Who's Afraid of Hosted Applications?
Chief among the concerns about hosted applications are security, integration, and content ownership—but these can be addressed for the most part. Byrne from CMS Watch suggests that most hosted systems are actually more secure than systems inside the enterprise. "The traditional knock against hosted CMS is that content is managed on outside servers," which is perceived as inherently insecure. But, he says, "if you were honest about your own security framework, you may find it's not any more secure than the hosted system and may be more secure at a hosted provider."
Gilbane's Laplante points out that these companies have to provide top-level security to stay in business. "I think security concerns are more a gut-level reaction, but I do believe that these companies would not be in business if they couldn't deliver a secure solution," she says.
One concern Byrne points out is the flip side of not having to make a capital investment to install a CMS. "You may have spent more after a couple of years and you can't capitalize the expense as you can with an installed system. If you get it out there and then pay for upgrades, hosting may not be as attractive economically," he says.
Companies deal with content ownership through the service agreement they sign with the customer. Rob McClellan, GM of Fila Online, Inc., a WebSideStory customer currently implementing a hosted system, says he has no concerns about this because their contract outlines all of the ownership issues. "In terms of control and things like that, we have an agreement with them for up-time just like we would have with anyone who runs software on a server," he says.
According to Byrne, hosted CMS companies get asked about content migration all the time and they have become adept at getting the data to the customer. He says that most customers get regular backups just as they would from any system so that they have the latest data, but regardless, there are methods and contractual agreements in place to ensure smooth transfer of data from vendor to customer should the relationship end or sour. "The vendors are pretty good at exporting . . . Most allow XML dumps or have a database connection and pull down entire databases," he says.
Another issue is integration with other systems, but McClellan says companies face that no matter who the vendor is or the model used. "You are going to integrate one way or the other. Most of these packages use SOAP and XML. Integration is always the most complicated pain point, but it doesn't get any worse (with ASP)," he says.
Hosting is not right for every situation, but for many businesses who want to concentrate on content instead of implementation issues, it could be a reasonable way to go. Byrne says that you still need to shop carefully to find the vendor that is right for you. "Each one has a different company feel, a different interface, and has been optimized for different use cases. You need to review which vendor is focused on your particular vertical or whatever your particular requirements—intranet, extranet, media site, online brochure. Some are better suited to some scenarios than others," Byrne says.
If you find a vendor that meets your needs, hosting can solve many problems, reduce costs and overhead, and give you one less IT headache. But like any purchase, it pays to shop around and find the right vendor and make sure hosting is a good match for your organization.
The Gilbane Report