All Web sites, including private intranet sites, must reside on a server somewhere. Hosting of communication management systems is an important element of the infrastructure. This issue is one of the most common reasons communication managers who want to implement the functionality of these advanced systems within their companies or organizations are prevented from doing so. IT policies might prohibit outside hosting, and even though the software might be available for licensing on company servers, the company servers typically are not suitable for crisis communication applications.
The ability to absorb a heavy traffic load is the essential element. Traffic really consists of the number of people attempting to get information from the site and the type of information they are viewing or downloading. One user viewing streaming video will absorb much more server and bandwidth capacity than a number of visitors viewing static pages. Companies and organizations today need to be serious about their ability to take the hits and deliver the information. IT departments and executives alike must be informed, probably by their communication managers, that in today's instant news environment in which the Internet is moving us into a postmedia world, communication ability depends on servers. Whether ultimately they take the approach that they will absorb the cost themselves by building crisis-capable server capacity or decide to share costs by using outside hosting services, the decision needs to be made to provide for the potential demand.
How many hits? The heaviest hit load on Web sites in early 2002 measured in excess of 10 million hits per day. In 2002, Internet access among the American population hit 50 percent, with an additional two million users being added every month. Hit loads are increasing significantly. A company or organization with any potential for creating national or international news probably needs to be prepared to absorb at least five million hits. That number will likely increase at a rate of 10 percent to 20 percent per year until Internet access has reached the saturation point around the world.
Earlier we said that there were three important elements to effective communication in the instant news world: policies, people, and platform. The technology platform exists to enable communicators to take much greater control over the Internet than ever before. The issues come down to people and policies: Are the people prepared to make use of these technologies? This question is more about willingness to change than about technical ability. Resistance to change and ignorance about the changes in the world are the biggest obstacles to implementing the necessary changes.
Most significantly, does the company policy encourage or prohibit the use of such technology to enhance the ability of the organization to communicate quickly and accurately? As we have seen, there are many obstacles within organizations that prevent the changes that are needed. Leadership is the key. Leadership must recognize the new demands and be willing and able to push through the obstacles to put into place the policies and technologies needed to protect the organization's future.