Terra Dotta Hosting

Terra Dotta Hosting Services

A great way to start, and always a great place to move.

by Garrett Christian, CTO and Co-founder of Terra Dotta

23 July 2013

Over the past 15 years or so, with the rise in offerings of software products hosted "in the Cloud," IT directors in Higher Ed have been faced with a dilemma: either to remain in the traditional mode of operations, where data and data-processing are kept within the confines of one's own physical facilities, or to evolve toward a posture that favors adopting new technologies with fast-developed new feature releases, yet outside of the comfort zone of the campus network. It has taken most of that time for a shift to take place, where campus IT policy has begun to adopt a more receptive view of externally-hosted services. Opposing each other in this tug-of-war are the need for innovation and a desire to be current, finally winning out over the pressures and concerns surrounding data privacy and security. This change could only come about over time through vendors' improved response to security concerns: hardening systems and providing assurance of high-quality data-management practices.

Terra Dotta has observed this trend with our customers very clearly over time. In the beginning, for all the predictable reasons cited above, very few clients were interested in Terra Dotta Hosting, so it was imperative that we offer the option of on-premise self-install for our software. However, by 2009 we had witnessed a complete trend reversal, with a dramatic jump in hosted license purchases. That trend has continued into the present with no sign of abating.

To be sure, the decision of whether to host the software on-campus or off remains a difficult one. On one hand, external hosting is very appealing: It's uncomfortable to bring new systems in-house that use technologies unfamiliar your technical staff (e.g., ColdFusion). IT resources are invariably stretched beyond their capacity already, without the addition of something new in the picture. On the other hand, when considering outside hosting there is the overarching concern over data security and privacy. The latter consideration has historically been the main driver in decisions not to host on Terra Dotta's systems.

If cost were the only consideration, Terra Dotta's hosting service would be the clear winner. At $4,700 annually*, the cost of Terra Dotta Hosting covers all infrastructure, maintenance, monitoring, security, and system administration, as well as the software licensing for the systems supporting the Terra Dotta application, including but not limited to Adobe ColdFusion Enterprise server software, Microsoft Windows Server operating system and Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise, as well as all upgrades of those products.

Beyond the high-level considerations of security and cost, customers need to consider the many other benefits that hosting with Terra Dotta brings with it. These can all be summarized in the words efficient support:

  • If there is a problem, Terra Dotta engineers can access your server right away rather than schedule a call with your IT to look into it.
  • When integrating with your campus data systems, our integration specialist have utilities for rapid implementation and diagnostics.
  • Our high-tech team is familiar not only with the hardware, systems and network, but with the Terra Dotta application, which means that your questions will make sense to them.
  • Each year, you will receive the new version upgrade right after the release date, instead of waiting for campus IT to schedule it 6 or 12 months later.
  • If there is a software patch needed, we are able to roll it out on our hosting systems sometimes several weeks before it's available for installation elsewhere.
  • Our hosting servers are machines that we know and tune and manage up to the absolute optimal configuration for our software to run. We aren't able to regulate that quality on systems we don't manage.

So there is more to the hosting decision than just policy and upfront costs. There are other, real costs entailed in hosting a web application and data system that can't easily be quantified. The value wrapped into the Terra Dotta Hosting fee is immeasurable.

Terra Dotta Hosting: Not just for new installations!

In addition to the trend among new clients opting for Terra Dotta Hosting, we have seen a growing number of clients finding that, for a variety of reasons implied above, their installation of Terra Dotta software on campus presents challenges. Among these reasons we count the following frequent issues:

Knowledge continuity: System administrators come and go and do not always maintain adequate documentation. We have seen whole servers reinstalled due to the departure of a system admin, or sometimes the choice is made to switch over to Terra Dotta.

Maintenance overhead: As was noted above, it is hard to sum up all the potential maintenance impact of managing systems in-house. Sometimes the time and cost assumptions don't play out as expected, or budgets shrink and force a new approach.

License/infrastructure costs: Over time, new versions of server software (e.g., ColdFusion) require a significant outlay for upgrade purchases, and servers themselves can live out their lifespan (though less so in virtual computing). These are costs that get spread across all our clients in the Hosting environment.

System breakdown: Without careful oversight, systems or their recovery plans can and do breakdown, and Terra Dotta has assisted in the (partial) recovery of a few clients' systems/databases, some of whom decide that this is the right moment to move to Terra Dotta.

Migration to Terra Dotta Hosting is now an established practice for us and the entire project fee for the migration typically ranges between $4500 and $6000.

These are one-time fees. After migration, the client pays the annual Hosting Fee, as described above in this document. (*Annual Hosting Fee is subject to change and the current rate may be different from what is stated above.)

NOTE: Depending on whether custom reports or other custom programming is in use and/or desired for the TD Hosting environment, there may be additional project costs and SOWs.


Before making the decision to install Terra Dotta Software on your campus systems, IT administrators should consider the long-term implications of that approach. In order to ensure success, there must be a strong commitment to maintaining those systems under strict oversight and resource planning, both financial and human. The same rigor that goes into the decision to host on campus must be applied ongoing to the maintenance of the system in order to ensure success.

We have strong evidence that client satisfaction is greatest among customers who have made the choice to host with us, and among those who have ultimately made the move from campus to TD, the feeling is unanimous: Life is far better since going with Terra Dotta Hosting.

For technical information on our hosting, please see Hosting/SaaS Specs.