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Software as a service – pros and cons

Saas, as the above is commonly referred to, is now a serious consideration for any modern organisation that is part of the global village. So is it the right choice for you or your organisation?To be able to benefit from this option, it is essential that you have reliable access to the internet. In Malawi, despite the high cost of internet services, I feel that we have reliability – not least because we have a number of service providers in the market. Both our main mobile operators – who have made it their business to ensure that their services exist over most of the country – offer these services with minimal entry level costs as a fallback position when your current ISP fails. If you have a modern smartphone, you are able to create a wireless network of your own with just your sim card and the cost of the selected data bundle.

Saas can be simply explained by comparing it to owning or leasing an office. The range of software services offered include financial and payroll applications, applications such as office and contact suites. This can be extended to include the renting of data storage space in the cloud where all business critical data is stored and accessed under very strict security procedures.

Saas is also for the personal user with Microsoft’s O365 leading the pack. Not only does this offer users a cost effective way of accessing the latest Office software legally, but it also allows users to store all their personal data including music, pictures and other personal information – up to 1.0TB of space – in the cloud. For personal users it is particularly useful. Ask yourself these questions – what would you do if your computer device suddenly refused to work, or was stolen? Do you travel a lot and want to continue to have full access to your data? Saas offerings such as O365 provides a full backup of your mails and contacts (and any other data you choose to include) in the cloud, which is then accessible from any device and from anywhere where you have the internet. Microsoft provide this service via an infrastructure composed of more than 100 globally distributed data centers connected by the one of the world’s largest multi terabit global network.

It provides a financially guaranteed an impressive 99.97 percent uptime. It is highly secure with one of the most advanced multi factor authentication process, and ongoing advanced threat protection.

As an organisation, there are some questions that you need to answer before you consider this option. Firstly, you need to assess your annual IT infrastructure costs. This includes, hardware and networks, software licencing, and related support costs.

Related support costs include the cost of maintaining a reliable power and environmental requirements for your servers, repair and replacement costs as well as IT support staff costs. Most importantly – you need to consider downtime as a cost. How much does it cost your organisation to re-build a server and get back to normal services, or carry out full replacement or upgrades across the organisation? With the on premises option you need to pay for your software and ongoing maintenance and upkeep – initial costs are high and usually require long term capital investment.

The second question you need to ask is for how long do you intend to use your software solution .On premises systems, on the other hand, can give the user greater flexibility and control over the hardware and data. You can build your systems to your own specifications that meet the specific needs of your organisation. Saas options require a smaller initial investment, higher reliability and flexibility with regard to access anywhere services, and provide an offsite – non human backup solution.

Saas is definitely a first step for most startup companies – providing almost immediate access to business processes, and allowing successful companies to grow with minimum delay or major cost implications. The best advice to corporate clients is understand and then select a solution that is flexible enough to meet your current and planned future business requirements.

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