University Web Developers

University Web Developers

So I listened to the 911 Webinar on HigherEdExperts yesterday and it got me thinking. I wish there was a polling option on this site, but what percentage of campus have their Web Server on Campus vs a Hosting Plan?

Wofford has about 1,300 undergraduate students and we have our web server hosted off campus through a service provider which could potentially help us battle an emergency with an internet traffic spike. Also if something crazy disastrous (earthquake, tornado, hurricane are all possibilities) came through campus and wiped out the data center our website would still be up. Of course the exact opposite could happen and the service provider is destroyed where are campus is fine, but usually they are located in "safe" environments to reduce this risk.

So anyway I'm guessing I'm kind of asking a two part question. Is your website hosting on campus and what is the population of your institution? I'm curious how size affects hosting. Any extra thoughts you have about the situation or why your campus is a certain way would be interesting too.

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On campus hosting, 7000 students. No interest in having someone host for us. I always prefer having our data under our own lock and key.
Why? Is there really any private data that you keep on your web server? We do have private data that is accessible on the web that is hosted on campus, but for the most part your college website is a marketing tool so it shouldn't really need a lock or a key. And if it's an issue of security and patching I'll argue with anyone that a solid hosting provider is 99% of the time going to have better server administration and patching than a college. Why well simply because that's all that person does is patch and administer web servers all day.
Mostly it's a personal choice matter. I just prefer knowing exactly (physically) where my data is, and I want to be able to get face to face with people responsible for keeping it up. If there is a problem, I don't want to have to go through support channel's, etc.
I agree with Kyle. You can always create backups of your online data, and do it quite affordably and automatically, but it is too affordable to ignore the benefits of off site or hosted services.

My server, NorthConway.com, uses hosted services out of Texas, and I could never deliver the service that they provide me for the money I am paying. But despite the fact the server is offsite, I still get a backup of my entire website mailed to my email account each evening.

You can have the most technically astute staff available on campus, but what you get with a hosted sevice is a professional support staff that is dedicated to keeping staff satisfied 24 x 7. if the same can be said for your campus' datacenter then I commend them.
We do everything on campus right now, but I'm exploring moving it off. We're a small college so our IT resources are limited - I would like to have hte ability to call someone at 3 am and get my issues resolved. The emergency options are also important to think about.

If your servers gets 0wned, it doesn't matter if it on or off-campus, the data is still compromised. If there's sensitive data, leave that on-campus and IP limited or whatever, but general marketing stuff would work just as well off-campus.
We have been using RackSpace as our hosting provider for going on four years. We get a dedicated server and currently host the college web site and several other relevant sites to the college on this server. You have complete control over configuration, backups and so forth.
Two years ago when hurricanes were moving into Texas (the headquarters for them) RackSpace moved all of their customers over to their disaster recovery site in the UK.
I would never consider in-house hosting for a college website due to disaster recovery solutions a hosting provider can offer. RackSpace has been great to work with and their support is well, Fanatical.

Rick
We are looking to go with RackSpace this summer. They are a little more, but as you mentioned I've heard nothing but fantastic things about them.
You are going to be happy with that decision. Like I stated before, you can manage everything yourself, but if you lack knowledge, they will help you, and their response to issues is just outstanding. I just cannot imagine why a college would want to host their websites in house when there are so many disadvantages in doing so…Wanting to be near your data make’s no sense to me. Having a dedicated team for all of your web resources makes the most sense to me.
We're a small private college and we use Rackspace also.

Right now we have 2 servers but will be consolidating to 1 once I migrate our main website onto Drupal.

Very happy with their service. I'm more of a web programmer than a server administrator so I've called them up a lot to do server work and they've always done it for free and very quickly.
We started our relationship with RackSpace at the beginning of this year. I am absolutely amazed at how much control we have over our server.

A managed, dedicated server like the one we have from RackSpace is really the best of both worlds. You have almost as much control over the server as you would hosting in-house, and you don't have to worry about your network or a power outage knocking out your Web site.

Personally, I don't understand why everyone talks about their data being safer when it's hosted on-site. I seriously doubt that there are very many colleges that require they kind of clearance the RackSpace requires in order to enter the server room.

The data security (both physical and virtual) was one of the things our IT department really grilled RackSpace about before we purchased the hosting. However, in the end, RackSpace's servers are more secure than anything we could try to put together with our budget.
I was watching the 911 Webinar, too - it really got us thinking! Me, our Web Designer, and our Public Information Officer talked for quite a while afterward about what we needed to do to get prepared.

On hosting - we are looking to move our webserver offsite, but for us it is more of a response to the threat of hurricanes - we're in coastal NC, and even the possibility of a direct hit has us shutting down the entire data center. We had a minor hurricane a few years ago and were down for a couple of days - a major hurricane would probably take us down for a week! Our student web portal/email provider and our Blackboard LMS are already offsite, along with a backup LDAP server. The LDAP server is hosted with eApps.com, so we're probably going to put our webserver there just because they're known to us. We have ~7500 Curriculum students, ~9700 Continuing Education students in a semester.
I'm not attacking, but genuinely don't understand why there is so much desire to have web site data under "lock & key." It's all available publicly, why does it need to be secured on your own servers and not externally. Personally, I see a lot of benefit to separating public data out from the private data you want to keep really secure. The main things preventing the use of hosted solutions seems to be irrational fear, bureaucracy, and personal preference. It is really sad to see the issue of personal preference come up so often in the University environment when we are supposed to be serving the students, not ourselves. If a good case can be made for on campus hosting I would like to see, if you are just doing it cause that's what you like to do, I see failure. So please, anyone, some genuine reasons why you have your own servers and don't host?

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