Software as a Service

Evernote, the popular note taking app, recently announced a broad change of service and pricing. Read more about it here and here. This, among other reasons is why I've become leery of the Software as a Service (SaaS) model in general for a lot of cloud based solutions. At a whim, the company can change pricing, features or even completely shut down leaving the user in their wake. This article will be random thoughts on the matter.

The way SaaS providers like to spin things is that they are constantly upgrading their product with more features and enhancements and thereby justify their monthly/yearly pricing model. Upgrades and enhancements for most part aren't necessarily needed unless there are new security issues that need addressed. A lot of it is window dressing to make customers think the monthly fee is justified. Hey, we're doing something over here!

AutoDesk, while not a true SaaS model, over the years has been transitioning to a service model. A decade ago, you could simply buy a copy of AutoCad, get a disk mailed to you and you're good to go. Those days are going away. Now you must rent it by the month/year. It's their theory that you'll end up saving money by leasing over purchase. Only using myself as a case study, this is incredibly incorrect. Back in 2004 when I started my company, I purchased a copy of Land Desktop for around $8,000 and only recently (and finally) upgraded to the latest version. Essentially, I got 12 years' worth of use out of my purchased software breaking it down to around $55 a month. Using their new pricing model for Civil 3D, you would end up paying about $22,000 for the software over the same time frame. Of course, they tout that you'll get the latest version and new features, but that comes at a cost in productivity. Ever install a new version of any product and be immediately as productive as you were on the old? Of course not, there's a learning curve and depending on how many "enhancements" are made steepens that curve. On top of all that, if AutoDesk ever ceased to exist, I could always install my old CD of Land Desktop and be off and running. Anyone using a license only model would be forced to find something else, really fast. While it's probably not realistic for AutoDesk to go away tomorrow based on their size and presence, who knows what can happen with smaller service providers.

No internet? Yesterday morning my internet was out at the house. My plans for the morning were botched since I couldn't access my web only product management tool.

Another problem with the concept is control, or really the lack of it. By having a product model that could change at any whim, an enterprise is at the mercy of the software provider. In an effort to boost revenue, streamline the product, appease an investor, etc, the SaaS's product can easily change and create havoc in an organization that relies on it.

While I don't ever tout any expertise in security, do we just take the provider's word for it that they are secure?

What I do like about SaaS's model is that you can test drive it typically much easier than an outright purchased piece of software, which would usually be non returnable for good reason.

As far as Evernote goes, I'm transitioning over to Apple's Notes app after debating it versus Microsoft's OneNote. While it may not ever be as feature rich as Evernote, it should handle the workload I throw at it just fine. Plus, since I've now thrown myself upon Apple's sword with the addition of a MacBook Air on top of the iPhone and iPad that I have, simplicity makes sense in an effort to unify my own communication.

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