On-premises software has remained a go-to solution for years within the business technology space. Yet with the recent – albeit abrupt – switch to remote work for most American workers, those solutions have become less viable as entire systems have had to become nimbler in the age of COVID-19.
Newer cloud- and web-based solutions known as "software as a service" (SaaS) can give employees the tools they need wherever they are. With so much change already underway, could this be the time for your business to make the switch?
Here are some reasons to commit to this change, and what you should and shouldn't do when migrating.
What is SaaS?
SaaS is an online service that delivers a software solution without the need to install an actual program on physical hardware. For example, rather than relying solely on the Microsoft Office suite that's installed on your work laptop, Microsoft Office 365 provides the same functionality through most browsers for a monthly subscription fee. The former can be useless if that laptop is lost, stolen or inaccessible, while the latter can be accessed anywhere with a working internet connection.
For Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of EmailAnalytics, SaaS and cloud-based solutions were already important in the modern business landscape. Having relied on them since the beginning of his company, he said he understood the importance of digitization in the wake of the pandemic.
"With the pandemic crisis, companies need to consolidate, conserve and focus resources on activities that ensure survival in these tough times," he said. "That's why it makes sense to let a SaaS vendor worry about back-end operations and maintenance, freeing up your team to focus on maximizing value from your software solution."
If your business has gone full remote, you already understand DeMers' point about needing to focus on survival. According to Diginomica, COVID-19 is likely to forever change business as we know it. As remote work becomes more normalized and digital conference meetings become commonplace, SaaS application deployment will gain increasing importance.
Why switching from legacy software to SaaS is a good move
Along with making it easier for you and your employees to access the software you need, SaaS cloud software can be easier to use than legacy on-premises software. That's usually because these online, cloud computing-based business applications are quicker to implement, reducing the amount of time needed to get your team up and running.
For DeMers, the value proposition of SaaS largely deals with the fact that your company isn't responsible for the software side of things; instead, the vendor handles everything. Further, these services update themselves. Having relied on such systems for his business from the start, DeMers thinks the technology has been a major boon to his company.
"The main benefit of SaaS is that all its systems are entirely managed by the vendor, including [the] database, servers, and all the other components that go into making SaaS work," he said. "That enables me, as a user, to focus on just using the software and not having to worry about maintaining it, updating it, battling against viruses, hacks, or other system threats."
SaaS also has the benefit of being cheaper in many cases. Purchasing business software licenses can cost thousands of dollars, even though you will likely need to upgrade to a newer version with a new cost associated with it every few years, and in some cases, pay an annual fee for tech support. If you subscribe to a service, you get the latest version of the software, as long as you maintain a subscription, and in most cases, tech support is included in your subscription.
"Using SaaS rather than on-premises legacy solutions will free up your team's resources to focus on getting value or insights from your software, and shift away from maintaining, debugging, and handling back-end operations for your legacy solution," said DeMers.
Why making the switch to SaaS may not be right for you
While there are plenty of reasons to immediately ditch your legacy software for a SaaS solution, there are some key issues that businesses should consider that might require them to continue using legacy software.
First and foremost is the need for a solid internet connection. If you live in one of the areas of the U.S. where internet connectivity is lacking, then you're likely going to want to stick with legacy software. While SaaS is not usually resource-intensive, internet speeds can hamper a SaaS solution's ability to communicate with the hosted data center.
Another major issue that could be a concern for some businesses is the fact that you could be putting your sensitive company data in another company's data center. It's with this in mind that DeMers suggests doing some homework before signing on the dotted line – especially when it comes to ensuring proper data security measures are being taken.
"You have to trust the vendor with all your data, and you have to rely on someone else's team to fix security vulnerabilities and database/server issues if they affect you," he said. "This can be frustrating if the vendor has poor customer service. This is one reason why good customer service is so critical for SaaS businesses."
How to make the switch from on-premises software to SaaS
If you're convinced that making the switch from on-premises software to SaaS is the right move for your business, there are things you can do to make the data migration process less of a headache. While the process may be different from one business to the next, here are some of the steps you should take:
- Copy your data. Since you likely won't be relying on physical storage for the data you'll be moving over to your SaaS solution, it's important that you back up any relevant files. Your IT department or manager should have been regularly creating backups, so this may already be ready to go.
- Upload data to the cloud. After vetting your SaaS provider and making sure your data will be secure, upload whatever data you need for that application to the cloud. After sending the files, check the application to make sure everything uploaded correctly.
- Set up regular synchronization. Since your company will no longer be using on-premises software, you will need to make sure that whatever data needs to be accessed by multiple users can be accessed from anywhere. Ensuring that all of the necessary data is automatically synchronized with the application so any changes copy over for other users is important.
- Finish the migration of other tools. If you're moving to an entirely SaaS setup, it's important to make sure that the cloud solution and implementation functions properly. To that end, make sure everything you need to move over to the cloud service gets there.
While these steps are all important, it should be noted that a strong SaaS provider will make data migration as painless as possible. Look for a service that can directly assist with the changeover or automate parts of the process for you.