To host or not to host

To host or not to host

Summary: I asked this question on Twitter this weekend and received lots of responses, on both sides of the fence:Debating whether to stick w/ godaddy for hosting district sites vs running our own web servers now that our firewall is fully configured.Some folks just didn't like my choice of GoDaddy (it wasn't for the commercials - they were cheap, their interface was slick, they had lots of hosting and DNS features and I could go month-to-month).


I asked this question on Twitter this weekend and received lots of responses, on both sides of the fence:

Debating whether to stick w/ godaddy for hosting district sites vs running our own web servers now that our firewall is fully configured.

Some folks just didn't like my choice of GoDaddy (it wasn't for the commercials - they were cheap, their interface was slick, they had lots of hosting and DNS features and I could go month-to-month). Others were happy to host their own. Why not? It's free and you have your choice of fairly easy technologies to handle web services.

A surprising number encouraged me to stick with outsourced hosting, though. Bandwidth, availability, and hassle were all on the list of reasons to let someone else host our websites. It is mighty easy; just pay the bills and everything happens transparently. I can even add Moodle, Joomla, and other slick functionality with a few clicks. Our district and school websites will probably not start taking too much traffic anytime soon, particularly since our email, SIS, and other services live in the cloud.

As I told one follower on Twitter, though, this seems to be a religious issue. It doesn't quite rival Mac vs. PC, but I'm not really seeing any compelling arguments either way. The geek in me wants to host my own so I can experiment with content management systems and slick open source tools for educators. The busy practical part of me, though, just wants it to work, provocative commercials and all.

What do you think? Host it or outsource it?

Topics: Software Development, Browser, CXO, Enterprise Software, Outsourcing, Social Enterprise

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • As I stated on Twitter

    I would stick to outsourcing unless you're large enough to manage those resources in house, unless you particularly like 3AM "the site is down!!!!!!111!" calls; chances are good that you're not large enough. Whether you stick with GoDaddy or not is your choice - I can't stand GoDaddy as a company or as a provider, though I do concede that changing over DNS and other assorted stuff would likely be more hassle than it's worth - but I just think that for a small to mid-sized school district, the best option is to let someone else worry about the minutia.

    Outsourcing also lets you better integrate with Google Apps in my experience (I use Dreamhost, which supports it), but you KNOW my opinions on using Google Apps for things like email. :)
  • I hate godaddy

    I did a search for a domain on their site. Found it was free and let it go for a couple weeks. Went back to check availability and what do you know? Godaddy has registered it themselves for my "convenience" and they want me to pay extra now. Well f-that.

    Great business model you've got going there Godaddy.
  • RE: To host or not to host

    Reading into your blogs, I would say based on your
    knowledge and skill-set, that hosting is best for you.
    • Balancing geek and professional

      You know, as a school district, you should probably outsource. If you had a natural disaster (flood, earthquake, tornado, winter storm, etc.) your bandwidth usage might go up and you would have to plan for that.

      outsourcing it allows you to not worry about that. Also, most outsourcing companies have Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity plans in place which means that you will most likely still have a web presence even when a disaster occurs.

      To scratch the geek itch, you could always register another domain (or use a sub domain) and set up a testing environment on your local servers.
  • RE: To host or not to host

    Have someone else host it for two reasons. One, it can be calculated as a finite budget item and you do not need to budget in hardware maintenance. Second, if you have a good SLA then your covered and do not have to worry about it as much on your next vacation! For experimenting with CMS and other fun stuff, an internal dev lab should meet your needs.
  • I used to host myself

    I had a blog and web site and a couple email accounts
    that I hosted myself. The problem was my mother was
    calling me from three states away to tell me that my
    blog was down - again. Then I'd have to go into that
    dark dank basement and reboot the machine. This
    usually happened on Wednesday, just after the
    Microsoft updates. Hmmm...

    It all got to be just too much hassle. Outsourcing
    man... that's where it's at. Now, given your budget
    and propinquity for things MAC, I'd suggest
    • Use LAMP silly

      Then you can get most updates without a reboot.
  • RE: To host or not to host

    I have seen a district host thier own content management site. Although overall traffic was low, every day at 3:00, all the teachers logged in at the same time to do thier updates and the site slowed to a crawl (I heard the term 'unuseable' used). They were trying to host the web front end and the database on the same 5 year old server. If you host your own, make sure you have enough resources to handle peak traffic.

    Also, consider having to provide security (firewall, anti-virus, etc.). All said, outsourcing is usually a lot cheaper, unless you need more control of the data.
  • RE: To host or not to host

    Outsource! The only case where host-your-own makes sense is if:

    1) You need something special no outsourcer provides.
    2) You have excess labor that you can't fire that would otherwise be sitting around doing nothing.
    3) Your maximum usage is less than the hardware you happen to have.
    4) Your finance people hate OpEx spending.
    5) Your finance people believe the way to run the business is to spend capital only when you have to and drive the hardware until the wheels fall off.

    For any other situation, it's much more sensible to outsource and put a line item in the annual budget for hosting. You'll need to budget a little time for periodic vendor management (especially for expensive contracts that need enforcement and re-negotiation whenever you need to renew).
  • RE: To host or not to host

    Seeing that I?m in Australia, and a GB of data is worth $5 in upstream & downstream I have always been a fan of outsourced hosting (In total my 3 websites transfer around 260GB a month) Shared hosting starts at 70 bucks a month for 2GB data (!)

    I use to host with go daddy, until I hit some form of hard limit on the DNS, or something, as all web traffic would crawl to around 20KB/s & would get time outs when ever you tried to open any webpage or link.

    Hosting with the globe now - $59 for 3x 'base level' accounts for a year - very happy.

    I suggest you check out with a Linux plan. It will cost a bit less than GoDaddy (not much though) and you have some pretty good access to "run your own" although it would be on a virtual server.

    However, truly hosting your own means things like maintaining backups and the cost of doing so. In a school district that will always wind up as "We're confident you can use existing equipment another 2-3 years. We don't have the funds right now."

    Plus, when the system does ultimately go down, as they all do at some point, you will be stuck getting it back up, even if that means 10 pm on a Saturday.
  • Or do both?

    Don't take on all of your district's hosting yourself. It's SILLY to try to add "web host" to your already long list of responsibilities! Having a 3rd party hosting provider is nice; GoDaddy is not.

    For my organization, I chose MediaLayer as a host for all of the main websites (I'm very happy with this provider). Running lots of Open Source CMS and web apps, everything is fast, reliable, and Just Works. Google Apps is all set up too.

    But when I have some service that I want to install on my OWN web server, I simply add a subdomain (A) record and point that to my organization's firewall's public IP, which is set up to safely host in-house webservers.

    So you can host all of your main stuff on a "professional" 3rd party web hosting provider, and point subdomains to your own webservers for whatever purpose you want.

    That's what I do.
  • RE: To host or not to host

    Infrastructure services will never be a core competency of a school district, as a Board of Ed member I am pushing our administration to host non-core applications and services where ever possible. There is just no way the do-it-yourself approach will be cost effective over the long term for commodity services like web-hosting and applications like finance and accounting, HRMS, and data warehousing.

    Even if the cost is neutral, why take the time of valuable resources away from their high value mission of improving student learning and achievement? Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Focus on the unique contribution you can make to your district.
  • RE: To host or not to host

    I am a retired Tech Director (2 years). I made the decision to outsource our site to a third party. There were several reasons. When I arrived, we were being held hostage by the building and district Front Page gurus for stipends and time. They became very teritorial because they had been allowed. I went with a product called school center. We had each of the building people trained with the stipulation they would train others as part of their stipend. The use at all levels were the same just with a cascading security and rights setup. This meant that if the webmaster said I don't want to do this or I want more money, we just offered another user the job and elevated the security rights, no additional learning. Teachers were encourage to develop webpages and setup was easy. It also took the political issue off the table if the site was hacked. MAny benefits to outsourcing especuially if you can't dedicate the resources in house.