I’d like to talk a bit about the startup attitude towards operations, and say that in most startups I agree with it completely: the most important thing is to get your product out the door. Fussing with SNMP traps, running Drano through your mail server, racking servers and installing Linux, and ensuring your packets go where they need to go, are all things that will not make your startup a success.
That is not to say (at all), that you can do without those things. Those things are like electricity: if no one builds a server and makes sure it says online, then you don’t have a product. If your e-mail stops working, then you don’t have a way to sell it. Operations is critical to your business, in the same way that electricity or air conditioning is. That does not mean, in the least, that you should do it yourself. Unless your startup is building solar panels, of course. I suppose that’s always possible.
If you manage to not suck, your startup will at some point need to start doing operations in-house. Once you reach a certain size, it’s cheaper to hire someone that knows what they’re doing and rent some datacenter space and by telecom lines than it is to pay Amazon. And this is, by the way, the first step on a path that leads you to building your own datacenters, running your own fiber, and building your own servers, routers, switches, and coffee tables.
For certain industries, such as Medicine and Finance, that point is pretty much when your company starts, for either legal or business reasons, but for everyone else, that point is sometime after Tech Crunch starts getting snippy about your silly whale graphic.