One of the key benefits of SaaS (Software as a Service) is the auto update functionality which provides a host of pros to the end user. As a user of cloud based subscription software, I find the auto update functionality to be a truly spectacular thing, but it's important to understand all the ways it may impact you as an end user.
Each SaaS vendor has their own set of licensing terms, but here is a run down of what I generally see as the pros and cons specifically of SaaS Auto Updates.
- Updates are included as part of your monthly subscription. Never again will you get out of synch with the latest version of a software. It's easy to delay investing in or installing new versions, or to slip off plan with your annual Maintenance and Support (M&S), but when you're paying a monthly access fee for software you don't even have to think about it.
- You always have access to the latest and greatest features as soon as they are released.
- SaaS is nimble. It has to be to provide end users with innovative, relevant products that they will continue to invest in month to month. Your auto updates will keep you current with the latest technology trends and changes.
- With SaaS deployments, updates can be rolled out more frequently and tend to have smaller, more incremental changes in the software which reduces the learning curve of a new release. Rather than getting one large release a year, where you have to learn all the new functionality at once, you tend to get smaller, more frequent releases and can get up to speed with each before additional changes are incorporated into the software.
- Even the most perfectly tested new release, might hit a speed bump or two. With a SaaS deployment, if you encounter a bug or issue with the software, the vendor generally has the ability to roll out a fix much easier, and faster.
- You don't need any IT infrastructure to apply the update to your application, concurrent supporting software or hardware. Everything is hosted in the cloud, so no hardware worries, and the SaaS vendor applies the actual updates, which can result in significant cost savings in terms of human resources time.
- Typically, updates happen at discretion of the software vendor so you don't have the ability to coordinate when you get the latest version. You do however generally get advance notice of when the updates will be applied so can usually plan accordingly.
- There is no opt out. If the update contains a change or modification to a functionality that you would rather not implement, you don't have the ability to stay on your current version. But remember, this is what often leads to issues with on premise versions, and not staying up to date with the latest releases. There are more issues caused by "not moving forward" than are resolved, even if in the short term you can hang on to a particular feature.
- In line with the point above, when your software gets updated it might require some additional maintenance or modifications of supporting add-ons and/or integrations. You don't always have a say on the update timeline and this additional work may pop up at a time when you're not ready to do them. I've personally experienced this one when dealing with an auto-update that required a reinstall of some plug-ins to the product, making those features unavailable until I could make the time to do the updates on my system. Super frustrating, but in the end, still better to be current.
- Sometimes things get broken. This happens with any software update so I wouldn't say it's specific to subscription, but with subscription there is no "waiting a few months" to implement until the initial bugs are worked out. You get the software right away and may be the one identifying the bugs first. But, as outlined under pros, the ability to get a patch, or update to resolve a bug, is usually much faster with your subscription service.
I want to be clear that I am a fan of SaaS deployments and the auto-update feature even though I have been frustrated by some of the cons listed above. The other thing to remember is that it is the software vendor’s responsibility to make the auto-updates as painless and helpful as possible. You subscribe to the software, if they are not delivering on their promises, it’s easy enough to go elsewhere. Another great advantage of SaaS.
What are your thoughts on auto-updates of your SaaS products? I'd love to hear!
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