Assuming the majority of the readers of this post are not technologists, I will define SaaS (Software as a Service) and the Cloud. First, the Cloud and SaaS are not the same thing. SaaS runs in the Cloud.
Gartner defines SaaS as "software that is owned, delivered and managed remotely by one or more providers." In summary, you lease SaaS software, and its owner maintains it. It is hosted in the Cloud, not on your infrastructure, and you can access the software application over the internet.
Gartner defines Cloud Computing as "a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service using Internet technologies." Typically when people refer to the Cloud they are referring to a datacenter of servers connected to the Internet that provide public access via a SaaS offering.
Examples of SaaS that most people are familiar with are SalesForce, Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
Why would I want to purchase a Records Management solution that was SaaS instead of on-premise? Here are five reasons to consider SaaS for Records Management:
- Low cost of entry. A SaaS solution has no hardware costs and minimal setup costs. Often in the procurement of a Records Management Solution, the IT department is not intimately involved. The purchase is driven by the Record Managers or the Legal department. These departments don't have IT resources, and if the solution requires hardware, then IT will need to be involved. This often results in a delayed approval for the project and can also cause project delays waiting for hardware and internal IT resources. With a SaaS solution, the deployment and setup are easy and quick, with little to no involvement from IT.
- High adoption rates & low learning curve. Accessibility drives adoption. SaaS software is available via web browsers that users are already familiar with; therefore the learning curve is low. This leads to high adoption rates. Also, since users can access the application from any device (e.g. a device that is convenient for them), they will be more likely to adopt the application. In a Records Management Solution, there are typically approvals that are needed by infrequent users of the system. Adoption rates are increased by making the approval process very simple and available on any device.
- Painless upgrades. The SaaS provider will manage the upgrades, eliminating the resource needs from your IT department. This means you will immediately be able to take advantage of the latest features. From a Records Management standpoint, compliance is critical, so the latest features may be essential to staying in compliance. In addition, since the SaaS provider is responsible for maintaining and upgrading the software, your ongoing IT costs will be lower.
- Integration and scalability. Most SaaS providers enable some level of customization through an API. The API is used to connect to other business systems (e.g. ERPs or CRMs). In the case of Records Management, you might want to connect to an HR application to notify the Records Management Solution when an employee has been terminated. This will create an event, which can then trigger disposition for the employee records.
Scalability is not a concern with SasS, simply adjust your subscription and your provider will handle the scaling that is required. This is especially relevant in a Records Management solution because they often start out small with one department, but eventually as Information Governance is adopted within the organization, the amount of data that is being managed by the Records Management Solution can grow drastically. Not having to worry about scalability and your budget will make the deployment to other departments much easier.
- Subscription pricing. This can make the budget approval process much easier. The subscription model keeps the IT costs consistent and lower than traditional software solutions that have perpetual licensing models or homegrown solutions. For Records Management, this means the project approval process may be quicker since you may be able to fund the project with operating expenses versus capital expenses. Since Records Management is typically not considered a mission critical application, it may have a smaller budget than other projects. Therefore, the lower initial investment of subscription pricing can be beneficial, and the annual cost is known.
A SaaS Records Management Solution may not be the right solution for every organization or your organization might not be ready for a SaaS solution. Ideally, you want to choose a vendor that can offer an on-premise and SaaS version. Then if you are not ready for SaaS today, you can start out as on-premise and move to SaaS at a later time.