Why digital marketers must think about where content is housed – internally or externally


Stamats 2020

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As a content marketer, I spend most of my days thinking about how to create and distribute the best stories. That can be a full-time job, and more. That’s especially true because the strategies that actually work change regularly. Alexa may be the next thing, InMail is an effective tool on LinkedIn currently and let’s not forget about podcasting. It’s an ever-evolving list.

Where my content is housed hardly ever crosses my mind. Somewhere in the cloud, I think? Or is there a server bank somewhere in the building? I realized that this is still the case by a quick survey at the OmniUpdate conference in Anaheim in 2019. My research suggests that there are still more colleges that host internally – AKA self-hosted – versus in the cloud (AKA under a SaaS, or Software as a Service).

I was listening to Eric Li, webmaster at Wharton County Junior College in Houston, discuss how crisis communication and content hosting converge. Natural disasters can happen anywhere, including Houston where Hurricane Harvey devasted the area in 2017. When something happens locally that can also affect your website, your organization will be impacted as well:

  • Students outside the affected area can’t access the site to research your institution.
  • Emergency notifications won’t work.
  • Panic ensues.

SaaS and Crisis Content Considerations

Here at Stamats, our teams work on crisis communications and related projects with clients. It can be hard when local servers are not working and you need to distribute emergency alerts on the website or via email.

That wouldn’t be a problem if your servers were in the cloud. Li said you can save on personnel staff and pay subscription fees when you move from self-hosted to a SaaS model. He suggests the following considerations for making the move to the cloud:

  • Budget
  • Control over environment
  • Criticality of the data stored
  • Security vulnerabilities
  • Size and culture of organization
  • Skilled resources available

As a publisher, I never understood why content intended to be published publicly moments later must be stored locally. There’s not much, if anything, private about it. The whole reason the content exists is to be shared in the open. Li’s presentation was certainly eye-opening in that regard.

Put Past Content Hosting Notions to Bed

The culture of an organization can kill any project as quickly as it can move projects forward, as we know. Even if all the reasons point toward change, an “it’s always been that way” attitude can certainly stifle progress.

Li mentioned a few selected take-aways that his team learned when they made the transition to SaaS:

  • Analyze and correct (even after launch)
  • Ask for help
  • Be realistic about timelines
  • Create a team
  • Clarify needs and wants
  • It’s okay to over-communicate
  • Keep track of process
  • Seek input from stakeholders
  • Test!

Of course, there are backup systems in place at some – many? – organizations that host locally. That should also be the case with SaaS, and it usually is. When thought through and done well, SaaS can help with crisis communication, budgeting, and even security.

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