This editorial was originally published on Aug 12, 2015. This is being re-run as Steve is traveling.
I know a little something about building and scaling a system on the Internet. While SQLServerCentral isn't the largest site out there, we've had lots of experience with growing a site while trying to manage a business. We were successful at it for years before Redgate Software purchased the site. I'd like to think we've continued to run the site successfully and balance the commercial needs with our goal of hosting a world class SQL Server community that educates the community on a daily basis.
I thought back about our history and the way things have gone while reading an article on Github and some of the challenges they have faced they they try to build a business from their (primarily) free service. I certainly hope they succeed as I really like the Github model and only hope their investors are as enlightened and visionary as the founders of Redgate.
There are constant challenges in running a business. No matter how good your intentions, the pressure to break even or turn enough of a profit to survive are always there. At the same time, there is just as much pressure from ethical business owners to keep their customers' and clients' expectations and needs in the forefront of their minds as they run their business.
I have struggled with this regularly at SQLServerCentral and still do today. Serving the community while providing value for my boss (or making a profit to pay my salary in the past) are two conflicting goals. I think that things have worked out well, but I am constantly striving to maintain some balance between what is best for all.
I do hope GitHub and many of the low cost services are able to transition and survive as they mature as businesses. Even if many of them can't continue to provide the same services for free, I hope customers see enough value to pay for some level of service, and the sites survive.