Self-hosted Vs SaaS: How to make the right choice?

Udit Poddar
March 2, 2023
5 mins to read

When it comes to data, we like to keep it within our reach. Setting up self-hosted servers gives a sense of safety, ownership and a certain amount of trust that is lacking in a third-party app or software. It's natural to be wary of where your data stays, especially if it comprises confidential statistics. Having data on-premise might make one feel like there's more control and lower chances of being hacked- which adds to the fear of hosting it on a Cloud that's owned by someone else.

While it is smart to set up your own server when dealing with critical financial or governmental data; there are also instances when SaaS would do a better job. In this article, I'll take you through a detailed process so that you can make the right choice.

What are you looking for? 👀

Like everything in life, nothing's black and white when it comes to picking your route. Figuring out your objective and requirements is key to understanding what rocks your boat when it comes to making the right choice.

When Self-hosting is your Holy answer ✈️

If you are dealing with sensitive financial, legal or governmental data, undertaking a self-hosted set-up is a smart choice. Data of this size and cruciality needs to be safely vaulted behind a securely developed Iron Curtain which cannot be provided by a public cloud.

Another reason to set up your own system is when you're looking for rapid retrieval and syncing of data for massive and time-bound calculations- like for a nuclear reactor facility. An on-premise server has much more power and speed than an internet-based software. It also gives you 100% control.

When SaaS is your Knight in Shining Armour 🥷

If you have a specific requirement or problem statement and you find a company that's been solving it for years, it makes sense to explore them. For example, if you're wanting to digitize internal workflows without waiting in line for your IT team's free window, you can still be self-reliant with the help of someone who knows how it's done.

For instance, we built Grid to unite teams across the office and the field into one single unit with easy-to-set-up workflows. There is a lot of scattered information even in the biggest enterprises today. Our solution sorts the clutter off our client's plates, and they have never been happier.

Another use case when SaaS works better than self-hosting is when you're trying to set up a remote workforce management process. 📇

Since SaaS solutions are directly connected to the internet, you can access their tools and services anywhere.

This is why remote workforce management software solutions are usually SaaS since these applications allow you to work outside the office and beyond the reach of your server, like Asana, Trello, and many more.

Share this Self-hosted vs SaaS Quick Guide with someone sailing in the same boat

To put it simply, the choice between a self-hosted service and a subscription model is to first understand:

  • Your requirement
  • Your IT team's bandwidth
  • Your budget

In case you do decide to self-host for use-cases that can easily be outsourced, here are some points that might weigh heavy in the long run:

Stretching your IT team too thin 😪

IT teams are the backbone of most enterprises. The company's growth is mostly codependent on an IT team's focus of the month. Asking them to manage each and everything in-house might dampen their productivity. It's essential to first understand your IT team's bandwidth as a self-hosting exercise of any scale means constant diligence and maintenance.

Be ready for a lot more investment in the long run 💸

Unlike SaaS, self-hosting doesn't work on a pay-as-you-go model. Once you decide to take that route, you would require certain specs or types of hardware for it to run smoothly. This means yet another investment for your company. Also, many of these systems need to be updated every year, which just adds to your time and cost as you would need to add more software and hardware as your data grows. If you feel your demand needs that investment, then be ready to incur additional costs each year.

Fear of safety 🧯

If you are using open-source software as you really should, your worries wouldn't just end at maintenance but staying on top of security standards against external and internal threats. Apart from maintenance, you would need a threat model. You would also need to take care of security breaches, server issues, and everything. It's up to you to understand the amount of load that your IT team is ready to take. Does the specific project demand that much time and resources or it can be outsourced?

If you feel like your requirement can be met with a third party- there is another thought that weighs heavy for many companies. Everything is hunky dory until data security rears its ugly head 🤯

Keeping robustness and scalability aside, one cannot ignore how the largest organizations also fall off the wagon when it comes to maintaining tight data security. Privacy scandals like Cambridge Analytica and a lot more come back to remind us of our lack of control. Recently, sensitive US military emails spilled online due to the lack of a password on their Private Cloud.

Is our data ever safe? 🤔

With issues on data security looming constantly…

How do you choose the right SaaS?

Here's how you can stay in control even when you use SaaS.

🥼 Firstly, it's essential to dig deep into how your chosen software treats your data. Apart from reading their feature list, it is mandatory that you go through security documents with an equally passionate vigor.

👩‍💼 You can also hire a cyber security expert to do a legitimate check into the authenticity of these reports.

☝️ It is also essential to know the process of what happens to your data once you choose to unsubscribe from a particular service. What's the migration process? What if they shut down or turn off a needed API? Take a thorough download before signing any agreement.

🚨 Do they have concrete security measures in place that customers can understand?

💁‍ What is their encryption procedure when information is transmitted from your device to their servers?

👨🏻‍⚖️ Are they SOC-2, PCI and ISO certified?

📓 Do they generate annual VAPT reports to examine vulnerabilities?

⛑ What policies do they follow in case of an emergency?

👁 Are they fully compliant with GDPR?

📤 Can you export your data from the tool to CSV files anytime?

␡ How do you delete your entire data from their tool once you plan on ending your subscription?

👩🏻‍💻 How do they backup your data in case of breaches?

Having these questions in front of you makes you an equal participant in this collaboration instead of leaving everything to the vendor.

Digging deep: Understanding how your data is hosted in today's age 🕰

Before the invention of Cloud Computing, everything was set in stone in the form of on-premise servers that required tons of power and IT maintenance. Now, we can access everything over the internet. Not that servers are redundant, but the boom of Cloud computing has led the way to more innovation and scalability.

Many SaaS companies create their structure on these Clouds. Out of the many out there, the Big 3 namely Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud lead most of the market share.

But again, no one can escape the threat of data breaches even under the guise of being the biggest Tech Giants.

That's where your SaaS product team's capabilities come in. After viewing the how and where is your data hosted, you can also dig into the ways they employ to keep it safe.

At Grid, we host our client's data on AWS. On top of the AWS infrastructure, we use a virtual and secure network environment to ensure that the software application always stays protected. This is achieved by hosting the application inside a virtual private cloud (VPC) and accompanying firewalls on the infra provider- so that everything is protected under a thick blanket.

Do you still own your data? 💭

Once your data is on another cloud, it's still you who owns it. You own what you use, what you want to keep or delete. On some SaaS providers like Grid, you can also limit the people who can view data within your team with the help of highly specific user permissions.  

Going back to the drawing board ✍🏻

Now that you've gone on a long journey on the differences between Self-hosting and SaaS, how do you figure out what's right for you?

SaaS raises concerns on secure functioning, doubts on returns and a number of add-ons that end up bloating the fixed subscription cost. But it comes with a ton of benefits that can scale your business immensely.

With SaaS or subscription models, you don't need to worry about many things.

Unlike self-hosted or on-premise applications, SaaS doesn't have to be downloaded and installed on your PC or device. Furthermore, it doesn't run on the same server as the one you use for your business, which leaves space for other important things.

No updates, installation or code ☃️

The biggest advantage of SaaS is the fact that it is a hosted service, which means you don't need to keep anything updated from your end. All you need to do is login via an app or a browser to access everything in one place.

The company takes care of you 😌

With SaaS you generally get a managed experience, meaning any issues you experience with the service will fall directly onto the company and it is up to them to resolve it quickly; so a wise choice in picking the right software for your need is your golden key.

You don't need to worry about backup and recoveries 🥳

Losing important data is everyone's biggest nightmare. With the world surviving on data, it's impossible to not worry about what happens to your data in case of a compromise.

💡 In 2021, ransomware attacks cost businesses worldwide $20 billion, and 37% of all organizations were attacked.

So, how do these companies maintain a backup for you? 😮

All SaaS employs a stringent data security and backup model.

  • They maintain encrypted databases which cannot be leaked by any third party even when compromised.
  • Other than that, companies maintain an encrypted replica of your data on another database on the Cloud. This duplicated data can be made available in case of any hack or compromise and is backed up on a regular basis on AWS- as we do at Grid.
In fact, this data recovery and backup process is the greatest asset provided by all SaaS. With an on-premise solution, the responsibility for timely data backups falls entirely on you.
  • SaaS also implements tight reporting and monitoring software that immediately informs the team when any server is failing - which makes the switch instantaneous to prevent any data loss.

You should also be ready to:

Project a 5-year plan 🪐

Your SaaS subscription costs do increase as your data and needs grow but it's lesser in comparison to a self-hosted setup. Reason being that you have an outsourced team looking after the hardware and software, maintenance and all that goes into giving you the best service. In fact, in the time of data loss or recovery, it's not yours, but your vendor's responsibility to do all the legwork which makes it an enticing option in place of doing everything yourself. As for the 5-year projection, you pay for what you use and your SaaS costs are in sync with your maintenance, cloud space, etc.

Lose (slight) control 🎮

Some SaaS products utilize a one-size fits all approach that might throw you off as you begin to feel that your needs aren't being taken care of. Unless you have a product that's specifically designed to solve your issues and is built on the premise of solving your challenges. This would mean that every new update is to enhance your experience so you don't feel stuck using redundant features.

Like on Grid, everything is customizable, you can create unique data workflows which gives you complete ownership and control.

The dilemma of making this crucial choice is highly dependent on your businesses' needs and capabilities. The factors above are just some of the few that you need to consider. Nonetheless, these are essential in helping make the right choice. Interested to learn more? Let's connect on LinkedIn.

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Udit Poddar
CEO @ WorkOnGrid | Enterprise SAAS
“Using Grid to track drill program progress and day to day expenditures has allowed VR Resources to make better decisions more quickly. The highly customizable and elegant interface allows me to track and manage all aspects of our field work and it’s clear after just a few weeks that the possibilities are nearly endless. Cost tracking estimates were consistently within expected variance of invoices received giving me further confidence in managing agile drill programs. Further the development team and customer support have been top notch!”
Justin J. Daley
PGeo, MSc, Vice President Exploration
VR Resources
VR Resources
“Grid has been extremely helpful in changing the course of multiple operations, here at U-Solar. We started with one module for Materials Management, and have now adopted Grid for 3-4 more processes, all of which have been smooth and quick to implement.”
IT Admin
“GRID has helped Hotel Polo Towers group to manage their assets and inventory through its simple, user-friendly yet dynamic application. Managing asset data have really been simple and it goes without saying that the technical support team members have done a tremendous job by providing quick and effective troubleshooting measures whenever required.”
Anirban Chatterjee
IT Manager - Corporate
Hotel Polo Towers
Hotel Polo Towers
“We assessed many platforms before going ahead with Grid. The turnaround time for implementation has been phenomenal with a direct impact on dealer engagement. We are looking to deploy Grid for a lot of our business functions and other group companies.”
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Vice President (IT & SAP)
Hop Electric
Hop Electric
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