When looking at the technology options it is important to take a strategic view, and this means
looking at the entire IT infrastructure and how this is best managed. As mentioned in the overview
there are four basic approaches:
Outsource - this involves handing over all responsibility for IT (hardware, software and support)
to a specialist company who run it on your behalf for a fee. Common in industry and
government and used in colleges and universities in the US it is not widely used in FE or HE in
this country. The key advantages are that specialist organisations operate the systems and it
is their core business, while IT is not your institution's core function.
Turnkey - Responsibility for the development of the systems,including hardware, is given to a
single company which then has responsibility for ensuring that systems work before handing
them over to you to run. The main benefit is if something doesn't work then there is a single
place to turn to rather than the vendor of each subsystem (hardware, operating system, and
individual systems) blaming the others for the problem. Turnkey approaches may cost more
and have reduced flexibility
Integrate - This involves buying the best individual systems that meet your needs, and then
developing (either yourself or through a systems integrator) the functionality needed to link the
systems together. The key advantage is you can select the systems that best meet your
needs, the main disadvantage is the complexity involved in linking together disparate systems
which work in different ways.
Build - Using open source software, or starting from scratch, it is possible to build all the
systems you want to meet your precise needs. The advantage is that it can do exactly what
you want it to, but at the price of having to bear the full development and support costs and not
having a community to share problems with. Few institutions will want to entirely build their
systems and will in reality purchase and integrate some of the systems they use.