The Ultimate Guide to SaaS vs Managed Services for Businesses, Founders and Startups

The Ultimate Guide to SaaS vs Managed Services for Businesses, Founders and Startups Featured Image

In the digital age, selecting the right technology model for businesses can be a complex task. With a variety of models available, each comes with its unique set of features, benefits, and drawbacks. Among them, Software as a Service (SaaS) and Managed Services stand out as two predominant models that businesses, founders, and startups frequently consider. This guide seeks to demystify the choice between SaaS and Managed Services, offering a comprehensive view of these models. We delve into their definitions, explore their key differences and similarities, and highlight their advantages and disadvantages. We further present scenarios in which one may be favored over the other, equipping you with the knowledge to choose the most suitable model for your specific needs.

What is SaaS and what is Managed Services?

Software as a Service (SaaS) refers to a cloud-based software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or a service provider and made available to customers over the internet. Typically, SaaS is based on a subscription model where customers pay a regular fee to access the software, eliminating the need for businesses to install and run applications on their own computers or in their data centers. This not only removes the expense of hardware acquisition and maintenance, but also of software licensing, installation, and support.

On the other hand, Managed Services represent a strategic method for improving operations and cutting expenses in businesses. It implies outsourcing the company’s IT management responsibilities and functions as a strategic method for improving business operations. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) take care of specific segments of a business, depending on the contracted service. It can range from managing the company’s IT infrastructure and end-user systems to cybersecurity services.

Key differences between SaaS and Managed Services

  1. Pricing Structure: SaaS models usually operate on a subscription basis, with customers paying a regular fee to use the software. In contrast, Managed Services might involve a broader range of pricing models, depending on the specifics of the services provided.
  2. Control: With SaaS, the service provider retains most of the control over the software application, while with Managed Services, the client has more control over their IT systems, and the MSP only takes control of the aspects agreed upon.
  3. Responsibility: In a SaaS model, the vendor is responsible for everything from application uptime to security and updates. For Managed Services, the MSP is responsible for the overall management of the services agreed upon, which could include a variety of different tasks.
  4. Customization: SaaS solutions are typically standard for all users, allowing for minor configuration changes but not major customizations. On the other hand, Managed Services can be heavily customized based on the specific needs of the client.
  5. Scope of Service: SaaS typically pertains to the delivery of a specific software product over the internet. Managed Services, on the other hand, cover a broader scope, including managing a company’s IT infrastructure, network systems, or customer service.
  6. Deployment Speed: SaaS applications are typically quicker to deploy as they are standardized and ready to use. Managed Services, due to their customized nature, may take more time to implement fully.

Key similarities between SaaS and Managed Services

  1. Subscription Based: Both models are typically subscription-based, offering services in return for a regular fee, usually monthly or annually.
  2. Vendor Support: Both SaaS and Managed Services provide ongoing vendor support to ensure the smooth operation of the services they provide.
  3. Focus on Core Business: By leveraging either SaaS or Managed Services, businesses can offload certain tasks, allowing them to focus more on their core operations.
  4. Cost Savings: Both services can lead to cost savings for businesses by reducing the need for investment in infrastructure, reducing staffing requirements, and simplifying budgeting with predictable pricing.
  5. Scalability: Both SaaS and Managed Services are scalable, allowing businesses to easily adjust their level of service based on current needs and future growth.
  6. Access to Expertise: With both SaaS and Managed Services, businesses get access to a pool of experts who specialize in the area of service provided, which might not be feasible to maintain in-house.
  7. Up-to-date Technology: Both models ensure businesses can access and utilize up-to-date technology without the need for substantial upfront investment.

Pros of SaaS over Managed Services

  1. Lower Initial Costs: Since SaaS applications are subscription-based and hosted in the cloud, businesses do not need to invest in hardware for hosting the software. This reduces the upfront expenses.
  2. Quick Deployment and Adoption: SaaS applications are pre-built and ready to use. This can significantly reduce the time needed for the implementation process, accelerating the time to benefit.
  3. Automatic Updates: With SaaS, the vendor takes care of all updates and upgrades, eliminating the need for users to download or install patches. The SaaS provider also manages availability, so there’s no need for users to add hardware, software, or bandwidth as the user base grows.
  4. Accessibility and Mobility: As long as there is an internet connection, SaaS applications can be accessed from anywhere in the world on any device. This offers unprecedented mobility to businesses.
  5. Scalability: SaaS solutions can be easily scaled up or down based on business requirements. Businesses can adjust their subscription plan to meet the changing business environment.
  6. Lower Maintenance: The maintenance of the software falls to the SaaS provider, reducing the workload of the in-house IT staff in the businesses.

Cons of SaaS compared to Managed Services

  1. Less Control: In a SaaS model, the service provider retains most of the control over the software application, and businesses might not be able to customize the software to the same extent they could with a managed service.
  2. Data Security Concerns: Since the data is stored off-site, usually with a third-party, there could be potential security concerns. Businesses have to rely on the provider’s security measures.
  3. Internet Dependency: SaaS solutions require an internet connection to function. If your internet service is spotty, this could lead to problems accessing the service.
  4. Potential for High Long-Term Cost: Although SaaS has a lower upfront cost, over time, the cost of subscribing to software can add up and potentially exceed the cost of a one-time purchase or a managed solution.
  5. Limited Integration: Depending on the SaaS product, businesses might face limitations when it comes to integrating with their existing software or systems, which can be better managed under a managed services agreement.
  6. Vendor Lock-in: With SaaS, there can be a risk of vendor lock-in due to the difficulty of migrating data or the lack of compatible alternatives. In a managed services agreement, the company retains more control over their software and data.

Pros of Managed Services over SaaS

  1. Greater Customization: Managed services can be tailor-made to fit the unique needs and processes of each organization, offering a level of customization that is usually not available with SaaS solutions.
  2. Complete IT Support: A Managed Services Provider (MSP) offers comprehensive IT support. This includes monitoring, issue resolution, and preventative maintenance, which go beyond the typical support offered by SaaS providers.
  3. Enhanced Security: MSPs often provide robust security measures, including 24/7 monitoring, data backup and recovery, and cyber threat prevention. Businesses can therefore have greater peace of mind regarding the safety of their data.
  4. Strategic IT Planning: Managed Services Providers can play a strategic role in helping businesses plan their IT investments and infrastructure, ensuring alignment with their overall business objectives.
  5. High level of Control: With managed services, businesses retain more control over their IT systems compared to a SaaS model, where the software provider holds more control.
  6. Reduced Burden on Internal IT Team: Managed services can significantly reduce the workload on the internal IT team, allowing them to focus on more strategic, high-level tasks.

Cons of Managed Services compared to SaaS

  1. Higher Initial Cost: Managed services often involve a higher upfront investment compared to SaaS, as they can involve complex setup and customization.
  2. Longer Implementation Time: Due to the customized nature of managed services, the implementation process can be longer compared to the quick setup time of most SaaS solutions.
  3. Dependence on the Provider: There can be a high level of dependence on the MSP. If the provider encounters problems, this could impact the service they provide to your business.
  4. Contractual Obligations: Managed services often come with long-term contracts, which can limit a company’s flexibility compared to the typically shorter-term commitments of SaaS subscriptions.
  5. Risk of Over-provisioning: There is a risk that businesses might end up paying for more services than they actually need if the managed services package is not properly tailored to their requirements.
  6. Reduced Accessibility: Unlike SaaS solutions, which can typically be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, some managed services might not offer the same level of accessibility.

Situations when SaaS is better than Managed Services

  1. Limited Capital Investment: SaaS is often the better choice for businesses that are just starting out or have limited capital to invest upfront in IT infrastructure and software.
  2. Need for Speed: When businesses need quick deployment of software solutions, SaaS provides a faster way to get up and running compared to the often more time-consuming process of setting up a managed service.
  3. Routine Software Requirements: If the software requirements are relatively standard and don’t require significant customization, SaaS can be a cost-effective and straightforward solution.
  4. Small to Medium Sized Businesses: SaaS is typically a good fit for smaller to medium-sized businesses that don’t have extensive IT needs or in-house IT expertise.
  5. Remote Teams: If a business has a significant number of remote employees, SaaS solutions are often more suitable due to their accessibility from anywhere with an internet connection.
  6. Short Term Projects: For projects with a limited lifespan, using SaaS solutions could be more cost-effective and faster to deploy than setting up managed services.

Situations when Managed Services is better than SaaS

  1. Highly Customized Needs: Businesses with highly specific and customized software requirements often benefit more from managed services, which can be tailored to their exact needs.
  2. Large Enterprises: Larger enterprises with extensive IT needs often get more value from managed services, which can offer comprehensive IT support, strategic planning, and a high degree of control.
  3. Compliance Requirements: In industries with stringent compliance requirements, managed services can provide the level of control, security, and data management needed to comply with regulations.
  4. In-house IT Department: For companies with a dedicated IT team, managed services can help them focus on strategic tasks while outsourcing routine IT operations.
  5. Sensitive Data: If a company deals with highly sensitive data, a managed service might offer superior data security and control than a typical SaaS solution.
  6. Long-Term Strategic Planning: If a business is looking for long-term IT strategy and planning, managed services providers are typically more equipped to provide this level of service than a SaaS provider.

SaaS vs Managed Services Summary

Choosing between SaaS and Managed Services isn’t a one-size-fits-all decision. Each model has its strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice will depend on your business’s specific needs, resources, and goals. By understanding the key aspects of SaaS and Managed Services, you can align your technology strategy with your business objectives effectively. We hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights to navigate this important decision. Remember, the goal is not just to adopt new technologies, but to utilize them in ways that fuel growth, efficiency, and long-term success for your business or startup.

SaaSManaged Services
DefinitionDelivers software applications over the internet on a subscription basisProvides a complete IT solution, including software, hardware, and support services
Initial CostsLowerHigher
Deployment and AdoptionQuickTime-consuming due to customization
UpdatesAutomatic, managed by providerDepends on the agreement with the provider
AccessibilityHigh, accessible from anywhere with internetMight be limited, depending on the service
ScalabilityHigh, can adjust subscription plan easilyCan be scalable but depends on the agreement with the provider
MaintenanceLower, handled by providerHigher, depends on the agreement with the provider
CustomizationLess control, limited customizationHigh control, can tailor solutions to specific needs
SecurityPotential concerns due to third-party controlEnhanced security measures offered by MSPs
Internet DependencyHigh, solution requires internet to functionNot always required, depending on the service
Long-Term CostPotentially high due to recurring subscription feesOften fixed, predictable cost after initial investment
IntegrationLimited, depending on the productOften better managed, more integrated solutions
Vendor Lock-inPotential risk due to data migration issuesLess risk due to increased control over software and data
ProsLower initial costs, Quick deployment, Automatic updates, Accessibility, Scalability, Lower maintenanceGreater customization, Complete IT support, Enhanced security, Strategic IT planning, High level of control, Reduced burden on internal IT
ConsLess control, Data security concerns, Internet dependency, Potential for high long-term cost, Limited integration, Vendor lock-inHigher initial cost, Longer implementation time, Dependence on the provider, Contractual obligations, Risk of over-provisioning, Reduced accessibility
Better ForLimited capital investment, Quick deployment needed, Routine software requirements, Small to medium-sized businesses, Remote teams, Short term projectsHighly customized needs, Large enterprises, Compliance requirements, In-house IT department, Sensitive data, Long-term strategic planning
SaaS vs Managed Services Summary
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Jimmy Taylor

I'm Jimmy Taylor, a technology writer with a focus on the SaaS and Cloud spaces. I have a passion for exploring the latest advancements in these spaces and helping others understand them. Follow me on twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
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