On what basis should a network owner/operator make the decision to operate the network in-house or outsource the operation?
The most significant decision to make is quite possibly about scalability. Should the network not have capacity to grow with the demand, customers will soon lose interest and leave the site. Regardless of the application, this means failure! Does the network have the resources in equipment and staff to support an in-house environment? If they do, is the appropriate level of disaster recovery of all resources available? One of the advantages of in-house networks is that all of the components of hardware and software including Operating Systems, and all the various generations and versions, can be controlled and tested to ensure more trouble-free execution. Often, outsourced operations become dependent upon the environment built to support the demands of multiple network clients. This can sometimes lead to inadvertent failures when software versions are updated and negatively impact your network.
If you decide to operate on an outsourced network, in addition to an extremely detailed testing protocol, make sure that you also have contractual definitions of responsibilities and stiff penalties for any failures caused by the outsourced network as you may lose customers through no fault of your own.