HGTV Magazine SubscriptionI'm a magazine junkie.  I admit it but I don't actually consider it a problem although my husband may disagree.  While I love all my subscriptions, I do play favorites and eagerly await my HGTV issue each month.  I love to see what the latest trends and styles are for home décor.   

What does this have to do with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)? Many of the advantages I get by subscribing to HGTV magazine help to highlight the many benefits of software subscriptions.

  1. Simple to Setup.  All I needed to do to start reading my HGTV magazine for the first time was open my mailbox, take out the first issue, and start reading.  There were no complicated steps involved unless you count walking to the mailbox.  The same is true for subscription software services.  Unlike traditional, on premise installations which often require time and effort to install and configuration before you can begin using the product, subscription services just require you to login to the software through your internet browser.  You may need to tweak a few personalized user settings when accessing for the first time, but basically once you login you are able to use the software.
  1. Seamless Trial to Purchase.  When starting my subscription with a free trial issue, it was simple to move to an annual subscription with the process occurring automatically.  Many software subscriptions also offer free trials that make it easy to test drive the product.  If you decided you want to continue with the product you can seamlessly transition to the software subscription after the trial period has finished. 
  1. Always Current.  If I didn't subscribe to HGTV I might be reading outdated issues of the magazine and selecting paint colors that are passé.   Being behind in the software version that you are using can have even more negative consequences on your productivity than poor paint choices.  With a subscription service, you are always using the latest release of the product.  There is no missing out on the newest features or critical bug fixes because you're not current with your maintenance and support or because IT wasn't available to perform the upgrade for you.  Once a software version is released, you have immediate access to the newest version through your subscription.
  1. Low Maintenance.  I do absolutely nothing and still I get a beautiful new issue delivered to my mailbox each month.  It's low maintenance and so is a software subscription.  When the latest version comes out, what do you have to do?  As I outlined in number three, absolutely nothing.  Just login to your subscription and you have access to the latest version.  It couldn’t be easier.  You don't have worry about things like upgrading your server to support the latest version, scheduling down time so you can perform the upgrade, or performing a backup in case something goes wrong during the upgrade process.
  1. No Expertise Needed.  If I didn't have my HGTV magazine, I would need to hire an interior designer to help me make good choices on how to decorate my home. This would be costly and definitely outside my budget.  When you install traditional client-server software, you need to have not only the hardware in place but also the technical staff available to manage the system.   With the subscription software option, you are not installing anything on your server and there is no complicated system to manage.  You just access the software through a web browser and you're all set.  This can really translate into a significant cost savings.
  1. Accessible Anywhere.   I can bring my magazine with me anywhere I want to read it and with an online copy I can also access it from my tablet or PC.  Subscription software also allows you access from multiple locations.  Employees who are working from home can login to the software as easily as someone onsite at your offices.  Or, if you're off-site for meetings and need to check on something just login with your tablet.  Any device that has access to the internet can access your software subscription.
  1. Easily Scalable.  My neighbor loved my HGTV magazine so much that she purchased her own subscription.   My entire circle of friends could get a subscription to the magazine if they wanted and it wouldn't impact the quality of the magazine that I receive every month.  Software subscriptions are also easily scalable.  An organization can add as many additional users as they needed instantly and without stress.
  1. Extremely Secure.  When my HGTV magazine arrives, it sits securely in my mailbox protected by federal law.  I know it is safe.  Many people often express security concerns about moving to a subscription service.  While I understand these may be valid concerns for your organization, in many cases security can be more of a pro than a con for subscriptions.  The subscription providers take on the security responsibility for your data including functions such as regular backups and disaster recovery services.  What the vendor provides is often at a level well beyond what your organization could afford on their own.  When evaluating software subscriptions be sure to ask detailed questions about how their company handles security.
  1. Ownership of Data.  If I decide that I no longer want to continue with my HGTV subscription, which of course would never happen, I still get to keep all my back issues.  When you use a software subscription service, you own your data so if you ever cancel the service, the data is still yours.   However, keep in mind that once you cancel the software subscription, you will not be able to use the software to access the data so you'll need an alternative solution.  If you decide to discontinue maintenance and support for an on premise product, you still have ownership of the software and can continue to use the older version.  One other consideration is that once you sign a subscription contract you are generally committed to the service for a specified number of months and cancelling before the end of the term can incur a penalty.  Be sure you understand the cancellation terms for any subscription services you are evaluating. 
  1. Lower Initial Investment.  If I didn't subscribe to HGTV magazine, I would still end up buying it but at a higher rate.  And, if I'm in the bookstore anyway, you know I'm going to pick up some extra magazines while I'm there causing me to spend even more.  Subscription services allow you to access the software at a monthly rate rather than a traditional on premise purchase option in which you pay for the software upfront.  This can help to reduce your initial investment.  On premise purchases often also have annual maintenance and support fees whereas your subscription service will include this fee in the monthly rate.   You'll need to look at all the costs as well as potential savings in order to determine which is a better ROI for your organization.  One thing to keep in mind is that even though subscriptions have a monthly rate, some require an annual or semi-annual payment of the subscription fees.

As with any decision, there are always pros and cons so it's important to consider all the factors to determine which deployment option is a better fit for your organization.  Not every benefit listed above will apply to every software subscription service so you need to evaluate each purchase individually to determine if it is the best solution for your organization.   I think you'll find that often the best choice is the subscription option.

As you can see, software subscriptions have a lot of benefits just like my HGTV magazine!  If you'd like to learn more about the financial,  fundraising and grant management software subscriptions that we offer.

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Soft Trac is a woman-owned business and accomplished team of nonprofit software consultants.  We believe in making nonprofits "do good" better.