In today’s digitally driven world, one website or even several websites is not enough to meet internal demand and external audience expectations. Pleasing the audience and supplying demand with affordable solutions, calls for a platform that can economically deliver engaging online experiences quickly and at scale.
Managing and maintaining multiple sites can quickly get out of hand -- even with a solid digital strategy in place -- and sometimes the challenge is even knowing how many sites exist, who owns them, and what technology is used to create and manage them.
Higher education has an acute need for a multisite solution. How many websites does the typical organization have? One Hundred? One Thousand? More? At Acquia, we work with hundreds of higher education IT professionals and the number of sites they have to manage can approach daunting levels. Based on our analysis and looking at a cross section of public, private and large and small schools, an average institution will have close to 2,000 web sites. At the low end of the range, we’ve seen customers with around 300 sites. The largest had over 50,000.
How Multisite Gets Out of Control
How can a single institution rack up so many sites in the first place? It’s surprisingly easy when one considers how many different departments and groups exist within a single institution. Each one can have a different audience with different needs that need to be addressed. Internally, each one can have different maintenance requirements and different business goals associated with it.
Of course on any campus there are the large sites that get most of the attention. These include the main .EDU “flagship” site and other high priorities including admissions, alumni, athletics, academic departments and so on.
Next are the sites that don’t require a lot of time working on but are there and need to be maintained and supported. These include faculty sites, research sites, HR sites, foundation sites, and so on. Lastly, there are sites that are surprising are still “live” at all, like a site spun up for a long-past and forgotten alumni reunion from 5 years ago, for example.
One of the biggests causes for concern is that these sites, whether they’re old or new, carry the school’s brand. They also contain relevant content that your audience may be looking for, and certainly they need requisite care and attention to insure security and accessibility protocols are being adhered to. But even if schools could pinpoint exactly how many sites they have, the sheer sprawl of websites around campus underscores the digital challenges that colleges and universities have.
Getting a Handle on Multisite
The first step to achieving digital excellence and getting the sprawl under control is to centralize the management, governance and deployment of all school sites. Without a mechanism to centrally manage the expanse of websites, schools are hindered greatly in their ability to drive a coherent and high impact digital strategy.
The proliferation of websites that are not centrally governed has very real implications for colleges and universities. While a few colleges and universities are actively addressing their multisite problems, the industry at large is not. This is a costly mistake. We believe strongly that the time to fix this problem is right now for the following reasons: