When you talk to anyone in an “organisational” position (e.g IT or perhaps some leadership positions) within a university about using external “Web 2.0” tools to support student learning one of the first complaints raised is
How can we ensure it’s reliability, it’s availability? Do we have as much control as if we own and manage the service on our servers? Will they be as reliable and available?
My immediate response has been, “Why would we want to limit them to such low levels of service?”. Of course, it’s a little tounge in cheek and given my reputation in certain circles not one destined to win friends and influence people. There is, however, an important point underpinning the snide, flippant comment.
Just how reliable and available are the services owned and operated by universities? My anecdotal feeling is that they are not that reliable or available.
What about web 2.0 tools?
Paul McNamara has a post titled “Social network sites vary greatly on availability, Pingdom finds” that points to a Social network downtime in 2008 PDF report from Pingdom. The report discusses uptime for 15 social network tools.
A quick summary of some of the comments from the report
- Only 5 social networks managed an overall uptime of 99.9% or better: Facebook (99.92%), MySpace (99.94%), Classmates.com (99.95%), Xanga (99.95%) and Imeem (99.95%).
- Twitter – 99.04% uptime
- LinkedIn – 99.48% uptime
- Friendster – 99.5% uptime
- Reunion.com – 99.52% uptime
- Bebo – 99.56% uptime
- Hi5 – 99.75% uptime
- Windows Live Spaces – 99.81% uptime
- LiveJournal – 99.82% uptime
- Last.fm – 99.86% uptime
- Orkut – 99.87% uptime
Is it then a problem?
The best you can draw from this is that if you’re using one of the “big” social network tools then you are probably not going to have too much of a problem. In fact, I’d tend to think you’re likely to have much more uptime than you would with a similar institutional system.
The social network tool is also going to provide you with a number of additional advantages over an institutionally owned and operated system. These include:
- A much larger user population, which is very important for networking tools.
- Longer hours of support.
I know that my institution struggles to provide 10 or 12 x 5 support. Most big social network sites would do at least 10 or 12 x 7 and probably 24×7.
- Better support
Most institutional support folk are going to be stretched trying to maintain a broad array of different systems. Simply because of this spread their knowledge is going to be weak in some areas. The support for a social network system is targeted at that system, they should know it inside and out. Plus, the larger user population, is also going to be a help. Most of the help I’ve received using WordPress.com has come from users, not the official support, of the service.
- Better service
The design and development resources of the social network tool are also targeted at that tool. They aim to be the best they can, their livelihood is dependent upon it in a way that university-based IT centres don’t have to worry about.