When Does Choosing a Mediocre Technology Make Sense? | TechWell

When Does Choosing a Mediocre Technology Make Sense?

The technology world is obsessed with the latest and greatest—the newest gadget, the smallest device, the most powerful machines.

On one hand, this doesn't come as a surprise. After all, we're all about innovation and building something better today than we built yesterday.

On the other hand though, is using the latest and greatest always the best idea? Are there times when choosing a mediocre option—or even the worst option—makes sense?

Sounds absurd, doesn't it? What possible advantage does choosing something that's not as technically advanced convey? Well, if we step back and think about it, we can come up with several possibilities:

Financial cost. Lower up-front cost is the most obvious asset of less-than-par technology choices. But be careful to avoid paying more in the long run.

Integration cost. Will the best technical choice require us to spend time and money supporting a new server operating system or development platform? If so, maybe a second-best tool that meshes with your existing architecture is the better choice.

Durability. Glass-surfaced laptop screens look much nicer than plastic ones—until you drop them.

Serviceability. Which one can be more easily repaired and adapted? This argument can favor open source solutions over better-performing proprietary ones. You can improve free and open source software yourself and tailor it to your needs, but improvements to closed-source packages come only at the discretion of the vendor.

Cheap commodity hardware is what made it possible for Google to create their massively parallel computing architecture. They were able to assemble commercial off-the-shelf hardware into a supercomputer far more powerful and resilient than its component parts.

On an individual level, we as computer professionals are better able to leverage cheap hardware than the average user. Doing the same thing on a business level translates into a competitive cost advantage.

The philosophy of appropriate technology advocates making technology choices that make sense in the context in which they're used. The usual applications of appropriate technology deal with creating devices that work well in developing nations, but we can apply these ideas to our technology choices anywhere in the world.

Have you put these ideas into action? What's your favorite low-tech solution?

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January 29, 2013

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