In a world that seems to be dominated by SaaS apps, why does it sometimes make sense to self host your own applications? Software as a Service has its merits, freeing you from the administrative burdens of licensing, maintaining and updating software – time that can be used towards your core business instead. But why are self-hosted apps, in a local or cloud environment, making a resurgence lately?
Our hypothesis is that this can be explained by a combination of factors. Hosting your own applications has never been easier thanks to on-demand, cloud infrastructure. The market has exploded with free, open source applications have feature parity to SaaS subscriptions. Finally, today’s organizations are storing data that is more sensitive to their missions than ever. Protecting this data is an imperative for the success, if not the survival of the enterprise.
Easy Access to Cloud Infrastructure
The advent of the cloud has put enterprise-grade, high performance and fault tolerant infrastructure within the reach of businesses of any size. Today’s students of the IT world are learning with the tools they’ll use in the workplace, making clouds such as AWS, Azure and GCP a standard in the industry.
Many organizations are not settling for the “black box” of software as a service, but rather demanding to know the technical specifications of the infrastructure their business-critical applications run on. This way you have an idea how many users and what level of activity your app should tolerate, rather than being at the mercy of a “status page” and support tickets when your app goes down. Although it’s virtualized, the cloud gives you the illusion of your own environment, where your resources are less likely to suffer from the “noisy neighbor” effect than with a SaaS.
The big benefit of cloud native applications, especially ones that support the latest technology like Docker containers, is portability. With self-hosted apps, you are free to adopt a public, private or hybrid cloud strategy. You don’t have to tear out your legacy infrastructure all at once and hand your data over to a third-party provider; you can phase in your migration to the cloud. No longer do your usage patterns have to fit neatly within the tiers dictated by your SaaS provider – you pay for exactly the infrastructure you need to support the number of users, storage, documents created or emails sent you need. There’s a lot less room for arbitrary markups. Why should you let a SaaS company tell you that twice the users should cost twice as much, when in reality, they use a negligible amount of incremental server resources?
Abundance of Open Source Applications
Open source applications are everywhere, and they’re free for the taking as long as you have the infrastructure expertise to host them. In fact, many open source projects are supported by commercial ventures that earn revenue by selling the exact same software as a subscription service. This is true of almost all of the open source business apps we offer to our clients, including NextCloud, InvoiceNinja, RocketChat and Mautic.
By hiring a cloud consultant, you can pay once up front to have them recommend the infrastructure you need to effectively use an open source software suite. The service you’ll receive will be much more personalized than an onboarding or support team with a SaaS. Once the implementation is in place, your costs will grow at a slower pace than your usage, because you’ll only be paying for the infrastructure needed to support your usage, not a support or licensing contract.
It’s still a good idea to maintain an ongoing relationship with a service provider to keep the app backed up, secured and updated – but these costs are generally less than paying per seat, or once you’ve exceeded arbitrary usage tiers on a SaaS platform.
Data Protection and Sovereignty Concerns
Finally, choosing a self-hosted solution puts your data back into your control. If you subscribe to a SaaS, you usually agree that your data can be stored in the jurisdiction of the service provider’s choice, usually the United States. Many European customers need to follow the General Data Protection Regulation and/or EU Data Protection Directive which mandates that data is stored within the EU, in the countries that your users consent to.
Many organizations have suffered from a slow pace of IT transformation because their internal policies are incompatible with the data processing practices of common SaaS providers such as Dropbox, Office 365, Slack and Intuit or Freshbooks. When you go self-hosted, a cloud architect can work with you to choose infrastructure that is compatible with your data protection needs. You can apply additional layers of encryption, or choose certain geographical regions if that makes you more comfortable.
Often, control over your data isn’t just a legal problem, but a practical problem. Did you know that Slack will only allow you to view your employee’s private messages if you have an Acceptable Use Policy that is deemed acceptable by them, and only if you have a Slack Plus subscription? If you had used RocketChat instead for example, you can dump your data to a .csv file at any time, and preserve it on a different server than your production instance.
For the foregoing reasons, we believe that self-hosted apps are the way to go for many enterprises from both a cost and security standpoint. If you are thinking about adopting an open source app with professional support, please do not hesitate to contact one of our cloud architects.