You want a professional route planning solution and face the decision to either install&maintain it yourself or access it as “Software-as-a-Service” (SaaS) solution in the cloud? Hosting software yourself opens a can of worms: many decisions, investments, maintenance, and costs follow that are hard to estimate. This article covers what work a route-planning SaaS provider does for you, saving you costs and nerves.
In the Software-as-a-Service model, the provider is solely responsible for the development, installation, configuration, maintenance and operation. You use the service in the extent you need and pay a usage fee for it. For you as a customer, SaaS offers the following advantages:
- No up-front investment
- Fast implementation
- Transparent cost per month and user
- Low ongoing IT administration effort
- Mobile access from all devices and locations
- Rapid troubleshooting and regular updates
- Focus on your core business, not on IT
Do you, in spite of these advantages, estimate that your costs are cheaper by purchasing software and hosting it on your own? Then consider the following initial investments and ongoing expenses that you would have to face.
Initial investments saved by SaaS
Should you host software yourself, your employees and you will expect a quality of service on par with a SaaS solution like the portatour® route-planner. To achieve this quality, the following initial investments need to be taken, which the SaaS provider has already done for you:
- Redundant server hardware
To reach 24/7 availability, the server will run continuously. A failed disk must not interfere with your business. You need at least two servers with redundant components (power supply, hard drives, …). In addition, software and database must be properly configured for redundant operation.
- High-performance processors
Automatic route optimization is an extremely compute-intensive application. To ensure that your employees do not have to wait for minutes on results, you will need a multitude of expensive high-performance processors working in parallel. The more of them, the better (and more expensive). You purchase these fully, even if you only calculate and optimize routes a few times per day.
- Third-Party software licenses
It is not enough to buy the actual route planning application. You pay at least for the necessary operating system on the servers and the database system.
- Geographical Maps
Without maps no route optimization. So you need to negotiate a contract directly with the geographical map provider of your choice, license the material and install it on your servers. It goes without saying that the discount for a single company is not comparable to that of a cloud provider who is licensing en-masse for thousands of companies.
- Installation in own data center
The servers are only the beginning. You need a secure data center with access control, air conditioning, uninterrupted power supply, diesel generator with tank, smoke detection and fire extinguishing system.
- Automatic data backup
If you value your data, set up a regular backup. The shorter the backup interval, the better. A daily backup is already the minimum standard. Note that the backup must not be kept in the same data center as the production servers and you need to establish processes to transfer the data.
- Connection to the internet, firewall, routing
Your employees want to access portatour® route planning from anywhere they are. Therefore, you must connect your servers to the internet – with sufficient bandwidth and ideally redundant. You may need a second internet provider and correctly configured routers. Once the connection is established, your system must be protected by firewalls to keep uninvited guests out.
- Selection, installation, configuration
Each component of the overall system must be selected for compatibility with all others and the overall task. Then, each must be installed and documented. Rack-space in the data center, a power supply with sufficient UPS capacity, air-cooling power, internet bandwidth, public IP addresses, internal routing, processors, RAM, hard disk, operating system, database, web server, access permissions … all these parameters have to fit each other and need to be properly configured.
- Approval, financing, ordering, inventory
The investment quickly reaches into the region of tens of thousands of euros. With this amount you need to get internal approval, provide a finance plan, gather quotations from suppliers, compare them. Subsequently, you have to order all components, receive deliveries, control quality, replace wrong or defective parts, add each to inventory. Finally write off everything as an investment in the asset register of accounting over the years.
You are facing a big investment and your employees may face an unknown task. The whole project from decision to finalization may last months.
You ponder, whether some expenses can be cut? Only when sacrificing quality.
A SaaS provider runs this as core business, with experienced staff. He gets discounted prices and can plan and scale the operations. He has the platform already running. Often, your account is available within minutes.
Maintenance and operating costs saved by SaaS
After initial installation, the ongoing operation follows. Again, there are many pitfalls that can lead to a explosion of expenses and effort:
- Monitoring with automatic alarm
Each hardware and software component must be continually monitored and assessed – from the router to the database. Internal and external monitoring are needed to ensure 24/7 availability for the mobile workforce. Should something fail, you need internal processes to determine who when to alert to fix problems.
- Security updates for all systems
Do you know heartbleed? No? Then you might have a security problem! Associated with the operation of a server is a regular update of all software components in order to close security gaps. For some updates you only have a few days or hours to install them. Before updating, you have to guarantee compatibility by running the update within a test system. If the update fails, you should have established processes allowing fast recovery.
- Updates of the application itself
Good providers will provide updates of your application often – monthly or even more often. Both to correct errors and to introduce new features. You need IT staff capacity in order to install these updates on your servers.
- Ongoing map updates
The road network is constantly changing. New connections are built, one-way streets introduced, speed limits changed. You do not want your field staff receiving wrong route suggestions. Therefore, you must keep the map material up to date and regularly apply updates to your servers.
- Verify data backups and safety systems regularly
Your backups and security systems (UPS, diesel generator, fire extinguishing system, …) must be tested regularly to ensure their reliability in an emergency.
- Observe log files, track and resolve errors
Your IT department must observe log files to detect impending problems in advance. If an error occurs, tracking down causes is often not easy: is it a hardware or a software defect? Which component is the root cause? Is the supplier of the component (still) available and does he offer support?
- Replace failed hardware
If a hardware component fails, you have to replace it. For this purpose, it is an advantage to hold identical spare components on stock, to react quickly without having to check compatibility again. This additional inventory causes additional costs.
When you outsource these tasks to a SaaS provider, you outsource to someone who specialized on this work and you save costs that can reach into the tens of thousands of euros – each year.
SaaS pays itself from the first employee, is ready to go, and doesn’t distract you from your core business
Don’t get distracted by building your own IT infrastructure for route-optimization, which will bind your attention for years.
Especially when you want to evaluate software and run a pilot project before production use, SaaS is the right choice: you are ready to go immediately, start with selected users, and gradually roll out to all employees.
The “total cost of ownership” (TCO) is always transparent to you: the monthly license fees cover everything. There are no hidden or unplanned costs that were not anticipated before the project begins.
Rather than getting lost in an expensive, endless project, start with SaaS solutions such as portatour® and focus fully on your core business: serving your customers.