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July 23, 2019

6 Benefits of Software as a Service for Universities

Learn why Software as a Service is a cost-effective, secure solution for universities that want to streamline operations quickly without significant overhead.


According to EdTech, “Flexibility, scalability, and mobility are driving more colleges to the cloud.”  

As part of that trend, many universities have begun adopting Software as a Service (SaaS) into their broader IT ecosystem. In fact, nearly 80 percent of universities have implemented SaaS applications, based on a survey by eCampus News.

But what is SaaS exactly?

SaaS provides a seamless experience from the user’s perspective. University staff can simply log on to the system from a secure internet connection. Behind the scenes, SaaS vendors handle the infrastructure needed to keep their application running, updated, and safe - not your busy IT staff.

For universities that want to expand their IT capabilities without breaking the budget, this is a compelling option. Let’s take a closer look at six benefits of SaaS for universities, so you can make a case for your next software purchase.

1. Reduced IT Complexity 

It’s time to simplify. The EvoLLLution, a higher ed online newspaper, recommends that “Organizations should prioritize retiring legacy systems in favor of modern SaaS alternatives.” For universities juggling multiple homegrown systems, SaaS offers an opportunity to slowly untangle a complicated IT infrastructure, both by reducing its size and enabling more seamless integrations. 

For example, our client, Texas Tech University historically relied on a grant management system built by an in-house programmer. However, when that programmer moved on to a new opportunity, the maintenance of this tool began to fall apart. When they switched to a SaaS system, they no longer had to worry about who would manage the software.

The SaaS provider handles access to the application, including security, availability, and performance. This is referred to as a multitenant architecture. In other words, all users and applications share a common infrastructure and centrally maintained codebase. A shared model avoids downtime and redundant effort. And it saves money, which takes us to our next benefit.

2. Lower Cost of Ownership

Reducing your university’s IT infrastructure translates into a lower total cost of ownership. But that’s just the beginning.

Through economies of scale, SaaS vendors can monitor, troubleshoot, secure, and update your application more efficiently. In addition, technical support is more streamlined and accessible. The vendor passes these savings on to the customer. You’ll find that SaaS is often much less expensive than running equivalent applications internally.

Lastly, most traditional software applications require a hefty, upfront license fee. However, SaaS applications are licensed by subscription, usually based on factors like features, users, or storage capacity. One less line item in your budget!

3. Predictable Costs

Speaking of budget, IT managers often find it difficult to calculate the total cost of running a software application. This could include licensing, infrastructure, deployment, monitoring, and technical support. There could also be one-time costs for new or replacement hardware. Or, expenses for unexpected disaster recovery.

SaaS providers combine these costs into a fixed monthly subscription fee, making it easier to plan budgets and track operating expenses. 

In addition to predictability, SaaS helps universities from overspending on resources they don’t need. Let’s talk about scalability next.

4. Scalability

IT workloads at colleges and universities peak at certain times of the year. Typically on the deadline for admissions, during class registration, or when the school posts final grades. To be prepared for these peaks, universities often have to maintain more infrastructure than they actually need on a regular basis.

However, with SaaS, universities can rest easy that their provider has pooled resources for server and storage capacity, ready whenever the need is there. This also eliminates the risk of downtime, since SaaS can quickly scale up to meet demand.

This also means that as the needs of your department change and grow, or as you want to bring in the programs of other departments within your institution, your SaaS solution is ready to handle the new workload. You may need to change your subscription level, but the infrastructure will be all set, eliminating the need for you to change software systems. 

5. Faster Implementation

It’s this flexibility and customization that makes SaaS such an appealing option. And it’s most apparent when it comes to implementation. For example, most university clients using our application management software are up and running in just a few weeks. They have a dedicated Implementation Lead to set up the system and provide training, and a full team ready to offer ongoing customer support. 

Compare that experience with a typical software implementation in-house. IT leadership must assess infrastructure demands, integrate into the production environment, conduct testing, oversee go-live, implement training, and monitor any bugs or issues in the first version. That could easily take months, depending on the resources you can invest.

6. Data Security

It’s not always ideal to create a custom, in-house solution. Even when it comes to data security. 

Given that you’re trusting an external provider to host your data, it’s understandable that universities have been slow to accept SaaS solutions.

However, according to EdTech, “SaaS vendors run a single, highly uniform technology stack in hosting facilities that are typically more physically and digitally secure than the average server room. SaaS can be viewed as a safer choice when it comes to threats such as external hacks or insider information theft.”

That being said, universities should always review the SaaS vendors’ data security protocols carefully before signing a contract. We recommend checking out the Cloud Services Due Diligence Checklist for a more comprehensive tool to assess providers.

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For universities balancing both budget cuts and demands for growth, SaaS solutions can expand your IT capabilities beyond what you thought was possible. 

 

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