What Hardware Part 1 : In-House or Hosted

When it comes to deciding what hardware you want for your Data Collection Server setup there are lots of things that you need to consider. Once you have an idea on how many concurrents you will be getting we need to build a system that will cope with it. There are many network topologys that we can come up with and it really depends on what resources you have available to use.

So what should we consider first, well you need to decide where are you going to host the setup will it be in-house or with a hosting company. This first article highlights the things you need to discover,

In-house : This normally means that you own, and house the servers in your building. Things to consider are

  • Bandwidth : Your building will have a limited amount of mb that can come in and out of the building. This will normally be charged at a monthly rate of total usage. If your bandwidth into the building is shared then you have to consider that other things may consume it and prevent your surveys being accessed. Increasing bandwidth , may have physical restrictions , so you may not be able to improve this when you start to run out.
  • Hardware : Main thing here is that you have to purchase it. As you will see it’s not just a case of buying one machine with one hard disk there a quite a few things to consider.
  • Hardware Replacement : If you have a hardware failure how quickly can you get a replacement. Do you have anything spare, and how much down time of your system is acceptable.
  • Backup Power : It’s obvious, but your hardware needs power. What happens if you building has a short power outage? You can get a UPS, but they do not last for hours.
  • Operating System : You own the hardware so you need to get the Operating systems and set them up. What OS should you get, yes it has to be windows but what version and why ? Who will do the updates and make sure everything works the way it should.
  • Heat : All this hardware uses electricity and produces heat, one server on a desk will not produce that much but several will raise the temperature of any room. It’s a must to have a properly cooled room. Heat will cause allot of damage to hardware if it gets too hot.
  • Cost of SQL : As well as all the Data collection server products, you will need to purchase a copy of SQL Server. do you go per seat or per CPU.
  • Public IP : If you are running External web surveys you will need to get an public IP address. This will then expose your system to anyone on the internet and mean that they can run your surveys.
  • Domain Name : You don’t really need this, but for your customer it is easier for them to remember a name like “www.SmarterDimensions.com” than an IP address like “192.64.128.120”
  • Internal Network Speed : If you are hosting CATI surveys then this is a factor you have to think about. Is your current network fast enough and big enough to handle the traffic to and from the server. These days its probably not a problem as most companies will have at least 100mb networks, but you have to think about it and check that all will be ok.
  • Network Security : If your systems are to be connected to the outside , what security will you use? A DMZ is the way to go these days but does your IT now how to set one up and look after it.
  • SMTP Mail : If you are going to be using Data Collection to send out invites you will have to provide the system with an SMTP server. That it can relay the emails to. This in itself will have an impact on bandwidth because like the surveys the email server will be using the same internet connection.
  • Support : It’s all down to you , you own everything Hardware and software, you need a good IT and support team behind you to get this to work well.

Overall Thoughts: Initial outlay very high, but over time it becomes cheaper, support could be an issue , if you don’t have the in-house skills to keep things going 24/7.

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Hosted : This is normally where you contact a hosting provider and they provide you with the hardware and everything to keep the hardware running, but you have to deal with everything else. Things to consider are

  • Bandwidth : This is already setup and in place, you just tell your provider how much you need and they will assign it to your set of server.
  • Hardware : Your provider will provide you with the machines you want. You don’t own them , you just rent them. Just make sure that you have Real machines not Virtual machines. At this point in time Virtual machines are not supported , this does not mean they do not work , and we know that they are used already. Virtualization should be fully supported in the next release.
  • Hardware Replacement : It is normally practice for your hosting company to have a quick turn around on replacement hardware, and it should not cost you anything , Check with them what it is and see if it meets your needs.
  • Backup Power : Hosting companies normally have big generators that will keep their systems going if there is a power outage. You should check with them how often then check their systems as the last thing you need is to pay for something that does not work when the time comes for it to be switched on.
  • Operating System : You don’t have to buy the OS, but you will have to say what version you require. In a later article we will look at the recommendations. To get more info now click here.
  • Heat : This will not be a problem if you are using a good provider, this will have great air cooled rooms that all their servers sit in.
  • Cost of SQL : As well as all the Data collection server products, you will need to purchase a copy of SQL Server. do you go per seat or per CPU. Your Hosting Provider may be able to provide you with a copy which may be cheaper.
  • Public IP : If you are running External web surveys you will need to get an public IP address. This will then expose your system to anyone on the internet and mean that they can run your surveys. Your hosting provider will have one that will be assigned to you.
  • Domain Name : You don’t really need this, but for your customer it is easier for them to remember a name like “www.SmarterDimensions.com” than an IP address like “192.64.128.120”. Your hosting provider will organize connecting the name to the IP address
  • Internal Network Speed : If you have more than one machine , they will need to talk to each other. Your hosting provider should have adequate network speeds between the machines in your setup. Just check , but we suspect it would be at least 100mb.
  • Network Security : This is not a problem for any hosting company, they will be secure. All you will need to check is that your security requirements are met. For Example if you work for the government they you may require that the hosting company is certified for government hosting.
  • SMTP Mail : If you are going to be using Data Collection to send out invites you will have to provide the system with an SMTP server. You will need to check with the provider and see what they say they may have some rules around what they will allow you to do.
  • Support : The hosting company will probably provide OS support but it will be down to you to get someone to install and look after the system, if you have paid for it you will get product support from SPSS, but it may not be 24/7 support.

Overall Thoughts: There are lots of companies that provide hosting so it can be a good , reasonably cheap solution. If you take this option and it is the one we would recommend, the only thing that will begin to increase the cost will be the type of redundancy that you require. We will look at redundancy in the next set of articles.

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Hosted ( ASP ) : This means that you rent the software that is hosted on someone’s pre-defined network. They keep the hardware and software running. Things to consider are.

  • Bandwidth : This is not normally your concern. You will probably be charged per completed survey monthly. check with your provider as to what model they use.
  • Hardware : You don’t have to worry about this. Your provider would have probably setup a system that used multiple machines. They will be able to provide you with some idea of the network topology that they use.
  • Hardware Replacement : This will be quick, but make sure you check that what they say they will provide will meet your needs.
  • Backup Power : Hosting companies normally have big generators that will keep their systems going if there is a power outage. You should check with them how often then check their systems as the last thing you need is to pay for something that does not work when the time comes for it to be switched on.
  • Operating System : You will never see the OS , so you won’t need to bother about it.
  • Heat : This will not be a problem if you are using a good provider, this will have great air cooled rooms that all their servers sit in.
  • Cost of SQL : You will not have direct access to the SQL.
  • Public IP : You may not have a say as to what IP address or Name you can use for your surveys. Check with the provider but there will be restrictions.
  • Domain Name : You may not have a say as to what IP address or Name you can use for your surveys. Check with the provider but there will be restrictions.
  • Network Security : This is not a problem for any hosting company, they will be secure. All you will need to check is that your security requirements are met. For Example if you work for the government they you may require that the hosting company is certified for government hosting.
  • SMTP Mail : This will be setup by the provider already. You will need to check and see what rules they have and what they will allow you to do.
  • Support : The hosting company will do everything and make sure the system is always up.

Overall Thoughts: If you have never done surveys before then this is a good starting place. I will be the cheapest option , but don’t forget if you use a service like this for a long time , you will spend more money on renting the service that you would if you purchased and hosted the software elsewhere.

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