, or simply use a P2P “illegal” download service. Frequently, due to the technology behind P2P / torrent downloads, it’s also the quickest way to get hold of digital media. This is patently absurd. I can think of no other product where the “free” version is easier to get hold of and easier to use than any paid-for option.

Note: I’m not endorsing illegal downloading, simply stating that if it’s as easy, or easier, than paid-for downloads, people are going to do it. Make paid-for downloads more attractive by removing DRM, introducing an easy, more universal, very fast method of purchase and download, and look at other ways of adding value (bonus content, concert tickets, graphics and other media), and people will pay for them.

The music and film industry simply don’t understand the new business models, or are not willing to change their own. Instead, they foist anti-piracy adverts onto rental and purchased DVDs (Why?! I’ve just paid for it after all.), they add DRM to their own products, making them more difficult to use (the king of “anti-features”), they hunt down file-sharers and threaten them with court cases, and they insist on sticking by their mantra that one illegal download equals one lost sale (if you were let loose in a sweet shop and told it was all free, you’d grab more than if you were paying for the stuff, right?).

Of course, it’s not all bad. The people that are using P2P and torrent technology to acquire digital media today are the business and entertainment industry executives of the future, and they will understand this technology and these business models better than anyone in the industry at the moment. Maybe we’ll soon see a fresh wave of new businesses, new record labels, new legal download outlets, and an industry that sees its customers as valued clients, rather than a thorn in its side.

The ten principles of IT Management (and probably a lot of other jobs).

1. Work your way out of a job.

If there’s any procedure, task, or process that you have to carry out or manage more than once, you should consider automating it. What’s the point in you doing it, if a machine can? Of course, some things have to be done by a human, but can you streamline the task? For example, can you stop searching through event logs every week, and instead set up a monitoring system that will alert you by email and/or sms to certain types of errors?

2. Make life easier for users

Your users are customers. They pay your wages and are essentially the only reason you’re in the job. By making their life easier, you’re enabling them to make money for the business, instead of working the system. You’ll also be making them happier, and that’s a good thing.

3. Constantly evaluate costs, and try to reduce them.

Costs creep up. They always do, and forever will do. Keep an eye on them, and constantly try to think of ways that you can reduce them: do you need that old server, or can it be virtualised? Do you need all your mobile connections, or can you cancel some? Do you have any old printers that aren’t utilised enough? Get rid of them. Is your hardware vendor giving you the best deals? Are you out of contract with your telecoms firm, support firm, leased lines, printers, or anything else? If so, look for a better deal and/or┬árenegotiate.

4. Constantly evaluate the business, and try to increase productivity.

Don’t take your eye off the ball with what the business is up to. It’s easy to focus on the day to day stresses of the IT function, and your pet projects, while the business starts running in a different direction, and before you know it, you’re off doing something that is hard work, and provides no benefit to the business, or you’ve missed an opportunity. Get involved in the different functions, like marketing, and strategy (even if your directors don’t actively involve you – just get in there anyway.)

5. Consolidate

One contract is better than two. Vendors fight harder for bigger contracts, and there are big efficiency savings to be made by consolidating. Multiple contracts for a similar service just wastes money, administrative effort, and doesn’t make the supplier work as hard for you.

Consolidation applies also to IT systems and infrastructure, of course, but only where sensible. One server can carry out multiple roles, but not at the expense of reliability, or necessary performance.

6. Be a pessimist – plan for disaster.

Shit does happen, and it will happen in ways that you didn’t predict. When setting up and supporting systems, ask yourself:

“How could this fail?”

“What’s the impact if it does fail?”

“How can i recover from failure?”

and

“How can I reduce the likelihood of it failing?”

Note that you can never completely prevent something from failing, but you can make it so unlikely that you don’t have to worry. Ideally, everything should have a redundant partner, ready to failover, but if that’s not possible, make sure to be ready to recover from failure, and mitigate the impact.

7. Be an optimist – plan for expansion and success.

As important as planning for failure, is planning for success. If you have 2000 users now, don’t spec a mailserver with just enough capacity to serve all of them just enough. Spec a server with enough capacity for 3000, or 4000, or 10000. Don’t spend more than you need to, but you can guarantee that if you only spec just enough now, it won’t be enough in a year or two.

8. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Try new things, and accept that not all your endeavours will work out well. Some may turn out to be awful, but some may turn out great. Try out new technologies, new systems, or even old systems that you haven’t tried before. If you don’t know how to do something, ask. And if there’s nobody to ask, do it anyway, and work it out.

9. Stay on top of technological progress.

Go to seminars, webinars, workshops, training events, trade shows, and new product demonstrations. It’s easy to get behind in IT, and you don’t know the things you don’t know. You can’t do many of the things before this item if you don’t know about the newest technology, systems, products, or services. Also, by keeping really up to date, you can help your business keep ahead of their competitors.

10. Network

And I don’t mean with ethernet cables. Networking is especially important if you work in a small IT team, partly because you learn best from others. You’ll learn what other people are doing, how they’re doing it, why, and who with. You’ll find out how to do a better job for your business, and make a better career for yourself.