“Software-as-a-Service” has become one of those industry buzz phrases which is plastered across cyberspace, but is rarely–if ever–understood completely. Deep in the the crowds of the numerous digital signage software vendors there are those who are continually shouting, “software as a service!” but less are actually providing a FULL SaaS solution for their software. What is the difference between digital signage on the cloud, or sign hosting, and full software-as-a-service? I am going to briefly discuss some of these issues because there are always those that take a very self-serving definition for software-as-a-service.
What Does Software-as-a-Service Include?
There is certainly a difference between hosting content assets for a network and offering software-as-a-service. SaaS requires a few vital elements above and beyond standard content hosting and content management. First, software-as-a-service is just that, it means there is service involved. Hosting alone does not necessarily entail all the service involved in SaaS. Oh contra ire, true SaaS means there is a customer service rep of some sort on the other end. While this required service may not include 24x7x365 operators on call, it should give signage customers some sort of warm fuzzies knowing they’ve a customer service agent on-call during normal business hours. I could certainly devote an entire treatise, not just a post, to customer service. I won’t, but I would like to side with Walt Disney who said,
Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.
I can also relate with Jerry Fritz who said,
You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.
The second and vital component in software-as-a-service is generally some hardware or software maintenance. In many instances, there is no guarantee on hardware, but software should be completely maintained under the maintenance contracts of SaaS providers. I see personalized quotes sent out daily to various companies around the globe whose recurring software or hardware maintenance states, “18% for annual maintenance and support.” While this generally is quoted out in non-SaaS scenarios, SaaS offerings get the hosting and then some, which would generally include some software and hardware maintenance.
Hardware maintenance would certainly include redundancy of servers in the server farm, and replacement of any server that goes down. It may not include support for the digital signage player. Software, on the other hand, is generally a bit more flexible when it comes to regular updates, upgrades, fixes, and patches. If the digital signage software you are working with does not include a development team who works for the betterment of your network, you may want to consider getting something new. Every industry, including this one is in a constant change mode. If your provider does not adapt, they will die. And their death means the leaches that feed off of them will also soon die accordingly.
Third in the list of required aspects to software-as-a-service is initial and on-going training. Initial training is perhaps the most important aspects in the “service.” Even in the instance of hosting your own software, there is generally some training given. Some are slower than others in grasping how different software platforms can perform and hence training requires patience and is best measured on a case-by-case basis. The second most important type of training beyond initial training generally includes new software updates training. This type of training is less time-intensive because it usually is only used to explain a new feature or widget, but this type of instruction is often necessary to keep vendors up-t0-snuff on latest trends. Webinars are one of the most excellent methods in accomplishing this.
The fourth and final aspect often overlooked in providing true “software-as-a-service” is the hosting itself. Sadly, hosting content is often all that is provided in many instances. The “service” of an actual human being is eliminated and the only piece of the pie is the content, content management portal, and data storage and transfer options. There is not too much actual service to render once the hosting is set up for such a network. True software-as-a-service requires so much more than many are willing to give.