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August 20, 2008

The right time for outsourcing

Paul Walk has an interesting post, “Did Google just make me look like an idiot?”, questioning whether the time is right for universities to start outsourcing services in a Web 2.0, SaaS kind of way.

As Paul notes, this was very much the focus for our symposium earlier on this year.

To be slightly frivolous, I have a gut feeling that no time is the right time but I very strongly agree with Paul that the question needs to be asked, especially given the possibility of global recession and its potential impact on Web 2.0 business models.  The sustainability of whoever you choose to outsource to has to be a major consideration in any decision - whether at an institutional, departmental or personal level.

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Of course, outsourcing already occurs when you buy in software - we just don't typically think of it in that way.

Universities do a lot of from-scratch development but with the increasing quality of both open source and COTS solutions (in particular with the user-enabling web 2.0 stuff), it's becoming harder and harder to justify that expenditure.

Of course, this neatly obviates the remote SaaS downtime issue. If they wanted to maintain a revenue stream though (and allay some fears), they could still sell a single box into a university which phoned home with your data so which one being used (local or remote data centre) is actually transparent.

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