With software-as-a-service (SaaS) becoming more and more popular in the content management industry, everyone seems to have an opinion on the pros and cons of SaaS as a model.

There's truth. There's fiction. There's gazing at the crystal ball. Let’s have a look at a recent version of the most common misconceptions about SaaS in general, and SaaS Web CMS and Enterprise CMS myths in particular.

Gartner analysts have examined the top five assumptions for SaaS in general -- some positive, some negative and some more accurate than others -- and came up with a reality checklist on the state of the SaaS industry. We’ve looked at their list and put our spin on it as it applies to our CMS-tailored opinions.

1. SaaS is Cheaper Than On-the-Premise Software

Gartner say this can be true during the first two years, but may not be for a five-year total cost of ownership (TCO). With no initial large investment into SaaS applications, that makes sense.
Expect to see your TCO rising in the third year and beyond. Think of which expenses you can CapEx and depreciate with a traditional CMS deployment, making this TCO less expensive.

2. SaaS is Faster to Implement

While this may be true for basic business requirements, SaaS is not an answer to complex CMS implementations. Keep scalability in mind as you sign that contract.

CMS vendors’ sales teams (both traditional and SaaS) often quote much quicker implementation timelines that are very much disconnected from reality.

Add months (if not years) to that timeline, if your implementation increases in complexity or business processes and requirements change.

3. SaaS Only Charges for What You Use

Gartner says this assumption is false in the vast majority of cases. Many SaaS vendors state that they are utility-based providers, meaning they won’t charge you for what you don’t use.

Many traditional CMS vendors, in this case, can be considered utility-based providers as well. In the case with most SaaS deployments, this is not entirely true. A company must commit to a predetermined contract independent of actual use, according to Gartner.

In some cases, there’s a notion of “metered use” depending on the traffic it produces.

4. SaaS Doesn’t Play Well With Legacy Applications/Data Sources

Given that there are two primary methods of integrating SaaS, this is hardly true. The first method is batch synchronization, which initially involves exporting/importing your data into a SaaS application. Once this initial data load has been made, data can be incrementally synchronized on a scheduled basis.

Learning Opportunities

The second method is realtime integration via Web services.

5. SaaS is Only OK for Simple Implementations

Not true, but know that there’re implications and limitations. SaaS applications can be configurable and extensible. However, some gaps remain for complex, end-to-end processes that require complex workflow or business process management capabilities.

How Do You Know if SaaS is for You?

Just like with any other innovative technology, this is when you invest your hard-earned money into research. Things to consider:

  1. Overall Investment: Are you willing to pay a large amount up front or go with an annual/monthly subscription model?
  2. Applications Integration: Any legacy applications you want to integrate? How many? How? Does that fit into a particular SaaS model?
  3. Implementation Timeframe: Is SaaS really that much faster to implement?
  4. Security: Are you willing to (potentially) have your very sensitive data be stored outside the firewall?
  5. Support and Maintenance: Does your SaaS vendor offer any of that? For how much in recurring costs? Do you want to pay a monthly subscription fee?
  6. Vendor Stability: Are you sure you want to invest your cash in this particular SaaS vendor?
  7. New Releases: Do SaaS vendors really have shorter product release cycles? Are you willing to go through frequent upgrade pains?
  8. Scalability: Will your SaaS vendor allow for future organizational evolvement and code customizations?
  9. Compatibility: Is your prospect SaaS vendor compatible with your organization, goals, infrastructure, back-end development, code release practices?

Current SaaS Players in the Content Management Market

Here’s a sample list of vendors/trends we’re fondly following in the SaaS space, if you're looking for more information in a particular field:

SaaS Content Management

SaaS Localization

SaaS Blogging

SaaS Document & Records Management

To SaaS, or Not to SaaS: That is the Question

We’ve been keeping an eye on all things SaaS for quite a while now. From singing along to SaaS ECM gospels to examining red hot SaaS revenue trends, from wondering whether the SaaS industry is in a slump to rejoicing the rise of Web-based SaaS Content Management Systems.

While SaaS is not listed as one of the top 2009 strategic technologies for any lack of reason, beware of the hype. SaaS seems to be a fashionable suit in today’s world of technology, try it on before buying though. As with any new technological initiative that aims to sweep you away, it’s best to take that baby on a test drive first.

For comparison reasons, you may also want to look into open source and open source Content Management Systems and see if this is a technological option for you to consider. There are pros and cons there, too, though.

Make sure to take a look at our coverage of SaaS and hosted CMS trends. As always, we’d love to hear what you think about SaaS myths and realities. Let us know.