Strategy Clinic: Should we host our own web site?

Our experts give you the low-down on the pitfalls of hosting a web site in-house; and on who should pick up the tab for ERP...

Our experts give you the low-down on the pitfalls of hosting a web site in-house; and on who should pick up the tab for ERP training

My firm is thinking about developing a commercial Web site. Would hosting in-house be a wise thing to do or should we consider co-locating with an Internet service provider, or outsource as much as possible?If we do go in-house, what are the costs of providing adequate bandwidth?

The pros and cons of playing host to your own Web site

Alistair O'Reilly

Managing director, Access Accounting

There are many advantages to hosting your Web site in your own office. The most compelling benefit is the way in which you can have real-time site update by all of your internal systems. A locally-hosted Web site can draw information out of existing databases, financial and personnel systems and data entered or captured on the Web site updates your back-office systems in real time. Both of these benefits have the added advantage of avoiding duplication and errors.

There is also no practical limit to the disc space available to you and no restriction to the applications that you can run on the Web site. The down side of a locally-hosted system is the high capital cost of dedicated IIS servers and communications equipment, the staffing costs of 24-hour maintenance, seven days a week or the loss of business if a server goes down outside the hours that maintenance is available inside your office.

With a remote-hosted system you can rent hardware that is fully maintained and you can insist that it is upgraded or enhanced regularly. The site can be updated in batch mode to keep pace with changes back at the office. Typically, you would automate the update process to run once a day in the early hours of the morning. Equally, when data is received on the Web site from customers you can be notified by e-mail in real time and download the information when required.

With remote-hosted solutions you can start very small at a very low cost and yet plan for success since you can expand on an as-and-when basis so that you only increase your costs in direct proportion to your success online. With many applications, you start off with a remotely-hosted solution and move up to a locally-hosted solution due to increased activity you can rest assured that your application, Web site and data can all be transferred from remote to local hosting in a fast, painless and cost-effective manner.

Problem 2

ERP users within our company have been complaining for the last six months that the users do not have adequate competencies and that our organisation offers inadequate levels in training. We do not see ourselves as trainers, nor do we have the resources to do this, but at the same time, HR claims IT training is not within its remit

Who picks up the tab for training up staff for ERP?

David L Biggins

Swindon

If this is typical of the way this company manages its personnel and projects, the heads of IT and HR may care to seek more appropriate posts organising brewery trips and the managing director should be given a major kick in the pants for not managing his managers properly.

No significant systems project should ever be approved or undertaken until training and support are part of the project plan, and have been properly budgeted as part of the cost.

Any IT director or manager who undertakes a major project without ever asking how the users are going to learn how to use it has clearly fallen into the trap of thinking that IT projects are an end in themselves, not a contribution to the business. As such, he is a menace to the company.

Unless users can actually use a new system, the company loses out in four ways - firstly, because the system costs resources to put in place; secondly, because it fails to deliver the promised benefits; thirdly, because untrained staff using a new system may be less productive than the older system being replaced; fourthly, because mistakes caused by unfamiliarity with the system can have serious effects on the rest of the company.

Similar attitudes, endemic in IT departments in the last 30 years, are invariably responsible for the all-too-frequent IT disasters and the generally poor view in which companies often hold IT departments.

Similarly, any HR department with such an attitude seems slope-shouldered to the point of abrogating its responsibility to the company and employees.

Both departments should sit down to work out what is needed for the good of the company, and learn from the results.

If firing and replacing the managers concerned is impractical, lock them in the boardroom, and refuse to send in any food or drink until the first training courses have been scheduled, and trainers, rooms, and necessary equipment irrevocably booked.

This was last published in December 2000

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