SaaS vs SoSaaS

Ever heard of SoSaas?  Bet you haven’t!

Now that ‘Cloud’ is part of every day business vernacular, the world is finally accepting Saas as part of common commercial language too; Software as a service – no need to put in the infrastructure or buy the software and then maintain it.  Now, it’s all done for us – upgrades and backups are automatic and it just works… in a way that on-premise legacy systems could only aspire to.  It’s now becoming part of our every day lives, in work and at home; from Office 365 to Sky to Facebook – all Saas propositions from the ubiquitous cloud.

On the face of it, SoSaas does look like a cloud system, indeed possibly the system you are used to on-premise but now available through the browser.  So what’s the problem I hear you ask?  In order it for it to be accessible outside of your local network, remote desktop technologies such as Terminal Services or Citrix need to be engaged in order that you can access the remote desktop of the server that is hosted elsewhere.

The remotely-hosted server is ‘carved up’ into say 50 different systems, and a customer will connect using Terminal services and a browser to access your windows environment on the remote server, to then run the finance software as if it was on your own network.  Now don’t get me wrong, both Terminal Services and Citrix technologies are excellent propositions in certain circumstances, such as technical support when a higher skilled resource can access your environment to assist with issues.  However, remotely accessing your on-premise software as a permanent arrangement, isn’t one of these circumstances.

The three biggest challenges with a SoSaas set-up are security, processing speed and issues with integration.  Systems not built specifically for the cloud have a more complex and therefore cumbersome way of being accessed, because it’s effectively remote networking rather than cloud access; this can often be a two-stage process rather than accessing a secure URL.  Processing speed is restrained significantly as a result of both the terminal services overhead being run on the same connection and the inability to effectively load balance the server that’s been split into a multitude of environments to accommodate a volume of customers.

Imagine how the performance of your server would suffer, if you’d allowed other companies to connect to it and process their requirements at the same time as yours!  Obviously these cloud hosted servers are more powerful, but the problem remains that they are running legacy software that is being accessed in a less-than-efficient fashion, by a volume of customers, each of whom can slow down the processing speed of that server should they decide to batch process any volume of data.

By their very nature, systems built specifically for the cloud don’t work like this.  For starters, there is no overhead in connecting to the servers; your speed is whatever your connection will give you.  Security is very robust, yet simple.  Servers automatically load-balance and truly multi-tenanted systems facilitate millions of users without inhibiting the user experience – think Facebook, Instagram and Sky on a personal level and Microsoft’s Azure or Amazon’s AWS in the business environment. Compared to hosting a legacy server with an ISP and allowing access, modern day offerings are on a completely different planet.

Integration (lack of) is often cited as one of the two biggest reasons as to why organisations change their finance system.  As more and more business applications are moving to the cloud, the need for integration into other cloud-based systems, such as Office 365 or say Excel, becomes a fundamental requirement if a business is to run efficiently.  On-premise legacy software often struggles to meet the challenge of integration with other cloud-based apps; this challenge remains with SoSaas as the system is still effectively an on-premise service, just not on your premises.  This integration problem is exacerbated with SoSaas set ups because even software applications that have a decent API (interface for other programs to interface with) find that this type of access has to be closed down in order for the server to remain secure in the hosting environment, as it was never designed to exist within the world of Cloud.

Integration struggles with applications with such as Excel are sometimes created by a move to SoSaas as a result of the Finance software no longer sitting on the same server/network as Excel.  The ramifications of this can be significant when looking for assurance of ‘One version of the truth’ among the reporting if suddenly the automated link between Excel and the Finance system is broken.

The bottom line is that there is often very little merit in signing up to a SoSaas proposition; it may be a short-term fix and stave off the day when the bullet finally has to be bitten with regard to changing systems.  But delaying the inevitable is all it is really doing.  SoSaas is a ‘fudge’ that is quickly found out, whether through excessive costs, poor performance or troublesome integration – it is neither a stepping-stone nor an answer to the need for a business to move to the cloud.  We are not advocating that you have to buy our truly cloud-based system; buy any system you like that’s been built specifically for the cloud but buy SoSaas at your peril!

Top tips to spot a SoSaas system:

  • Ask what development language the system is written in.  It should be a Microsoft Stack or a modern equivalent, not an older language such as Pascal, Delphi or Visual Basic.
  • Question the availability of an API for other applications to integrate with
  • Question the existing integrations that already exist for the product such as Office 365, Excel and email and insist on seeing them function with significant volumes of data.
  • Can users login from anywhere and what is the process? Can mobile devices be used to log-in, not just a desktop?
  • Does the system require logging in to a remote desktop application first?
  • Is a VPN required in order to access the server?
  • Does the provider ask you to change the configuration of your Internet Firewall in order for the system to work?
  • Enquire as to the length of the contract period is; SoSaas providers have a greater overhead to set up servers specifically to run your environment and therefore they often try to secure multi-year commitments as opposed to the more common 12 months (and then rolling monthly) that Saas providers ask for.
  • Understand how to add users on the system – this is easy in a true cloud based system but very cumbersome in a SoSaas environment.

In summary, people often buy imitation offerings because it’s compelling to do so; often financially and sometimes technically too.  SoSaas isn’t either; it’s imitation cloud that, for the life of me, just doesn’t make sense.

By Paul Sparkes
12 Sep, 2019


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