Even though this article is a little dated, the author's opinion is still very pertinent to the internet environment today.
Ah, for those uncomplicated days of (literally) yesteryear, when maintaining a corporate Web site was simply a matter of updating HTML files on your company's server.
But no longer - today's commercial sites have quickly grown more robust, complex and demanding than ever before. As a result, more and more companies are taking a new tact: outsourcing the time and cost-intensive management of their Web site to an independent Internet service provider (ISP). Just as retail companies long ago realized by turning over their catalog fulfillment to third-party vendors, net-savvy companies of the 90's have discovered that outsourcing offers improved service at a lower cost.
In fact, it is a trend that's gaining real momentum. According to a 1996 report from Forrester Research1, two-thirds of all Web sites are now hosted externally. And in a study published earlier this year2, Forrester also noted that with the rapid evolution of "industrial strength" applications, corporations are increasingly asking their ISPs to "help them move beyond dead Web pages to interactive sites that support personalization, ads, chat, and access to live data."
In response, major players in the ISP market are stepping up their efforts to meet this new demand. Far from being simple hosts of HTML-only servers, this new breed of ISP is aggressively enhancing capabilities across the board to create a truly integrated set of services - including firewall security, virtual private networks, voice-over frame relay, e-commerce servers, streaming video and audio servers, and more. Moreover, they're upgrading their own infrastructure in terms of network technology, skilled personnel, and round-the-clock coverage to provide expert, hands-on management of their customers' mission-critical sites.
Is it time for your company to pursue an outsourced Web site management strategy? Of course, that decision largely depends on just how much of your business will be operating in cyberspace. But if your IS department is already stretched to the breaking point in managing present online activity, you should consider the following benefits that outsourcing can bring:
Real savings. We at DIGEX find that a typical internal start-up can be reduced from approximately $22,000 to less than $4,000 through outsourcing (based on a flat-rate model). By the same token, monthly expenses can be reduced from $9,100 to $1,804. Overall, a total first-year savings through outsourcing can add up to about $95,000. This cost comparison easily underscores the bottom line on Web site outsourcinggenuine value. And the reason behind it is simple: full-service ISPs are able to deliver higher levels of service at a lower cost due to their economies of scale and corporate focus.
Time To Market. By outsourcing your Web site and server, you can greatly reduce the development time to get your corporate site up and running. Consider for a moment all the elements you must juggle to create a functional site: a leased line, networking equipment, server hardware and software, monitoring tools, backup equipment, and more. Plus you'll need to hire or repurpose a dedicated in-house staff to actually develop and launch the site. Such a process can easily take weeks and even months. On the other hand, a capable ISP partner should be able to install, configure, and verify the operation of your Web server within a couple of weeks. In terms of being pre-emptive in your online marketing efforts, the preferred choice of direction here is clear.
Performance. Latest statistics indicate that Web users will wait an average of eight seconds for a screen download before heading elsewhere. This fact points to a Great Web Truth: high performance is essential. Regardless of its sophisticated content and design, potential customers will not wait for a sluggish Web site to deliver. To best maximize your site's performance (which in turn means optimizing network connectivity and the configuration of your hardware and software), outsourcing again brings higher results in terms of flexibility and reliability. The right ISP can offer you a range of cost-effective network connectivity choices, including redundant high-speed connections that ensure the fastest content delivery to your end user. Your ISP can also configure just the right fit of software and hardware to meet your present needs, while advising you on future upgrades to ensure peak performance.
Reliability. These days, you can't really quantify performance without factoring in the possibility of downtime. With internal operations, the potential nightmare of a server crash is very real. However, through outsourcing, your site can achieve a high degree of reliabilitywith full accountability and redundancy for all aspects of your online presence. To ensure this, your ISP must provide a highly-effective technical infrastructure that includes 24x7x365 support, redundancy at critical points of failure, state-of-the-art monitoring tools, and a data backup and recovery system.
Credibility. Face it - compared to your internal IS department, a commercial ISP simply provides a more consistent, high-level skill set. And no wonder - considering the competitive market in which they operate. But to identify the ISP with the most credibility in this regard, look for the one with the highest number of certified professionals on staff. Certification, as it relates to recognized competence with either software, hardware or whole systems, is perhaps the best means of benchmarking an ISP's collective talent. By the same token, be sure to note how actively your ISP is partnering with industry manufacturers in developing the next generation of software and hardware solutions - such involvement is the mark of a truly experienced and proficient outfit.
Security. Contrary to popular belief, outsourcing your Web server offers a much greater degree of security than basing it in-house. How? By placing your company's server on an ISP's network, you are eliminating the possibility of unauthorized access to your corporate LAN or WAN through the server itself. In addition, your ISP will be able to apply a much more extensive array of security measures to safeguard your server from unauthorized access.
With compelling advantages such as these, it's no wonder so many
companies are turning to outside sources for complex Web site management.
However, one final cautionary note: the success of your outsourced site
depends almost entirely on the core competencies of your ISP. To select
the right provider, you must first analyze the comparative merits of your
top picks, as well as your own corporate requirements now and in the future.
As a rule, selecting a national Internet carrier is your safest bet.
Even then, hold out for the one that can offer your company the greatest
commitment in terms of pricing, flexibility, application support, and solid
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Last updated: June 22, 2010