Download, Cloud or SaaS? Demystifying ITSM solutions

Businesses considering investing in an IT Service Management (ITSM) solution are faced with a plethora of choices in the marketplace. Before exploring vendors, the decision can be made easier by first considering the type of platform that will work best for the organisation’s needs. ITSM software solutions come in different guises; SaaS-based applications, cloud-hosted applications, or downloadable software you install and configure on-premises or in your cloud.

There is no definitive answer to which platform is best. This is entirely dependent on the needs and concerns of the organisation. Let’s look at the options available and how they deliver based on these needs.

Downloadable Software ITSM Applications – key considerations

Flexibility:The key advantage in choosing a downloadable ITSM software application is the high level of customisation and flexibility they offer. As it is hosted on company servers or in an organisation’s own cloud environment, customisation can be made more easily. For example, changing the capacity of the system on demand, improving or customising security features, building custom features and sharing data to other areas using APIs.

However, such flexibility is not always a welcome feature. It can lead to organisations ‘over engineering’ their solution and creating complicated systems that require almost constant management and investment. Talking of investment, when choosing a solution that allows for customisation, organisations must factor the cost of this in as part of their purchase planning. It is lack of investment in personnel and initiatives that is the number-one reason for failed implementations of software ITSM solutions.

Cost: While SaaS or cloud-hosted solution are often billed on a monthly subscription model, downloadable solutions can be purchased as a perpetual license with annual maintenance and support or as a subscription. This model can see the upfront cost being significantly higher but can result in net savings in the long term.

Cloud-hosted ITSM Application – key considerations

Cloud-based business solutions are increasingly seen as the favoured choice for many organisations, with IDC analysts predicting this market will grow 30% in the next five years. The reason for this growth? Cloud applications can offer rapid, low-cost solutions that can be quickly implemented and therefore assist IT teams to become more agile in their approach.

Cost: Arguably the immediate benefit in a cloud-based solution is the question of initial outlay. This is minimal in comparison to a downloadable alternative. The service is purchased using a subscription and therefore allows smaller organisations to get a head start on building an IT help desk that can scale as required.

Security: Although the popularity of cloud solutions has rocketed, this has been shadowed by concerns over security of data held off-premises. Cloud solutions see customers rely on vendor security safeguards. With these concerns first and foremost in customer minds, and in media headlines the key players in cloud services know that they must provide state-of-the-art security. This should provide peace of mind for users, but they should also feel able to scrutinise the vendor’s policies and security guarantees.

SaaS-based ITSM Applications – key considerations

SaaS is also a massive technology trend which provides some unique benefits for companies. SaaS options provide a one-stop package which sees the provision not only of software, but of the supporting infrastructure, applications and data hosting.

Cost: A key benefit of a SaaS-based solution are the savings that can be made from the lack of associated infrastructure required. It also offers similar flexibility to cloud models in a monthly subscription, often formed of a base fee, with additional fees for scaling up users.

Partner approach: Choosing a SaaS-based service will spare companies from having to purchase, host and implement software themselves. One of the reasons many small, medium and large organisations choose SaaS-based ITSM services is the benefit of having a dedicated partner to ensure successful implementation and ongoing support. A SaaS partner will take responsibility for data storage and maintenance, releasing updates, optimising help desk configuration to improve performance, and maintaining security.

With expert overview of the entire process and infrastructure SaaS companies know that the customer experience matters, and they will work with you to make the implementation a success.

Flexibility: Companies that go for SaaS-based ITSM solutions may lose some flexibility options versus on-premise hosting. You’ll rely on your SaaS partner to generate and deliver updates, ensure application up-time, and build out any customisation you request, though likely for an additional fee if it’s uniquely for your business. When considering a SaaS solution make sure you explore whether it will allow you to build your own APIs and port data out of the application. Also, be clear as to who owns data, whether you can get a copy of it when requested, and how the data will be used.

Closing thoughts

Choosing an ITSM solution is not a science – it is an art that depends on myriad factors including the size and scalability of the organisation, the shape of your IT team and infrastructure and the amount of customisation your organisation requires.

For those who want a cheap, functional option that is self-managed then cloud options can be ideal. However, if cash and experience are limited then a SaaS partner can offer unparalleled integration expertise and ongoing support. Alternatively, if what you are looking for is flexibility and customisation above all, then a software option can provide what you need if you are willing to make a higher initial outlay.

Making sure you fully understand your organisation’s strengths, where support will be needed, plans of scale and complexity of customisation needs is vital to making the right choice.

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