When it comes to choosing between SaaS and on-premises solutions, it often boils down to one major factor: flexibility. SaaS is certainly suitable for standardized processes, but what about something as variable as online checkout and payment, particularly for B2B web stores? We asked Louis van Roessel, Product Owner Core Framework at Sana, about how Sana SaaS balances the benefits of SaaS with the need for flexibility. Read our Q&A below:
Q: 10 years ago, SaaS vs. on-premises wasn’t a question many decision-makers faced. Could you quickly explain the difference between the two, and the benefits of SaaS?
Louis van Roessel: On-premises software is installed on your system locally and “frozen” as it is, which makes upgrading more of a challenge.
With software as a service, or SaaS, the application is usually installed at a data center, for example in the cloud. Hosting and maintenance are outsourced and largely automated, so the upgrade process has been taken into account.
With Sana SaaS, that means that we developed the solution to make upgrading easier, both for us as an organization and — most importantly — for our customers.
This is because it’s backwards compatible, and doesn’t require much effort to upgrade. You can keep your existing settings, and there’s no need to reconfigure your entire web store after each upgrade. That’s one of the main benefits of SaaS.
Q: This makes SaaS sound like an obvious choice for businesses, but on-premises solutions remain popular. Why is that?
LvR: On-premises software has been around longer. That might make you think it’s more advanced, but the opposite is actually true: it’s not automatically adapting with the latest advances in technology — there is always manual work involved for the upgrade process, because the upgrade process is not fully automated, for instance.
On the other hand, there’s the price. With on-premises, you usually just buy a perpetual license, which grants you the right to use the software for an indefinite period of time. It might feel like there’s more clarity on the costs up front, and you don’t have to deal with recurring payments. It can seem like the most straightforward option, financially speaking. But then there’s the hidden costs that come with upgrades, customizations and so on.
LvR: The ease of upgrading — and that it’s automated — means that SaaS users have access to new features and updates all the time. Choosing SaaS means getting the newest features, performance upgrades, and security updates.
The latter is particularly important in the post-GDPR world, where even the biggest names in tech aren’t immune to security breaches.
Q: But what about the flexibility? How does SaaS fare there?
LvR: Contrary to popular belief, SaaS doesn’t back you into a corner.
SaaS solutions are designed to appeal to a large audience, so there’s usually less flexibility compared to on-premises solutions with their endless (and expensive) customization options. The idea with SaaS is that it can be updated quickly — speed and agility are more important than customizability. But the goal is still to reach a large audience: if everyone wants something else, you can’t keep everyone in one standard.
“Our vision on Sana SaaS, with three levels of customization, makes this relatively flexible and agile software.”
This might not be in line with people’s experiences with SaaS. There are a few examples of highly flexible SaaS platforms on the market, but not many. Sana SaaS is still relatively new, so there are kinks to be worked out. They’ll mature over time to offer more flexibility and customization options.
Q: Why aren’t there more flexible SaaS platforms out there?
LvR: Most SaaS platforms are quite simple and compact: narrow solutions used for a specific purpose. There simply isn’t as much need for flexibility, take for example Dropbox or Zendesk.
Our SaaS offering is a quite complex solution with ERP integration, integration with PSPs and so on. People who are mostly familiar with the more narrow SaaS solutions might be surprised to hear that such a complex system can be offered as SaaS.
But we’re far from alone in offering a complex SaaS solution.
Q: So there are flexible SaaS solutions out there, with Sana SaaS being one of them. What kind of flexibility can users expect?
LvR: First, there’s flexibility in design. Everyone wants their own specific look and feel. You have your own corporate identity and brand, and it’s important to reflect this on all channels, including your web store. This consistency in branding is an essential part of a strong omnichannel strategy.
Secondly, when it comes to a SaaS e-commerce platform, the functionality needs to be flexible. You can divide this into two categories: front-end functionality and back-end functionality.
Front-end functionality includes registering new customers, and choosing which data to display for certain documents. A tire company will want to display entirely different specs than a pharmaceutical company. The registration process for new customers needs to be customizable, too: what kind of info is required, and what’s optional?
With back-end functionality, think of how certain processes flow, like new customer registrations. Do we need to approve the registration? How and where will we manage discount codes? Do we want to be more flexible in how we deal with non-standard situations? This is especially relevant for B2B e-commerce, where you’ve got to think of matters like complex shipping logistics infrastructure: large items, high-volume items, and so on.
Finally, there has to be flexibility in integration with other key systems. If you want your web store to truly save time for your back office, you need it to integrate seamlessly with your ERP, and maybe even other systems like PSPs, CRM, PIM, invoicing, and possibly some add-ons.
“Integration isn’t something you should have to compromise on.”
Explore the Benefits of Sana SaaS
Conveniently outsourced upgrades. Confidence in your web store security. And no need to compromise on flexibility. Want to learn more about the benefits of SaaS? See for yourself how Sana SaaS lets you offer your clients an exceptional online buying experience while lightening the load on your back office.