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Cloud vs. On-Premises EHS Software Deployments

Posted: March 1st, 2022

Authors: Alicia S. 

Introduction

According to Verdantix, as of 2021 all Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) software providers currently offer cloud deployment of their solutions. Digital transformation continues to be a high or moderate priority for more than 80% of EHS leaders surveyed by Verdantix. However, several EHS software providers continue to offer on-premises (on-prem) deployment options to their customers. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method of implementation depending on the specific needs of the organization.

An on-prem solution is hosted onsite within an organization’s information technology (IT) infrastructure while a cloud or Software as a Service (SaaS) solution is multi-tenant, where multiple customers use the same code base in the cloud through any browser with internet access.

Advantages of Cloud Solutions

  • Reduced IT Burden
    • Moving to the cloud is less resource intensive for an organization’s IT department. Less time is spent on hardware maintenance, releases of new functionality, and upgrades.
    • The software vendor is responsible for security, data retention, and uptime. This further allows for increased productivity for your IT department.
  • Speed and Flexibility
    • Cloud-based solutions provide the ability to quickly scale in the face of increased demand. It is also faster to initially deploy a cloud-based solution compared to an on-prem one.
  • Cost
    • By reducing the burden on IT and increasing the speed of deployment, cloud solutions have a lower total cost of ownership in most cases. There are no capital expenses associated with a cloud solution which further contributes to the reduction in overall cost.

Advantages of On-Prem Solutions

  • Control of Data
    • In highly regulated industries hosting on-prem may be the only option to ensure the needed level of security (e.g., banking, insurance, or government). An on-prem solution allows for control over an organization’s data without requiring third party involvement.
    • If a third-party vendor’s software on the cloud has an interruption of service or downtime, an organization may find that their data has become temporarily inaccessible.
  • Ownership over Security
    • Security and privacy requirements vary between countries. If a cloud-based solution is hosted in a different country, an organization may not have their security needs completely covered. Security breaches of cloud-based solutions can occur, which may influence an organization to choose on-prem solutions to ensure all data privacy and security requirements are met adequately.
  • Customization
    • An on-prem solution can be more heavily customized to meet specific needs and requirements. A cloud-based offering typically has a standardized, mainstream product with more limited customization capabilities.

Disadvantages of Cloud Solutions

  • Dependency on Software Provider
    • When selecting a cloud-based solution, an organization relies on the vendor for hosting and supporting the software. If the software provider ceases to operate or no longer supports the product, then a new solution will have to be obtained.
  • Dependency on Internet
    • While a cloud-based solution offers greater accessibility to the software through the internet, if an organization has an unstable internet connection the software and possibly the application data becomes unusable/off-line. On-prem solutions typically leverage an internal local network that can offer greater speed, stability and reliability.
  • Migration and Integration
    • Migrating to the cloud can be complex, and employees will require training in order to adopt the new solution. Integrating a cloud-based solution with other applications currently being used can also prove to be challenging. Care must be taken when planning and executing both migrations and integrations with cloud-based solutions to increase the chances for success.

Disadvantages of On-Prem Solutions

  • Maintenance
    • The resources needed to maintain the software releases can become a burdens to an IT department. IT is responsible for every aspect of maintaining the software including security and supporting the user base. An on-prem deployment can also be more challenging for vendors and consultants to support due to restricted system access.
  • Cost
    • The cost of purchasing and maintaining the hardware required to host an on-prem solution can be very expensive both at the onset of the project and as data needs expand over time. In addition to the cost of hardware, the cost of the labor needed to maintain the solution mentioned above can become prohibitive.
  • Potential Lack of Mobility
    • On-prem solutions may not offer the ability to access the solution from a variety of devices, and employees might be tied to accessing the solution from specific workstations on the local network. Most cloud-based solutions offer mobile applications in addition to web-based ones for greater flexibility in how the software is used.

Conclusion

Security is usually the primary concern when selecting a solution, and due diligence is required to verify that the cloud provider is able to meet all regulatory and security needs of their industry and/or country. If not, it may be worth the cost and resources needed to host on-prem to ensure compliance for sensitive data. However, if agility in deployment and lower cost are priorities, then a cloud-based solution will be the better fit.

Due diligence should be implemented in the selection of any solution. Only by factoring in your security, accessibility, connectivity, technical, financial and operational requirements will you find your best solution. The results of your due diligence efforts may suggest that you should implement a hybrid solution (capitalizing on the benefits of both on premise and cloud infrastructures).

There is no correct answer to the question of which solution is superior. There are clear advantages and disadvantages to both cloud-based solutions and on-prem hosted solutions. Ultimately, an organization must have a full understanding of their needs and requirements when making a selection. Please contact Alicia Seiders at aseiders@all4inc.com or 610-247-8987 for more information on implementation of EHS software solutions.

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