Massive server racks are less common décor for publishers, as cloud-based services have become an efficient way to host and manage Web content.
A handful of content management system (CMS) vendors, ranging from the software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers to the open-source developers, have made it easy for publishers to host Web content “in the cloud,” or via third-party servers.
Larger publishers with more resources and several properties might still see a benefit to control their own infrastructure. But for many publishers looking to save resources, outsourcing their Web infrastructure makes perfect sense.
“A lot of it has to do with internal technical resources and whether you have those resources or whether you’re willing to build those resources,” said John Reetz, digital strategist at JR Media Solutions Group
, which has helped clients select CMS vendors and implement cloud-based solutions from companies such as Clickability
, a SaaS provider.
As budgets have tightened and staffs dwindle, the cloud has become more attractive to publishers, said Reetz.
Not only does hosting content in the cloud save on infrastructure costs, but it offers a way to quickly add capacity to keep up with growth. A self-hosted website that suddenly has a big traffic spike might not have the server capabilities to handle it, said Bryan House, senior director of marketing at Acquia
, which manages hosting for Drupal sites. Services like Acquia monitor the traffic and respond elastically; publishers only pay for what they use.
Cloud-based services also enable companies to get to market quickly with new products or websites, said Jeff Freund, CEO of Clickability. The combination of managed servers and a SaaS solution can be quicker than developing an enterprise solution. For instance, Philly.com
switched to the Clickability platform after its divestiture from Knightridder required a quick transition to a new solution, he said.
“As a cloud provider, as a SaaS provider, our platform has been built from the beginning to be able to tackle those sorts of scaling problems,” Freund said.
It might seem obvious for anyone launching a new digital publication to host in the cloud, but the transition has been more challenging for many print-based publishers tied to legacy systems. Solutions that integrate Web and print can provide important efficiencies, however.
Providers such as Mediaspectrum
, once focused in the print area, now offer cloud-based solutions that can integrate Web, print, mobile and other business areas.
“Since we’ve launched [cloud-based Web CMS] the very large majority of our sales are going into the cloud,” said Jay Cody, vice president of marketing and product strategy at Mediaspectrum.
In the last couple of years, publishers have begun to realize that hosting their own content isn't necessary, said Marcel Badowski, senior vice president of services at Saxotech, which focuses on the newspaper industry.
The largest Saxotech clients — such as Gannett — still host themselves, but most other clients are moving to the cloud, he said. “If you add up the expense of running your own hosted environment it just doesn’t make sense to have any [self-]hosted today,” Badowski said.
The Durango Herald
, a newspaper based in Colorado, recently switched to Saxotech's cloud-based content management service after realizing that the cost of hosting it themselves wasn't sustainable. For the first time, they were also able to integrate both Web and print content management.
The publication didn't necessarily cut costs, but the switch did eliminate the need to hire additional staff and continue to update server equipment, said Amy Maestas, The Durango Herald's news editor.
“If we hosted it in-house ourselves we were looking at a much bigger cost,” she said.
Smaller publishers aren't the only ones interested in hosting in the cloud, noted Acquia's House. While the largest publishers with lots of properties still host themselves, "more and more organizations that are one or two steps below them, but are still very large, are looking to move to the cloud,” he said.
Before you leap into the cloud
A cloud-based CMS isn't the only way to outsource infrastructure. Some publishers might take a more DIY approach, using server space in the cloud (rather than an entire solution). For instance, Future US uses cloud providers in Rackspace
and Amazon EC2
to pay for server space as the need it. Mark Kramer, director of Internet
technology and operations, told Folio
they saw a 75% reduction in hosting cost.
Like any technology, a publisher has to decide the best allocation of resources to fit the company's goals. If you host elsewhere, maybe your tech team can focus on new products and development. Regardless of whether you host yourself or not, the CMS you choose (e.g. open source versus SaaS) will take varying amounts of development work.
A potential downside to the cloud is that it does hand over the control to a third party. “It’s putting a lot of eggs in one basket," said JR Media Solutions' Reetz. "You just have to be cautious in selecting a vendor."