Why Should My Business Take a Look at “As a Service”?
It’s interesting how people view the “pay as you go” or “as a service” models, especially in today’s market. For the younger generation coming into the marketplace, it is a given. Netflix, AWS, Azure, Salesforce, O365, and Google Docs are just a few of the well understood “as a service” models that the younger generation readily accepts. So, why is it that while some businesses are looking at adoption of the “as a service” offerings and models, there is still reticence to adopt them? In conversations over the earlier part of the year there have been some common themes that have arisen: loss of control, security/compliance, and previous investments are just a few. It seems that in today’s market, the positives of “as a service” models far outweigh the cons. Predictability, flexibility, and simplicity are sometimes overlooked.
Loss of control seems to be the biggest issue. In that vein, concerns of security, automatic upgrades and the ability to know “where is my data?” are usually voiced. Location of your data can be mitigated by implementing a solid backup plan; yes – a backup plan for an “as a service offering”. If your data is in the cloud you need to look at the terms and details of the service from your provider to make sure the data is backed up. If not, it is indeed your responsibility. Oftentimes you can leverage existing equipment with additional software to back-up your cloud data.
The “What if they get breached?” question usually is the center of the security/compliance concern. The corollary to that should be: “What if you get breached?” Most security experts will tell you that it is not if you get breached, but a matter of when it will happen. For “as a service” offerings, security is paramount. They will normally be equally or more diligent regarding security than your business. They have to be. That said, you should review the security in place for the service and ensure it meets your standards and needs. If it does not, most offerings can be augmented with cloud based or external offerings that will give you what you need. Also, if you are backing up the data, you can minimize impacts and optimize recovery time.
Compliance is always a concern for businesses. Mitigating compliance concerns is as simple as asking the provider. In many cases they will be able to meet your needs. The compliant offering may cost more, but that is no different than systems you manage today.
Current investments are a legitimate concern. The way to mitigate the cost recovery for hard assets is to look at means to repurpose or ensure that you won’t be re-investing in them. If you have 3 years of useful life remaining, consider leveraging “as a service” to handle growth or look at re-purposing your existing gear as a backup. Creativity wins the day here.
Regarding automatic upgrades, to be honest, I really don’t understand the concerns unless you have expansive integrations with other “as a service” offerings that may no remain in lock step. Automatic upgrades are a positive in my mind. Why? There is no effort or very minimal on your staff to do the upgrade, it just happens at the announced time and your team logs in to verify the service is working.
Now let’s talk about the positives for “as a service” offerings.
Predictability: You know your costs up front and what they will be for the next year. If you are expecting growth, you can easily plan for it with a linear cost structure. Your CFO will love you.
Flexibility: You have a sudden spike in business, and need additional resources to handle them. Instead of looking at hardware purchases and more time from already over utilized IT staff to expand hard assets to meet the need, you simply buy additional end points and call your provider to expand as needed. Conversely, if you have a decline, you are not riding out an investment in fixed cost assets. You can tune the service to the needs and levels required by your business.
Simplicity: In general, you will minimize the man hours required to manage a service currently provided by internal hardware and internal resources. You will also see a reduction in time to from a maintenance perspective, as upgrades and patching are not required. Your staff will generally see a net increase in time for proactive activities vs. reactive. Furthermore, most often you do not have to pay for new features; they are introduced and offered without additional cost. The providers want you to stay with them so this keeps you happy.
So the era of “as a service” or “pay as you go” is coming. Many applications are being written for the cloud as a service, so feature parity may not be the same for traditional versions. If you are not already on the path, you should be considering it, I am sure your competitors are.
Noel Barber is a veteran of the IT industry and serves as the Vice President of Professional Services at ABS. In addition to staying on top of industry trends and changes, Noel works to ensure ABS continuously brings the best technology solutions to our clients.