SaaS in Higher Education: What Your Institution Should Know
In your quest to choose the best web content management system (CMS) for your college or university, you’re going to come across the choice of either SaaS or self-hosted (also known as on-premise).
What is SaaS?
SaaS is an acronym for “Software as a Service.” With a SaaS CMS, you simply purchase a license and then access the software online through cloud technology. This simply means that software delivery occurs over the internet.
Just as myriad industry sectors are moving to cloud-based computing to power business and information exchange, so, too, are colleges and universities looking to use SaaS in higher ed as a way to work faster and more flexible.
What are the differences between SaaS and self-hosted software?
With a SaaS CMS, your connection is secure, data is safely stored in the cloud where files can be accessed anywhere and at any time, and the software vendor’s expert tech team makes updates worry-free with ongoing system maintenance. Best of all, using cloud-based software in higher ed reduces expenditures of effort, time, and money, easily shaving 20% or more from the IT budget.
A self-hosted CMS is a do-it-yourself solution that your institution purchases, manages, and maintains. This is a good option if your school wants to be responsible for the software and hardware, operating systems, servers, and networking used throughout campus. With data stored locally, your school has full control of the system.
Which one is right for your school?
|Autonomy||Strict security measures safeguard all data in the cloud||Complete data autonomy with institution having total control over all centralized data|
|Direct Costs||No up-front capital costs for purchasing, installing, or hosting software and no costs for maintaining, securing, or replacing hardware||Institution invests in and owns all hardware; up-front costs usually include ongoing maintenance and support staff costs|
|Ease of Use||Less time-intensive to implement; CMS provider handles all technical aspects of implementation||May take more time to get up and running; institution is responsible for technical implementation|
|Control||CMS provider experts manage and monitor your school’s website data||Institution has complete control over all infrastructure|
|Integration with Other Systems||CMS provider handles integrations as specified by the institution||Institution must have deep knowledge of other campus systems and is responsible for all integrations|
|Longevity||System stays current as long as vendor is in business||System is owned and operated by institution; despite security and operating risks, can use software long after it is out of date|
|Maintenance & Updates||System maintenance included in licensing fees, as well as automatic updates without service interruption||Institution’s IT team is in charge of day-to-day system maintenance, as well as scheduling updates|
|Mobility & Accessibility||Website files are available to update 24/7/365 from any internet connection||Website files are available to update when system is up and running|
|Scalability||Server space is unlimited, allowing flexibility for system to grow seamlessly as users increase with no interruption in system service or efficiency||Hardware can accommodate set number of users; additional expenses are incurred to purchase add-on hardware as users increase|
|Security||All patches and updates are monitored daily by CMS provider; ongoing monitoring wards off critical privacy and security issues to ensure optimal protection||Institution’s IT team monitors security and makes updates to system as time allows; data is secure in centralized location, but without ongoing monitoring, could be vulnerable to internal leaks and security breaches|
|Staff||Limited school resources needed as hardware infrastructure and management are CMS provider’s responsibility||Dedicated institution personnel required to keep system running efficiently and effectively|
What is cloud infrastructure in higher ed?
Cloud technology is no longer a trend—it’s a reliable, flexible, and affordable solution for distributing and managing software. While many sectors have added value by using cloud technology, using SaaS in higher education has been particularly beneficial with online programs, virtual classrooms, and electronic delivery of materials to students. Cloud-based apps and storage have minimized the need for physical storage. And colleges and universities have been able to increase their geographic reach since students can now access learning from any location.
There are several reasons that cloud-based solutions are gaining ground over self-hosted solutions, but the biggest is probably service. A cloud-based enterprise system isn’t just about software. Utilizing the cloud releases the institution from the burden of hardware purchases, as well as installation and maintenance of the hardware and software. At Modern Campus, our goal is to support and service Omni CMS, or SaaS CMS solution, better than our customers could if they purchased the software and installed and serviced it themselves.
What advantages does SaaS offer a higher ed institution?
In addition to service, there are other ways higher education institutions benefit from SaaS. You can expect to:
Lower up-front investment costs.
You probably already use SaaS for Microsoft Office Suite, project management tools, or a customer relationship management (CRM) system like Salesforce. With SaaS, there are no up-front costs for purchasing, installing, or hosting software and no costs for maintaining, securing, or replacing hardware.
Refocus your IT Team on priority projects.
When you purchase a SaaS CMS license, software upgrades, security, and reliability become the CMS provider's responsibility, allowing your IT team to refocus their efforts. A SaaS CMS provider will deploy new software updates without interrupting service. There’s nothing to download or install—changes happen automatically and often are invisible to end users. SaaS eliminates the risks that come with hosting a system on campus, especially one that powers something as important as your website. You have peace of mind that an experienced, off-site team will keep you up and running. Who better to oversee your CMS than the actual team who designed it?
Decrease the learning curve.
Users access a SaaS CMS through web browsers—there are no additional applications to install and maintain. Interfaces are familiar and generally easier to learn and navigate. This intuitive experience contributes to higher adoption rates. A SaaS CMS also ensures that every user is working with the same version of the application, eliminating the headache of software discrepancies. No matter what computer, device, operating system, or web browser a user has, a cloud-based CMS will offer the same features and functionality.
Scale up or down as necessary.
Because everyone uses the same tools, templates, and content libraries, a CMS lets you expand your pool of website contributors while ensuring brand consistency. With a SaaS CMS, you can readily grow your team of users—just adjust your license as needed. Distributed team members can access your CMS and update your website from anywhere they have internet access.
Enjoy consistent pricing.
There’s nothing more frustrating than investing in software only to pay again for new features as you’re forced to adopt the latest version. Unexpected hardware replacements or upgrades also can break your budget. SaaS CMS costs are predictable, just like subscribing to a magazine or leasing a car. For institutions operating under tight budgets, SaaS offers valuable stability and confidence. And in some cases, maintenance costs decrease since you no longer need a hardware budget, physical storage location, or additional manpower to oversee hardware.
Eliminate worry over storage.
Storage is no longer an issue since data is stored in the cloud instead of on clunky servers sitting at various locations around campus. Because your CMS is cloud-based, this means no more worrying if the electricity goes out or a major storm hits.
Enhanced security is a constant because updates are instantaneous, meaning no more OS security patches, hot-fixes, or waiting around until someone on your team can oversee upgrades. Data transmissions are encrypted using SFTP and SSL.
Your Higher Ed Institution’s CMS: Why Choose SaaS?
What’s the big deal about using SaaS with Omni CMS and other CMSs? There are six main advantages to using SaaS in higher education:
1. You’ll save money and can put those funds elsewhere.
SaaS adds up to savings as you slash hardware budgets and more efficiently deploy your IT staff. For smaller colleges, a SaaS CMS can open the door to powerful programs that might otherwise be too costly to buy and manage. For larger institutions, it can permit budgets and time to be aimed at other priorities.
2. Your CMS will always be up to date.
With SaaS, new releases, upgrades, and security patches are automatic. Likewise, viruses, bugs, and other vulnerabilities are monitored around-the-clock, making fixes fast.
3. Your system uptime will increase.
Because of reliability and oversight by experts who know the CMS inside and out, your school’s software uptime will increase.
4. Your institution’s site will be more reliable.
Omni CMS SaaS customers frequently report that their sites become more stable once they make the move to SaaS. They can handle the traffic spikes that tend to accompany big news announcements, aggressive marketing campaigns, or campus emergencies.
5. Your data will be secure.
System and data security are the top concern for most of our customers. Like every other facet of Omni CMS, our security features are designed with common higher education needs in mind, such as protecting student information, for example. We encrypt data transmissions between your campus and our servers using SFTP and SSL. You can continue to store sensitive data on campus systems—Omni CMS can retrieve it as needed using secure connections.
6. Your system will be more flexible to adapt to industry changes.
A SaaS CMS can be updated quickly because of the speed and flexibility of this type of system. But don’t think you’re sacrificing customization. On the contrary, every Omni CMS deployment is designed to order. We configure the modules you choose, integrate with other systems hosted on campus or in the cloud, and offer a CMS that meets your specific campus needs.
Your Higher Ed Institution Should Consider SaaS Across the Board
Understanding that college and university staff have limited time and even more limited budgets, Modern Campus made the leap years ago to offer a SaaS solution. Omni CMS was the first cloud-based CMS in higher education.
While we still offer self-hosted deployment to schools restricted to this type of setup, nearly 85 percent of our customers now choose SaaS. In fact, we have more SaaS customers than any other commercial CMS provider in the higher ed market. SaaS is less expensive, makes work easier and more productive, and leaves less room for error since we do all the maintenance and updates for you. Maybe it’s time for your school to give SaaS a second look.
Does a SaaS CMS make sense for your school? Schedule a demo today to find out.
Last updated: February 5, 2021