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Download or cloud? Sourcing the ITSM solution right for you

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Tashatuvango)

When faced with choosing an ITSM solution that fits the demands of your organisation, delivers on budget, and is sufficiently flexible, it is understandable to feel overwhelmed. There is no shortage of options in the market – and it can appear to be a sea of sameness. However, the reality is that there are numerous feature and functionality factors to consider before you dive into vendor research. 

The first step in whittling down the options is to decide how you wish to purchase and administer your solution – will a cloud-based application answer your organisation’s needs, or should you look to a downloadable software application? Each has its unique advantages, and disadvantages. 

Answering this question up front will stand you in good stead in choosing a solution that delivers against your expectations in relation to implementation, security, customisation and cost.  

1. Cloud - flexible in size and cost 

Cloud solutions are increasingly chosen for quick implementation at a lower cost – explaining the fast growth of the cloud-based service management market.  

The first obvious advantage from using a cloud application are the cost savings made in relation to hosting. You won’t need to shell out on additional servers and data centres to support a cloud solution. Then, there are the benefits of payment by subscription; you’ll avoid a heavy initial spend. Small, growing businesses and start-ups especially can benefit from cloud subscription models.  

While storing data on-site, such as with a downloadable solution, means you retain complete control of security, it also means you are responsible for your own backups and long-term storage.

Handing data over to a cloud vendor means placing trust in their security tools, policies and patches, while also offering flexibility in access and emergency retrieval. Thankfully, the level of scrutiny on these providers mean that security is a top priority for leading vendors.  

Choose SaaS for an out-of-the-box cloud solution 

The IT community is now well versed in the concept of Software-as-a-Service, being a defining tech trend of the last decade, and a market that IDC predicts will reach $112.8 billion by 2019. While the initial hype around SaaS has quietened, it is still seen by many as the default choice when considering an ITSM solution. This is due to the bundled extras SaaS provides – an ‘out-of-the-box’ solution that doesn’t require expensive investment in owned infrastructure, data-storage and hosting.  Remember, when considering such a ‘ready-made’ solution it’s important to be mindful of country-specific guidelines for data storage and compliance and to ensure that it is designed to comply with these localised regulations. 

SaaS also comes with the flexibility of a subscription model, which provides for freedom and up-scaling as you grow. But SaaS is not without some less beneficial features – the first being misconceptions around cost.  

Pay as you go 

SaaS-based ITSM solutions will usually charge a monthly subscription, incorporating a base fee and costs added for additional users. Subscription licensing tends to break even with perpetual licensing after 3.5 years. The benefits of this scenario are significant, as the pace of change in technology continues to accelerate.  

That said, make sure that you consult your legal team to help ensure you thoroughly understand the small print when it comes to assessing the cost of any subscription-based model. Is the vendor able to implement price increases, change its pricing model, or start charging for capabilities previously built-in?  

Don’t underestimate the added value of a cloud partner  

Arguably, one of the key advantages of a cloud/SaaS model comes from the value your solution partner can add. When you purchase a cloud option you gain an expert partner who is dedicated to ensuring successful implementation and delivering long term value. Your partner will be on call to help troubleshoot, implement upgrades and design add-ons. An extension of your in-house team, your cloud partner will be vital in ensuring that the solution grows with your business and should offer you valuable industry insight to inform your ongoing strategy. 

Of course, not all vendors will prove to deliver in partnership – this is where due diligence, research and speaking to other customers can prove invaluable.  

2. Downloadable ITSM solutions for customisable ownership 

Therefore a downloadable option can work for teams who have the expertise (and time) to build add-on solutions in-house. But don’t underestimate the investment needed to make this work.  Consider how an inexperienced or under-invested IT team might deal with the level of input required to make downloadable solutions work. Where these implementations fail, it is usually due to a lack of investment in infrastructure or staff, rather than a failing of the solution

If what you are looking for is maximum flexibility and customisation then a downloadable solution could be for you. By purchasing a solution outright, implementing and hosting it yourself you are presented with more opportunities to build-in bespoke elements. Whether expanding capacity, improving security standards, or slotting in APIs this model allows experienced IT teams to take control of the solution and its development.  

While some SaaS and cloud models allow for customisation and built applications, they tend to be less flexible in this respect. If you are in an agile environment that needs bespoke elements delivered fast, using a SaaS or cloud model can mean you can find yourself at the mercy of the vendor’s priority list – where your request may not be top.  

Upfront costs and in-house investment 

With a downloadable solution there is inevitably a higher initial outlay than the spread cost of a subscription model. Be careful however of underestimating maintenance or support fees that might add up in the future.  

Before implementing an on-premises solution the company must be sure that it has the infrastructure in place to support implementation, for example data-storage capabilities and the in-house knowledge and man-power to ensure the solution works. When it comes to infrastructure, it is worth bearing in mind there are now cloud providers that can support independent server and/or storage provision via the cloud, however we’ve noticed adoption of this has model has been slow.  

Fixing any such issues before implementation could prove cost prohibitive and is not an issue you want to uncover only when it comes to putting the solution to work.  

First - know thyself  

Choosing an ITSM solution that works will depend on the size and purpose of your business, the funds you have to invest, and your need to customise the solution for the specific needs of your business – now and in the future. Therefore, before diving into a decision, the first step is to ensure you fully understand the capabilities of your current infrastructure and team, the long term vision and growth trajectory of the business, and scan the horizon for likely needs that will arise in line with vision.  

Chuck Darst, Product Manager, Cherwell Software (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/Tashatuvango

Chuck Darst is a Product Manager at Cherwell Software, and is focused on IT Service Management (ITSM)solutions delivered via Software as a Service (SaaS) or on-premises based on ITIL best practices.