Considerations when choosing a SaaS provider instead of an agency for your website

Nowadays there are many low-cost (and not so low-cost) SaaS (software as a service) based options for your website/online application that promise to remove the need for the agency! Some do a better job than others, and ultimately it depends on what your website/app does, but there are still many reasons you might find an agency leading your implementation is still the best option.

Here are a few things to consider when thinking about choosing a SaaS platform over an agency-led implementation:

  • The restricted template approach with limited customization adopted by most platforms will mean your site may end up looking similar to most other competitive sites using the same SaaS platform, giving you reduced options for unique branding – will your marketing team be happy that all their work (and expense) creating a unique brand goes to waste?
  • If you need something custom functionality that does not exist in the product, you probably have limited options: make a feature request and wait (a long time) for them to put it in their roadmap, pay them a lot of money to do it for you as a “bespoke” request (which they’ll likely then sell on to other users and keep the IP), or adapt your business process and work around the custom requirement. None of these options is ideal from a business perspective.
  • Support must be good (and come with a sensible SLA), otherwise you’re at the mercy of the provider in the event of an outage – are you really ok with telling your stakeholders that you have no idea when the site will be back up? The likely answer is no! Be especially careful of providers that do not have a 24×7 support or where they host the data outside of your country.
  • You’re likely handing some level of control of your data over to the provider – at minimum they’ll be taking responsibility for hosting it, or in some cases, you might actually be granting them approval to make use of your data for their own purposes, particularly if you’re using something like an event booking tool. Particular care needs to be taken with their security preparedness. Just because they are providing the hosting does not mean you are not responsible for the security of your database. If they get a cyber breach and all your data is compromised what will you tell your stakeholders.
  • Ask lots of questions about their business continuity and disaster recovery procedures, and think very carefully about what would happen if the provider unexpectedly stopped trading – do you access via the platform to make regular comprehensive backups in a standard file format? Can you access your data if they are no longer trading?

In my next post I’ll be sharing the other side of the argument – things to consider when choosing an agency-led implementation over a Saas platform!

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