This is a guest post written and contributed by Edward Sussman, CEO at Buzzr.com, a Rackspace Cloud Tools partner. Buzzr.com provides a multi-site web content management system(CMS) in the cloud that lets you run a networked, multi-site environment – for website retail sales or internal use – with a focus on a great user interface (UI) for non-technical end users
I’ve been hearing lots of speculation lately that social media sites are killing the traditional website. The logic goes like this: organizations can get all of the web presence they need for free with just Facebook and Twitter accounts. Websites are becoming obsolete. That logic, however, is flawed.
My personal observation is that the exact opposite is true – that websites are become more prevalent. So I did a little research. Here’s what I found: about five years ago, there were 54 million active websites, according to web server monitoring stats kept by the U.K. research firm Netcraft. By contrast, this month there were 170 million active websites, according to Netcraft estimates. Parked, or inactive, domains are excluded from this total – including parked domains, there were 663 million websites in May 2012. That was up from 644 million just two months prior, in March 2012.
I know of several universities that five years ago had only a few hundred websites that are now home to a few thousand sites and micro-sites – they have sites for departments, faculty members and student organizations and more. Arizona State University, for example, has witnessed explosive growth in their number of websites. And, in some cases, even for every individual student. A New York-based trade school approached me the other day for advice on creating individual websites for each of its 15,000 graduates. Less than a week later, a leading organization in a consumer industry vertical asked if we could create 10,000 websites for its constituents. The answer is yes we can, and we will.
Here’s my theory: if you show someone how easy it is to have a presence on the web with Facebook or Twitter, they will want a website even more. Actually, they might want two or three at work, one for their kid’s little league team and one for their church group. Since it’s easier and cheaper than ever to get a website up and running – whether through a self-service tool or by hiring a local designer/developer – new websites are flowering – or growing like weeds, if you prefer a less rosy characterization.
Indeed, the reality of website proliferation isn’t at all like the comparatively orderly network of Facebook and Twitter. Chaos – perhaps more charitably called decentralization – is common, even at large companies: different WCMSs are chosen by different groups in the organization, so IT support teams end up being “jacks of all trades, master of none.” Projects stall because of inadequate expertise. There’s no way to quickly reproduce features, designs and content from one site to another site. Tens of thousands of dollars are spent recreating variations of the same sites again and again. Sites take months longer than they need to because of this same issue.
Visitor identity from website to website is non-existent or duplicative. Brand identity is inconsistent from site to site. And regular end users, like the office managers, are sometimes expected to master complex CMS tools designed by and for experts. The more websites an organization supports, the messier the problems can become.
Our company, Buzzr, specializes in organizing this chaos. We provide our clients with a multi-site web content management system in the cloud – a networked environment of on-demand “social publishing” websites specifically designed to be rolled out very quickly and to be run day-to-day by non-technical end users. Our platform works like this:
- All websites are created on the same central, hosted environment, with an overview of all websites and users.
- Quickstarts – one-click site clones – are created for recurring use cases. So the same features, layout, designs and user permissions are pre-assembled and ready to be customized.
- Best of breed features, especially social features, are culled from a library of more than 10,000 open source Drupal modules.
- Sites can be simplified so end users are only exposed to a sub-set of tools and features that they can easily use. The central site admin has a broader array of tools for managing the same site.
- The websites are networked, so the same user ID works on any site, and site updates can be used to dynamically update a centralized site or member profiles.
- We take care of support, security and feature upgrades, and with the help of Rackspace performance optimization, scaling and 24×7 managed hosting are added.
Because we’re working with Rackspace, we can offer a cloud-based solution, which allows us to support you and your platform in real time. We monitor the entire environment and can also help on any specific site that needs attention. We can also scale the pricing to reflect only your actual usage, in large part because of the flexibility of the Rackspace Cloud pricing model.
At Buzzr, we predict the dramatic proliferation of websites will continue for at least the next decade – especially combinations of website/mobile sites (a new Buzzr offering) and sites in the developing world, where fewer than 10 percent of small businesses have websites. For example, the new Buzzr 3.0 is powering Fussio.com, a Spanish language retail small business website due out in June from Grupo Nacion, the largest media company in Costa Rica. If you’d like us to help you take control of your multi-site universe, give us a call.