Web surveys: Your server or theirs?

Just because you have a Web server doesn't mean it's the best choice for running your Web surveys. While your own box has the advantage of full control, it also has some drawbacks. This doesn't mean you have to go with an Application Service Provider (ASP) survey vendor for your projects. Many Web survey software vendors also provide "self-service" hosting for their software users.

Installation
The better your IT department, the more "locked down" your Web server will be. This means they're going to have to consider the best way to install the survey scripts and give you access to posting surveys. Many installations go smoothly, but I've done conference calls where I helped even experienced server administrators sort through their particular system's settings and match them to what the scripts require.

Your IT department also has to evaluate the vendor and decide whether to take a chance on the survey scripts running amok—for which their pagers are the ones that will be beeping.

Load management
If you're running a high volume database-driven site or will have low response rates, this isn't an issue. However, if you're planning on e-mail drops to respondents, you may put your server under a strain even if it happily manages that volume of static pages.

Security
Some in-house Web servers have outstanding security, but just because the box is "yours" doesn't mean it's more secure. Good service providers architect their systems to ensure security, including restricting access between clients and encrypted uploads and downloads.

Branding
Different service providers have varying levels of "Powered by" branding and URL customization. Premium hosts will even do custom domains, so ask around for what you need. Also keep in mind that you can send out invites which direct people to your site, and just redirect them to your host. You may even be able to use frames so your domain is always the one you see (test carefully).

Responsive service
If your IT department is always quick to help, send them a big box of goodies next System Administrator Day. Unfortunately, most teams are short-staffed and overloaded with projects, of which yours may be a ways down on their list. If you hear crickets on your installation request, maybe it's time to look at an account on your software vendor's box—which would probably be activated within a day.

Need a Hand?

A little help can add a lot of polish—or just save hours and headaches:

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I was keen on getting all the juice out of our survey findings. Your consultation helped us do that and I would do it again!

Bonnieclare Erling
President
F2F Consulting