In-house vs off the shelf solutions

When considering a new TEL initiative, relevant resources including expertise and technological solutions may already exist outside your organisation. What are the advantages and disadvantages of ‘in-house’ vs externally-sourced solutions?

This is an age old problem that TEL advisors face when time comes to replace a particular tool such as a VLE. Below is our google document notes on SWOT analysis for this very question.


Self-Hosted  Vs Vendor-Cloud solution

Self-Hosted SWOT

Self hosted meaning we have ‘it’ on our servers, (Paid for or Opensource) ‘it’ is ‘developed’ by our developers and ‘it’ is serviced by our help desk



Can develop/make it your own

May be cheaper

You are ‘in control’

Run your own help desk

Add extra disk space easily

Influence roadmap
Integration options much deeper and broader e.g. timetabling, analytics, site creation, autocompletion of course specification data
can support single point of authority more easily through integrations


Needs developers

You can be out on your own

Lots of cost hidden

But lots of people aren’t that keen

You need to purchase sufficient server space and power to meet heaviest demands (question: what is this cost? If cloud providers throw it around so easily can it be that expensive, or are we not doing it right?)

Needs people on site 24/7 or at least on call – Model of provision

help desk needs staffing


Can’t blame the ‘evil vendor’, have to accept problem as ours.

Seen as the ‘cheap option’ by staff (but how much will they know? (this may be about staying with Sakai rather than where it sits)


to gain institution focused developers

to contribute to community

to develop ‘what we want’

Competitive advantage through distinction
Distributed support
To help design the VLE for 2020


We may not get institution focused developers (our region may not attract right applicants)

You run out of processor power and space

System goes down during the evening takes time to fix

Seen as the ‘cheap option’ by staff – who may therefore be much less engaged (but see caveat above on whether this is a Sakai issue)
ICT buy-in as a core system needing as much attention as other systems

Same again but for Vendor Hosted (cloud) (and therefore procurement and possibly greater change – )


Vendor/Cloud SWOT

Responsibility lies with vendor

Contracted to SLA and TAT

Server backup and security guaranteed?


more change…

Change requests can take a long time or may never even happen

Cloud goes down?

Lack of control of backend system


To gain UoH focused developers


We may not get institution focused developers

Price rises of server space

Opensource vs Paid for solutions


Opensource solutions



Part of a community

Benefits of belonging to an opensource community. T&L, development, support …
Community sourced development
Collaboration equation: 2+2+2=4 all parties still get twice what they put in
Cheaper (free?)

Quick to address issues in the community

Bug fixes sorted

New features can be developed quickly


Lack of roadmap (always?)

Free as in puppy

No one to blame


Can get bespoke VLE tools to meet our needs


Stability of community?

Lack of investment in in-house development team

No community voice

Development goes off on a tangent moved from weakness)

Add-ins deviate from core (branch) creating upgrade issues



Prone to bugs?

Building an expectation of local development


Paid for solutions



Clear development roadmap (always?)

Good look and feel?


Robust bug testing programme

Blame the vendor

No expectation of local development


Lack of customisation

Customisation may cause problems for late upgrades



Development team investment and stability in vendor company


Continual investment in upgrades required
Control of upgrade timetable

Vendor stability

The Change programme

Opportunity to use the change as part of a managed change programme to engage staff


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