I wrote this post originally to my company blog.
In the press and in many online forums there’s a lively discussion about so-called vendor lock-in, a discussion about customers facing a situation where it is very difficult to replace the existing product with a new one, or the replacement costs are prohibitively high.
Indeed, vendor lock-in deserves your attention, it is good to stop and think before making software purchasing decisions. Let me list some common questions that may come into your mind:
- What if it is very difficult or impossible to get my own data out of the system?
- What should I do in case where my software provider drastically raises the license fees?
- What if my present provider stops supporting the product I’ve bought when a new version of it is coming to the market?
- What if I’ll find that another provider offers much nicer and suitable solution for me, and I wish to export all my data into a new one instead?
- What if I am forced to take the new version of the present solution into use, will it support our good old way of doing things – or must the entire organization AGAIN learn to use a new system?
- Must I once again survive a long and laborious implementation project?
- Do I make myself a ‘hostage’ by taking this software in use?
All these above-mentioned points lead to somewhat unpleasant situation. And no one seems to have solution to it. Googling (or binging) the notion ‘vendor lock-in’ does not bring up any solutions; only fears, threats, and horror stories. Vendor lock-in questions and fears have recently been rising into discussions thanks to the strong presence of various SaaS solutions and cloud computing technologies.
However the fact is that vendor-lock in can’t be entirely avoided, it always occurs – to some extent.I mean always. Both with Cloud/SaaS and with in-house software. But there’s a difference between these deployment methods.
The data of the on-premise and in-house software exists on your own servers and databases. In a way, it can feel safe, but the truth is that very often this data is unusable without the (internal) consulting project in which IT professionals are transferring, converting, and creating data for the next system. As you might guess, after that kind of approach it is common that a rather heavy implementation project starts; installations, testing teams, training sessions, and eventual renewal of business processes.
All this resulting in a situation where the end result can be admired after 8 months project…and having an effect on the company results after a year! Way too slow. And oops, did the business environment change during that time?
I dare also to claim that on-premise software is most often chosen without 100% knowledge of the data portability. In case that is checked out, is it often done by asking the vendor sales person “And the data can be easily imported?” Of course the answer is ‘yes’ accompanied with lots of reassuring in form of head nodding, and no one really checks that up in practice – before it’s too late to react on that.
SaaS services and most of the cloud providers do not require any technical installations; hence the implementation project is much slimmer. The ‘worst’ workload might occur with the training part. However the best SaaS solutions are so simple to use that a massive training program is often not needed.
I’d say it is quite rude to frighten up customers by speaking ill of the vendor lock-in with SaaS and cloud computing providers, if one offers on-premise software as a solution. There is a risk that you have locked in much more, as part of your IT infrastructure, process development, versions of your desktop clients and even operating systems become dependent to the on-premise software. The license prices of a ‘normal’ software could easily bounce up, as of any vendors. Just ask one ERP client 🙂
The vendor lock-in of the SaaS vendors is at its highest only as deep as with a ‘normal’ software. But most often less deeper and less risky, I claim.
If you want to minimize your vendor lock-in, it is not about whether you take an in-house, on-premise or SaaS product, but about which SaaS product you choose.
Before headlong SaaS decision you should at least browse through the below-mentioned articles. These might help you to better understand your options.