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Monday Rant: SaaS vs. On-Premise Solutions

I've had several conversations in the past few weeks with various customers getting their thoughts on SaaS compared to those on conventional on-premise solutions.

The majority of the con-SaaS feedback was what I had expected:

  • Who owns your data?
  • What happens when the cloud bursts?
  • Can I trust the provider?

... and other various concerns that focus more on IP. Again, this wasn't news to me.

The majority of the pro-SaaS feedback was - quite frankly - a little eye-opening for this IT professional:

  1. I can get things done faster by going outside of the company and to SaaS vendor name.
  2. If I purchase a product, it comes out of my capital budget. If we go with SaaS, it's an expense.

Now, talking to each of these...


This is probably the case with any organization. The reason? Well, let's ignore those situations where you have a disgrunted IT professional who was having his or her "case of the Mondays" and just doesn't want you to succeed in your job because their guild didn't defeat the Big Bad during their LARP outing.

The reason that an outside SaaS vendor will deliver a solution much faster than an internal IT department is often one of two situations (if not often both): bandwidth and corporate IT strategies.

First, let's talk about bandwidth: If you go to Acme, Inc. who delivers your SaaS-based CRM solution... that's what they do. That's all they do. They have server space and an environment waiting, and once your check clears you have your environment.

IT however is putting out fires that are often caused by the people who are asking for more gasoline. They want - sorry, need this immediately. They can't wait for you to properly research and test a solution, let alone investigate with solution would best integrate with your existing technology investments.

The plain sad truth of the matter is that - in most of the sites I've seen - you're fully-qualified IT pros are stuck swapping toner cartridges or trying to explain why it's a bad idea to leave an aircard plugged into the PCMCIA port when shutting down for the night and slamming the laptop into it's case.

The SaaS vendor? Well, they're working on marketing their product to the masses. Getting something slick and now in the faces of the decision makers. And sadly, I've seen it far too many times where the decision has already been made without IT being consulted.

The second reason is far easier to explain. IT forecasts their budgets, adopted technologies, and everything from End-Of-Lease to End-Of-Life products and services often years in advance. For most larger SMBs, that's a requirement.

Your SaaS vendor doesn't have to worry about corporate IT strategies... they just want to slam in their solution, get another customer on their books, and move onto the next demo for sales or marketing.

Now, don't get me wrong: there are great SaaS vendors that actively engage IT Departments and fully-support on-premise integration. I'm not talking about these vendors...


This is an interesting one. It boils down to the "why buy the cow..." argument. The answer... well, that greatly depends on your organization and your specific needs.

Consider this: SaaS is basically leasing software, the hardware that it runs, on, etc.. Indefinitely.

How long are your sticking with this SaaS solution? How will you integrate your SaaS offering with your on-premise technologies and existing investments?

There are countless other questions that you should ask before you go with SaaS or on-premise solutions, but the answer is a clear one: engage your internal IT Department. It's their job to facilitate the business... and they might be in talks right now with another vendor that delivers a solution - be in SaaS or On-Premise - that will not only deliver the feature functionality that you need, but that also ties in better with other department needs and other technology investments.

If you're in IT - reach out to your customers and their departments. Take time to listen and inventory their needs. Eerily enough, you'll find that all departments - from Finance to Facilities - often need the same fundamental capabilities with few niche requirements.

For the others, use the 80/20 rule and at least address some of their needs.

About the author: Chris Toohey

Thought Leadership, Web & Mobile Application Development, Solutions Integration, Technical Writing & Mentoring

A published developer and webmaster of, Chris Toohey specializes in platform application development, solutions integration, and evangelism of platform capabilities and best practices.

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