The article "Gmail Glitch Shows Pitfalls" was on the Wall Street Journal's Evening Wrap email. Under the headline, it had "Failure Spurs Concern Over Reliability of Online Software." To sum it up, it tries to pitch online software (or Saas - software-as-a-service) as unreliable because of occasional temporary outages. In my mind, I can hear all the traditional IT folks saying "See? I told you so!"
I used to be a traditional IT guy at a University (a very cutting edge University at that). At one time I was responsible for a handful of enterprise applications, the client applications on individual user desktops, the hardware running both enterprise and client software, and the network that let them all talk. That's a big responsibility and one I didn't take lightly. I'll admit, though, I had the "I need to touch it and feel it" mentality - which basically means I wanted the software to be installed on my network and on my servers and desktops.
Software-as-a-service was just starting to come into use at the enterprise level but not for the apps I supported, so I didn't have a choice. But now, many vendors are offering their software over the web, such as, customer relationship management, web content management, accounting, and many more. The benefits are huge:
- No software to install, update, or troubleshoot
- No hardware to install, update, or troubleshoot
- Available from any computer with a functional web browser (not isolated to one client installation)
Let me translate this into financial terms:
- No capital costs to purchase software licenses that you may have to depreciate and will have no real value at the end of their useful life. Nobody is going to buy your 5 year old copy of MAS 90 or Microsoft Exchange.
- No contractors to pay to install and configure the software
- No ongoing support fees (depending on the vendor)
- No capital costs to purchase hardware that will lose tremendous value and be worth very little, if anything, at the end of its useful life
- All in all, much lower up front costs and subscription fees equivalent to many software maintenance agreements
Now, software-as-a-service does not fit every business. I know that. But before you drop $100,000, or $10,000 for that matter, you should put some research into a SaaS alernative. Your up-front and long term cost savings might be huge compared to all the costs of installed software.
As for the Wall Street Journal article that started me on this little rant - every software has its down day. It's unfortunate, yet it happens. But when your application becomes unavailable, would you rather have Google working non-stop to get it back up or your already overworked IT guy who has a chip on his shoulder and has one foot out the door?
To the Wall Street Journal - inferring software-as-a-service is less reliable than its installed software counterpart is like saying Michael Phelps is more likely to smoke weed than Cheech and Chong. Everybody has their down-and-out moments but come on! Seriously?