• United States
by Mike Jude

Outsource the Web content problem

Jul 02, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Third-party help in maintaining a secure and helpful Web site

As most enterprises are aware, one absolute requirement of doing business is to have a Web site. Organizations are finding that in order to attract new business, especially among the most affluent demographics, they must maintain current product and service information available in cyber space.

Of course, this presents some collateral problems for e-tailers.  For one thing, Web surfers apply a different standard to Web sites than typical shoppers apply to say newspaper advertising.  There is an implicit bias towards Web sites that load fast and present a lot of useful information.

Developing and posting all of the content can be daunting.  It is usually not only a problem to write all of this content and code it for display, but there is also the problem associated with ensuring a minimal level of intervention for the average surfer.  Things get really complicated when that surfer is asked for information with which to assist the information exchange.

Additionally, new and existing rules for privacy protection ensure that Web sites must incorporate good security for any information acquired from a visitor.  Pity the company that either knowingly or unknowingly leaks sensitive information about its Web visitors.

Most businesses that maintain a Web presence are too busy ensuring that they have something to post to really think about the user experience and security implications. Outsourcing, however, provides some opportunity to address this situation. 

Several companies, have, for some time, offered solutions for the performance issue.  Mercury Interactive actually began business as a way to test the performance of a Web site.  This service proved so popular that the company now offers a wide variety of solutions that address many aspects of performance on networked infrastructures.

However, the issue associated with testing security and privacy of Web sites has been left largely as an exercise for the Web developer until recently.  One vendor that has addressed these problems both as a solution provider and as an outsourcer is Coast Software.  Coast, an Ontario based company founded in 1996, offers a service that seeks to address some of the more common problems associated with high content turnover.

Coast provides a suite of tests that can be run against Web content to check for such things as conformance to standardized policy guidelines including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA).  It also provides reports on first and third party cookies and Web pages with P3P Compact policies.  Additionally it provides a detailed accounting of the areas within the content that collect user data, the status of that data and the areas of vulnerability introduced by the collection of that data. Combined with a rather complete set of performance tests, Coast offers an outsourced approach to managing performance and privacy of Web based content.

The outsourced services that Coast and others provide will likely become much more popular as the new privacy standards migrate along with user expectations from sectors such as healthcare and government.  Currently these services are likely to be popular primarily with the heaviest content developers, but the issues are important enough that businesses can expect to have needs in this area fairly quickly. 

What is probably as important is that privacy and security services are undoubtedly going to become an important part of a more complete outsourcing offering. Outsource service providers who seek to offload significant chunks of content maintenance and delivery will need to think about how this content will be secured and how the privacy of users will be protected.  Coast and others may be good partners in achieving this.

Mike Jude is senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. He can be contacted at