There have been a number of events and posts over the last few weeks that have raised issues with the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Now just to get things straight upfront, I think SaaS is great. There are some fantastic examples of ground breaking services being delivered to customers worldwide. But I do think that when you combine software running on devices and deliver Software + Services (S+S), things get even better (nice overview of S+S here).
One big disaster this week was that the bookmarking service ma.gnolia has lost all of its user data…! Although the bookmarking service is not in the same business impact league as services from players such as Microsoft, SalesForce and Google it does highlight the risk of letting other people hold your data for you. You have to look at who is hosting your data very carefully and insist on an equal (or to be honest better) level of redundancy and recovery than you would provide yourself. I think service providers have to be more open about these practices so that customers can weigh up the risks.
Another SaaS product that took some flak this week was Google in a scathing review from www.itpro.co.uk of the Google Apps Premier Edition. The main issue that is continually raised is the lack of functionality that we are used to having.
‘For presentations, Google Apps are barely adequate. There are 15 themes, all of which look tired and dated’
‘The toolsets in these main applications are quite rudimentary. The range of different fonts you can use is limited to just 12 (including Wingdings) in the word processor, just six in spreadsheets and presentations.’
The article ends with highlighting that with a cost of £25 per use per year ‘Over three years it is about half the cost of a single OEM license for Microsoft Office 2007 Small Business Edition and that gives you an awful lot more functionality’ and the most cutting comment of all:
All in all, Google Apps look far too simple, unfinished and, as Dr Johnson said: "Like a dog walking on its hind legs, it is not done well but you are surprised to find it done at all."
The other big Google SaaS news this week was that they have enabled offline browser access to GMail. As i posted earlier in ‘Isn't software + services just pragmatic computing?’ it should come as no surprise that people want offline access to email, and a huge number of software based email clients have been doing this for years. And I have to say, bringing web apps offline via the browser is an impressive technical feat – but most people will want to use a dedicated email client such as Live Mail as they will always deliver a far richer user experience. To the post ‘Google Gears – Lifeline of SaaS?’, I would have to say, no. The lifeline of SaaS is software designed for and running on the device that is being used.
PS – I wrote this using software while on an airplane with no internet access… But it was fine, all my emails and blogs are cached offline by my software…