Post from guest blogger Sean Banahan, Widen Area Sales Executive
While browsing my iGoogle home page the other day I was presented with an interesting press release that reminded me again of a key difference between traditionally licensed software products and those offered through the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. The press release that caught my eye described the latest upgrade of a competitor’s digital asset management application. The recently released software upgrade included a number of bug fixes, but not one new feature or enhancement worth mentioning in the press release. The release went on to describe the next scheduled upgrade of this competitor’s product as well, which of course was promised to be chalk full of the missing new features and enhancements. Best of all, the next upgrade with all of the promised features was scheduled for just a few short weeks away.
This might leave one asking why a customer should go through all the trouble of upgrading to the version that was just released if a better upgrade with all the “fixings” was just around the corner anyway. I mean, why dedicate the time and resources when you are just going to have to do it all over again in a couple of months? The press release doesn’t directly answer that question, though it does state that those users who were using the system’s data backup utility should seriously consider upgrading their installed application to this new release immediately. It also warned that customers should consider renewing their support policies. Ok… that’s a bit scary.
On the bright side, the press release told customers who currently have support policies in place not to worry about upgrading at all until the next version was released. Now I am scared and confused. I think what they are saying is that those of you who pay annually for support need not worry. For the rest of you… watch out. If you plan on using your DAM system to back up any of your data you just might find yourself up a creek. Since a big reason for implementing a DAM system to begin with is to centralize and protect your assets, a broken backup utility kind of kills the whole point doesn’t it.
If this all seems confusing and spiritually draining then I think you and I are on the same page. For the rest of you, I have to ask why you allow this kind of abuse to continue? Haven’t you suffered enough? Why don’t you hold your software vendors accountable? If you think I am exaggerating then do a search on Google for the press release I describe above yourself. It was published by a well known DAM provider so I am sure you can find it. With that in hand, ask yourself if you haven’t been thrown into this spin cycle before. Your software vendor forces you to upgrade an application repeatedly each year along with all of the databases, application servers and service packs that go along with it just so you can protect your investment. Plus you have to pay additional support fees just to have access to an 800 number should anything go disastrously wrong.
One of the biggest differences between software and software as a service providers is accountability. SaaS providers are contractually obligated to provide you more than a simple software disc in a box. Do all software products have problems? Of course that’s true and bugs definitely pop up, but that shouldn’t excuse your vendor from providing a reasonable level of service. As a customer you have the right to feel that the vendor you partnered with is actually on your side. Hosted and SaaS providers take all of this out of your hands and upgrade everything for you, seamlessly, automatically and without hassle. Why you would go any other route is beyond me. I know software providers argue for flexibility in customizing and tailoring the service to meet your specific needs. Though that argument is hardly true and most SaaS solutions can be customized just as easily as licensed products, a heavily customized platform is all the more difficult to upgrade and support and ultimately compounds your problem even more.