Is SaaS Enterprise Software the Answer? 3 Ways to Get the Best Solution For Your Business

Software improves your business processes and automates workflows. Discover when to use SaaS enterprise software and when to buy it outright vs developing your own solution.

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by Matias Emiliano Alvarez Duran


Just like you need to pay the water bill every month to get running water, you need to pay for some software access. Using software as a service (SaaS) solutions means renting or paying a subscription to access web-basedcloud platforms. And if you don’t pay the bill, you can’t enjoy the service. 

From Salesforce to Outlook, enterprises use a mix of different platforms to manage operations. And if you’re researching SaaSenterprise software, you’re probably on the look out for a new tool. You might also be wondering if you should choose SaaS over an on-premise solution, or if you should develop one on-demand.

This article has you covered! We’ve compiled a list of benefits and disadvantages to enterprise SaaS solutions, and a questionnaire for you to identify what type of solution will suit you best.

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you.

Table of contents

3 ways to bring enterprise-level software to your business

You can find enterprise software in three different packages: subscription-based, one-time license, or custom-made. There’s no one option better than the other, but some may not match your business needs. 

1. Software as a Service (SaaS)

Using SaaS as your enterprise software is a fast and effective way of solving an internal need. The SaaS business model is subscription-based, which means you pay a monthly or annual fee in order to use the product. Some SaaS products have different tiers so you can upgrade your plan as your requirements change. 

SaaS offerings are accessible through a web browser—you don’t need to host it on your servers or develop the app yourself. You can also stop paying or change SaaS vendors when needed. 

A good example of enterprise SaaS is Zoom, the popular video conferencing tool. You need to pay a monthly fee to host meetings that last longer than 40 minutes and have over 100 attendees. 

2. Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) enterprise software

COTS applications are the type of tools that you “own.” Get the license and download the software to host it on-premise. This type of software is slowly decreasing in popularity with the rise of SaaS, as it’s less customizable and requires server storage space. 

Microsoft Office is a popular example of COTS software: you need to buy it outright to be able to use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on your computer. 

3. Custom enterprise software development

Developing your tailored enterprise solution means getting a team of programmers to design and build the platform from scratch. Custom development can bring several benefits to your business as you get full customization and ownership of your data. Another advantage of custom enterprise software is that you get to determine and meet your security requirements.

Only develop a custom software solution if the options available in the market don’t solve your specific needs or if the app will be a product you sell to other users. For example, if you work for a SaaS company and your main product is a customer relationship management (CRM) tool for enterprises, you should develop the CRM in-house or through a vendor.

Rent, buy, or build your enterprise-level software and automate ineffective workflows.

13 things to consider before buying that enterprise SaaS subscription

If you’re about to subscribe to enterprise software as a service, you should consider the benefits and drawbacks associated with this practice. Mostly in terms of budget, security, functionality requirements, and performance.

What are the benefits of enterprise SaaS?

SaaS solutions aren’t just a fast and easy way to streamline ineffective business processes. They’re also packed with benefits for your enterprise-level business:

  1. You get 24/7 access through a browser or progressive web apps.

  2. Most of these tools require no installation, initial setup costs, servers, or equipment.

  3. There’s no need to incur hardware costs, you can cancel at any time.

  4. Most SaaS products are highly scalable and have different plans to better suit your needs as you grow.

  5. SaaS products are usually niche and solve a repetitive problem of a specific market.

  6. Your data is stored in the cloud–some products offer local and cloud-based backups.

  7. Most SaaS products have an integrated analytics module for you to review your metrics and boost data-based decision-making. 

What are the drawbacks of enterprise SaaS?

The SaaS model isn’t flawless and comes with a few drawbacks that you should consider before paying for a subscription:

  1. Vulnerable data. You’re sharing information with a third party, which makes it vulnerable to data breaches and cyber-attacks. If you manage information at the core of your business, you should make data security an important consideration.

  2. Less data ownership. You may lose your historical data if you change SaaS providers. If you choose the SaaS path, make sure they provide ways to export data. 

  3. Increasing costs. Many SaaS products offer plans by the user, so they might get too expensive as you grow.

  4. Software quality is out of your control. You may lose your data due to bugs, faults in their systems, or SaaS vendors running out of business.

  5. Limited customization. Even if the SaaS provider will incorporate your feature requests, you need to wait for them to prioritize and develop it.

  6. Limited data processing. Some SaaS applications tend to slow down when processing large amounts of data from enterprises. Ensure your service provider already works with businesses of your size—check out online reviews from similar users to determine customer experience.

When NaNLABS worked with a SaaS client called Amalgam, we stabilized its software and developed new integrations with QuickBooks and Salesforce.

How to choose between off-the-shelf, custom, or subscription enterprise software

Using SaaS to solve your business needs means you can automate workflows, get answers faster, and have your data safely stored in the cloud. However, you might need to consider other options like custom enterprise software development or COTS solutions. Before you make a decision, ask yourself the following questions.

Do you need high levels of customization?

If the answer is yes, and you’ll need to develop new features as you grow and implement the software across the different departments, you should consider a custom solution. 

Consider SaaS or off-the-shelf if the solution is already useful as it is, or has a large set of integrations or an open API. Also, choose these options if you’re okay with waiting for the software provider to develop new features. Ask the SaaS vendor what their process is to develop new features, if that’s something they can do, and if it will affect pricing.

Is there anything on the market with all the features you need?

If there’s an already existing solution on the market that has every functionality that you need, don’t spend time and money developing an internal custom solution, go SaaS or COTS. 

Designing your own internal tools is great because you get full control over the UI/UX and features. However, the development process can be time-consuming and expensive. Sometimes it may not be worth it, especially if there are other suitable options ready to set up and use. 

A good example of software that you should buy instead of developing is enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems like SAP or Oracle. These software vendors have been working on their products for several years and are frequently adjusting to guarantee customer success. 

Does the new system need to integrate with existing legacy software? 

If you use internal custom tools or other software and you need those to integrate with the new platform, make sure the connections are available or can be created. If those integrations are available for a SaaS or licensed product, buy instead of rent.

However, if your legacy software doesn’t connect with any platform and you need to build custom connections, develop a custom software solution. You’ll be able to create as many tools as you need and get them to integrate with all your internal tools.

When reviewing SaaS products for your business, they can all start to look the same. Pick one that covers your most important requirements—like security or current integrations. Source: Image by Freepik

How quickly do you need to deploy a solution? 

Pay for SaaS or an off-the-shelf option if you need an urgent solution to a pressing problem. There’s no reason for you to develop a custom solution if you don’t have the time. 

Depending on the developers, you could get a working beta application in 30-45 days. But, it’ll require further intervention to get it to process large amounts of information and be enterprise-ready. That’s if you have an internal developer already working for your company and can drop their other responsibilities to focus solely on this project. 

If you can’t spare your coders, you might need to look for a software development agency or hire programmers. Note that doing so will extend your timeline.

Do you need different user roles and access permissions?

Security is a crucial component of enterprise-level software. Your data needs to be safely stored, but you also need some control over who accesses the information. For instance, you might need fine granularity access and permissions. 

Before purchasing the license or subscribing to software, you need to truly understand your enterprise software security requirements so you can match them with their offering. If you find a match, you should be able to go for SaaS or off-the-shelf systems. However, if the software doesn’t meet your security requirements, you should consider developing a custom solution. 

How much ownership do you need over your data? 

This question relates to software security, but also to what happens with your data if you stop using the platform. Are you able to transfer it to a different tool? Can you download the records? Do you lose everything? What happens with your information if the company goes out of business?

If the software available on the market doesn’t allow you to keep your data after you leave or makes a copy of your data in your servers, SaaS might not be your best option. With COTS or custom software development you can save your data on-premise, that way you’re always the owner of your data and can keep it even if you switch providers or develop a new solution. 

How will you be onboarded onto the new software?

Some software has a steep learning curve and requires a lot of time and effort for your team to be fully onboarded with the platform. You should define how you’ll get onboarded and whether you have any support from your desired software. 

When you build custom software you have more control over the UI/UX and can make sure it’s easier to set up and use. Also, you can always ask the data engineering team for help in case you need additional support setting up your account.

Use this map to choose between SaaS, COTS, or custom development. Start answering the question you find most relevant to your business.

What if I don’t have the expertise to develop my enterprise software in-house?

If you’ve decided to develop your custom enterprise software solution but don’t have the expertise in-house, you can partner with a software development agency like NaNLABS. We can work as an augmentation of your team and integrate with your systems and processes. 

We’re not just coders, we’re also consultants. If we spot an issue with your development plan, we’ll let you know and help you find a solution. How do we do it? Well, we keep on top of industry trends, incorporate the latest technologies, and follow Agile principles to ensure your code source has high coupling and low cohesion (so it’s easier to maintain in the future). 

Take it from our partners! Here are a few examples of projects we’ve loved working on:

  • Turning a minimum viable product (MVP) into enterprise application software (EAS) for Amalgam. This is a financial and accounting client that had an MVP filled with high technical debt. We managed to turn the MVP into an EAS and continue to work with them to maintain the back-end. 

  • Scaling software and implementing new features for a cybersecurity company. This is an internet of things (IoT) cybersecurity company that grew faster than expected and needed to strengthen the foundations to serve enterprise-level customers. We managed to do exactly that, along with increasing the team's performance and using a serverless infrastructure. 

  • Turning an idea into a pilot and into an EAS for a privacy management client. This company shortens the distance between developers and privacy policies. They needed to test a pilot within 45 days. We delivered and then continued working with the client to scale the application as their augmented software team. 

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you.

Choosing the right solution: SaaS, custom, or off-the-shelf 

If you need software to solve an internal business problem, you can either purchase a subscription, a software license, or develop your tailored solution. Each option comes with different benefits and drawbacks that have to do with:

  • How much money you’ve budgeted for this

  • When you need to solve the problem

  • The security guidelines you need to follow

  • How much ownership you need over your data

  • The solutions that already exist in the market

  • How much customization you need

Buying subscription-based software is a great choice if there’s a tool that solves your needs, has the features that you want, lets you retrieve your data and is secure. SaaS is a fast and efficient solution to most business problems. However, these lack customization freedom and may become too expensive if they charge per user. Also, SaaS might sometimes run slow with large amounts of data. 

Getting the license to use software on-premise is a good alternative to SaaS if you need to host the platform on your servers. With COTS, you own your data and can make adjustments to increase the security of the tool. However, these are harder to customize as you need to wait for the issuer to do it, and might become outdated if the company stops updating the source code and features.

If you have specific needs or security concerns and want to have full control over your customization and data, you should develop your custom software. Augment your team with a group of experts like the developers at NaNLABS.Get a long-term software team and customize your app as much as you like. 

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you.

Frequently asked questions about SaaSenterprise software

  • What is enterprise SaaS?

    Enterprise software as a service (SaaS) is a software solution that’s suited for large organizations, is subscription based, and is accessed online. Examples of enterprise SaaS include:

    • Business intelligence tools like Tableau

    • Video conferencing software like Zoom

    • Online store hosting like BigCommerce

  • What’s the difference between SaaS and B2B?

    The difference between SaaS and B2B is that one is software and the other is a transaction type. 

    • SaaS stands for software as a service, this means you get to access a product online by paying a monthly subscription—just like you would for any other service. 

    • B2B stands for business-to-business, which means a product was created by a business and the main target is another business.

    You can often see B2B SaaS together, which means that a business offers software as a service and sells it to other businesses. For example, Slack, the instant messaging corporate app, is a SaaS product that’s also B2B. It was created by a company that sells subscriptions to other companies. 

  • What is the difference between SaaS and enterprise SaaS?

    The difference between SaaS and enterprise SaaS is that the enterprise one supports large amounts of data. Regular SaaS might not have the infrastructure to support extremely big files.

  • What are the pros and cons of SaaS?

    The pros and cons of SaaS are: 


    • It’s accessible online 24/7

    • Require no hardware investment 

    • You can cancel anytime

    • Most support scalability, you can use the same tool as your business grows


    1. You don’t own your data

    2. You can’t control security threats

    3. Most SaaS products are charged by the user, it might become too expensive

    4. Doesn’t allow for full customization

  • Should I use SaaS or develop my own solution?

    If you’re wondering whether to use SaaS or develop your own solution you should consider evaluating internal needs like:

    • Security 

    • Customization 

    • Data ownership

    • Budget

    • Deadline

    And match those answers with existing SaaS products. If there aren’t any that meet your needs, you should consider developing your custom software solution.

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