Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions have become the norm in businesses of all sizes. According to a report from Palo Alto Networks, the number of cloud-based applications used by large enterprises increased 46 percent from 2012 to 2015. Techaisle’s 2015 US SMB Cloud Computing Adoption Trends study predicted that cloud usage by small to midsize businesses would increase from 89 percent in 2014 to 96 percent in 2015, with the deeper use of SaaS helping to drive that growth.
SaaS is a cloud model in which organizations “rent” applications on a monthly or per-user basis rather than buying a license for the software. This not only saves the upfront cost of the license but shifts the burden of maintenance and upgrades to the service provider. SaaS-based applications can be readily scaled and accessed by users regardless of location. Organizations can try new software with minimal commitment and roll out applications quickly without the need for costly IT upgrades or disruptive implementations.
While SaaS offers proven business benefits, it also has its downsides. It generally is not recommended for compute-intensive applications — software accessed via the Internet simply cannot deliver the same performance as an application installed on a local machine. SaaS also places more pressure on network bandwidth and availability — if the network or Internet connection is down or slow, users lose access to their cloud-based apps and data. Security and regulatory compliance are often obstacles to SaaS adoption, as many organizations are hesitant to place sensitive data in the cloud.
Because SaaS is so easy to adopt, organizations sometimes neglect due diligence in assessing its capabilities. Like traditional packaged software, SaaS provides generic features that the developers felt would appeal to a broad range of businesses. Customization and integration with other software are typically limited. Over time, organizations can wind up paying significant fees for cloud-based software that doesn’t do much to improve productivity or streamline workflows.
Some business processes require a custom-developed business application. A well-designed custom app will allow data to move smoothly through workflows, improving productivity, minimizing errors and aiding in decision-making. Customer service will be enhanced because your staff have the information they need at their fingertips.
There’s a common perception that custom software is very expensive and takes months or years to develop. Worse, many business owners worry that the end result will be difficult to use and won’t meet their needs. However, good developers have tools and techniques that allow them to develop custom software quickly and cost-effectively. Iterative development processes not only speed software development but allow you to see and test the application in incremental phases so that it can be adjusted as needed along the way.
You don’t have to give up the benefits of the cloud when you opt for custom-developed software. Custom applications can be developed for the desktop or web. A web-based solution can give your staff anytime, anywhere access to the application and data.
Custom software may have a place in your environment, alongside SaaS and traditional packaged applications. In our next post, we’ll look at some of the factors you should consider in choosing the right software platform for a particular workflow or process.