By Bridgeline Digital
Whether you are managing a dynamic web deployment or searching for a new one, there are a ton of moving parts to decide on before you even get to the hosting aspect. It is difficult enough trying to determine the best CMS platform to fulfill your functional requirements, looking at your internal development resources, if any, and picking a platform that can scale with you for years to come. Add to this the challenge of deciding on the best hosting option where you often need a solid understanding of all the business acumen and it’s hard to know who is telling you the real story. This article will outline the criteria to consider in this decision, not taking into account any internal politics that are beyond the four corners of the page. Regardless of the platform, there are ultimately two options, either host the site in-house, or find a managed hosting services partner.
In-House Web Hosting
If you have an IT team that operates its own data center, be that internal or co-located, then it is going to difficult to persuade them that an outside firm can host your site better than they can. That’s okay, the question then becomes how critical is uptime, site performance, and easy access to your servers? Do you have redundant internet connections with enough bandwidth, redundant routers, firewalls, and load balancers? What about expertise running VMware, Microsoft SQL Server, VPN Connectivity, SSL Certificate Management and your CMS platform? Any one of these items can bring your site down, and depending upon the internal ability to dissect which interdependency is the issue, it may take IT a long time to figure it out.There are also considerable FTE expenses associated with in-house hosting, particularly when you have to monitor and maintain the equipment 365/24/7, which may or may not have to be purchased depending on the system requirements of your CMS platform. Often times, these internal environments do not have the same capacity or fault tolerance as managed hosting providers, and if they are not intimately familiar with all the working components above, they will have the system configured to what they know, not for optimal performance. What started out as a means to have complete control can quickly turn into unhappy customers and management if your site is slow or intermittently inaccessible.
Outsourced Managed Hosting
Firstly, the most important benefit to outsourced managed hosting is that this eliminates the large upfront capital expenditure to purchase equipment and the FTE requirements to maintain the environment to deliver 99.99% uptime 365/24/7. Secondly, these firms have the high powered gear and the deep technical knowledge to deliver the performance and security your dynamic web application needs to achieve a 99.99% SLA. These applications have their own idiosyncrasies, and they become far more complex to support when your staff has to keep up with the ever-changing technology stack on which they are configured. Security, Licensing, Patching and troubleshooting issues across an internal network requires strong, in-house technical expertise. I have seen teams of multiple people, up to 15, who took days to trace down a connection issue that came down to a single configuration setting inside of a VPN router.
It’s also worth considering the value of selecting a SaaS offering for your CMS website. With a SaaS solution, the hosting is already part of the offering. This means that you’ll still receive FTE requirements on the uptime and an SLA for the software, all without having to purchase the capital up-front. Depending upon your custom development needs, a SaaS powered web site may not be a fit for your organization, but if it can drastically reduce the total-cost-of-ownership for the right firms.
The Value of Managed Hosting
The concept here is to make life easier for both IT and Marketing, period. If your IT team is carrying a heavy load and it is taking a long time to respond to marketing’s needs, then this creates an air of divisiveness. This is why it might make sense to find a partner that can provide full managed hosting services & take the pressure off of IT to focus on other mission critical objectives.
Of course, there are a host of options to choose from in the marketplace (pun intended!) like Rack space, Amazon, etc. The challenge is to find a partner that understands and supports your specific CMS platform. When you have issues with the CMS software, the Rackspace’s of the world cannot help you dive into the code, troubleshoot and fix a problem. Find a partner that can serve as a one-stop shop with technical expertise from software to hardware, where they own their data center, will give you the best long-term ROI, where they serve as a dedicated extension of your organization working directly with marketing to implement new functionality. No finger-pointing between a third party data center and a separate development team who tend to argue about what the issue is and who is going to fix it, all while your site is still down.
I am sure by now you have realized that I am a believer in managed hosting. Given a true side-by-side analysis of the two options, particularly if you have to purchase new equipment, it is near impossible that the in-house hosting option will be more cost effective. And don’t forget about the soft costs of your visitors experiencing a down or slow site where the likelihood of their return is almost zero. If you are running a B2C or B2B eCommerce site, this is even more damaging to your bottom line due to lost sales and market share. There isn’t a right or wrong answer here, every organization has a different make-up, your decision should come down to the true ROI of any web site, that being one of a strong & growing conversion rate.
Contributed by Bridgeline Guest Author
Bill Crouch - Vice President of Sales, ServerSide, Inc.
Mr. Crouch has over 13 years of Enterprise Sales, Channel Management, & Sales Consulting Experience. His specialties include: ASP Software & Information Technology, Accounting, Distribution, ERP, & eCommerce Software, CML, SMB & CON Lending Software Credit Card Processing Software for banking industry, ATM Processing Systems & Drive-up Kiosks for banking Winery Production & National Account Management Software, Disease Management & EMR Software solutions, Point-of-Sale Software solutions for retail/restaurant, Internet Marketing & SEO solutions, School Alert Software and Waste Management Solutions.