Had an interesting discussion last week about the possibility of hosting services with external companies ( ASPs - Application Service Providers, usually an arm of the company making the actual software product), rather than us running them here. So, they would run the application on their servers, in their data centre, carry out upgrades and back ups etc. They would have to guarantee a minimum level of uptime, and only carry out scheduled maintenance in timeslots agreed with us, which would be able to to be in the middle of the night, or other times when it's antisocial for our existing staff to do them. This is fairly common in other sectors, but not as common in the HE sector, but becoming increasingly so. Although it may not be the cheapest way of running services, it transfers the risk, and frees up our staff up to do other more innovative things rather than running core services.
Lots of interesting questions around the provision of core services in the future. How many University IT departments will be running email services in 5 years time? Should we be running them now when other companies have the benefit of massive scalability? Why can Google give all of their mail users 1GB of storage and we struggle to give everyone a couple of hundred MBs? Should we be moving away from the provision of these core services, letting other companies run them, and concentrating on things that give us a competitive advantage? Answers on a postcard please, or in the comments box!