Owning software vs. leasing software (SaaS): A business decision guide

Jesse Meijers

Most businesses face a critical decision when it comes to their software solutions: to build and own their software or to lease it through a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Each option presents its own set of advantages and challenges. Understanding these can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your business needs, financial considerations, and long-term strategies.

The pros and cons of owning software

Downsides to consider

  • Ongoing development costs: Software isn't a one-and-done deal. To stay current and efficient, it requires continuous updates and development, which can be costly, especially if you need a dedicated team for development and maintenance.
  • Maintenance and hosting responsibilities: Owning your software means taking on the task of hosting and maintenance. This can be a significant, ongoing commitment that requires resources and expertise.

The advantages

  • Independence and control: Owning your software means you're not at the mercy of an external party's fate. If you host your solution, concerns about a service provider altering their offerings are off the table.  
  • Customization and control: When you develop your software, it comes with the perk of complete customization. You get to decide on the hosting, features, and updates, tailoring the software precisely to your business needs.
  • Cost-effectiveness over time: Though the initial investment in software development or purchase can be substantial, it may lead to lower costs per use over an extended period. This is true for businesses planning to use the software extensively for many years.

The SaaS Model: An Overview

The challenges

  • Recurring costs: Opting for SaaS introduces a constant, albeit predictable, expense in the form of subscription fees. While predictable, these costs can add up over time.
  • Limited control: With SaaS, decisions about hosting and certain backend processes are out of your hands, potentially limiting your ability to customize or control these aspects fully.

The upsides

  • Maintenance and development included: One of the most significant advantages of SaaS is that the subscription fee covers maintenance and further development. This not only simplifies budgeting but also ensures your software evolves without additional investment from your side.
The total cost of ownership (TCO) of software is a crucial factor. It includes initial development or purchase costs, maintenance, and hosting. Generally, the TCO for SaaS is lower than that of self-owned software, primarily due to shared development costs and eliminated maintenance expenses.
  • Ease of distribution: SaaS solutions are typically cloud-based, meaning they're accessible from anywhere, without the need for complex installations.
  • Enhanced security: Security is a top priority in the SaaS model. Updates and security measures are managed by the provider, ensuring your software is always up to date without extra costs (and building own secure applications is very challenging in practice).

Reliability concerns with SaaS

A common concern with SaaS is the reliability of the provider, especially if they're a smaller company. Make sure to check whether your provider offers escrow and continuity services to mitigate these risks, ensuring your business operations remain unaffected in worst case scenarios.

Making the Decision

Choosing between owning software or leveraging a SaaS model boils down to several factors:

  1. Long-term costs: Consider whether the upfront investment or ongoing subscription fees align better with your financial planning.
  1. Control and customization: Determine the level of customization and control you need over your software.
  1. Maintenance and security: Evaluate your capacity to handle maintenance and security in-house versus outsourcing these responsibilities.

Ultimately, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. By carefully weighing the advantages and downsides of each option, you can select a path that best supports your business's growth, operational efficiency, and strategic goals.

You may also like...

Ready to automate your business?

Take the Quick Scan to find your starting point!

Begin by automating one key process and iteratively extend automation throughout all your operations. Take the Quick Scan to get custom actionable insights for free.
Take the Quick Scan