Commercial Web Hosting
There are dozens if not hundreds of commercial web hosting solutions available outside of Georgia Tech, but use of them for Georgia Tech related websites is not recommended for a number of reasons:
In most cases, you will not be able to point a *.gatech.edu DNS hostname to an outside hosting account, so you will also have to purchase your own domain name, which is further unnecessary expense, and requires approval from Institute Communications. A non-standard DNS hostname will also confuse your site visitors, who will expect any entity connected to Georgia Tech to have a *.gatech.edu hostname.
Georgia Tech has no control over accounts with outside hosting vendors, so if the person who ordered the account leaves Georgia Tech, your unit may find itself locked out of its own web site, and Georgia Tech information technology support can not do anything to help you in that situation. This could even have legal ramifications, as it means a once legitimate Georgia Tech website could be sitting out on the internet possibly getting hacked and likely sharing out-of-date information.
Services available to Georgia Tech websites and web applications, like Central Authentication Service (CAS), may not available to sites hosted off-campus, which means that you would be missing out on useful security and access management features.
- If you store sensitive data in a website or web application that is on unapproved outside web hosting, you may be violating Georgia Tech policy, or even state or federal law. Any site or application that deals with sensitive data should always be hosted on Georgia Tech owned or approved hosting!
If you have a valid and legitimate reason for hosting a site off-campus on commercial web hosting, make certain that multiple full-time employees in your unit have administrative access to the hosting account. Also make sure that your unit's financial staff know how to make yearly service payments so that the site doesn't suddenly disappear (and to avoid a panic due to someone realizing that the site needs to be renewed the day before it's going to expire.)
Social Media Sites
Many free social media services allow you to build the equivalent of a website, and this may seem like a good alternative to a commercial hosting service. However, the same concerns apply regarding potential loss of access to the account and inability of Georgia Tech information technology support to help you with these accounts. (Always make sure that multiple full-time employees in your unit know the passwords for all of your social media sites!) In addition, it's usually not a good idea to put your main web presence into social media, as that can turn away potential visitors who are not fans of social media. In the case of services like FaceBook, visitors who are not users of the service may also find themselves unable to access all of your information due to the members-only access limitations of these services.
The best practice for units and student organizations is to use social media sites to supplement your web presence, but to always build and maintain at least a small standard website for your public audience that lets anyone and everyone see who you are and what you are doing.