In recent years there has been a movement towards software being provided “as a service” whether supplied free to induce users to buy/use other services/products or via a subscription model. The software provider usually gains through having a long term revenue stream. Companies gain easy access to ready-made and managed solutions to their problems. It all sounds perfect. However, there are risks in using Software as a Service (SaaS) that need to be understood and managed.
Creating an app or platform that integrates a 3rd party SaaS API ties you to that platform. If the platform is discontinued you have the complex task of re-writing to use the new API and migrating existing data. If there’s no similar alternative, you are faced with implementing the SaaS provided service for yourself.
Most SaaS providers are VC funded which means they tend to initially give away their APIs for free or at low cost to attract customers. Once shareholders start to want to see revenue, monthly fees increase. We are already seeing this with many beacon platform providers. Once Angel or VC funding runs out, platforms can disappear. A high profile example in the beacon ecosystem at the moment is Onyx.
The risks aren’t constrained to using VC funded companies’ services. Google has recently removed services related to the Physical Web. They are about to deprecate Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) that’s used in thousands if not millions of apps.
So what can you do? The first thing is do your due diligence. Is the company providing the SaaS you are considering likely to be around for the lifetime of your project? Is the company (like Google) renowned for deprecating services? Do you really need all the SaaS functionality or could you make do with a simpler developed or open source solution? Might you be able to use the SaaS for a proof of concept or minimum viable product (MVP) and plan to move to a developed solution?