When a Customer Manages Their Own VPN – The Difference Between a SaaS and a PaaS

The most basic distinction between a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and a products-oriented architecture (POA) concerns how a software system is sold to a customer. A SOA is typically offered as a software-as-a-service (SaaS), where the software and any associated services are provided to a customer over the Internet. A POA is provided as a physical product with associated services built in or integrated with the product itself. For example, a VPN (virtual private network) client is marketed as a stand-alone product, but with a typical VPN supplier bundle that includes a VPN server and management software, there is actually very little difference in how the end product is delivered between a SaaS and a POA.

Focus On The Customer

The defining characteristic of a SaaS is that the customer is solely responsible for acquiring and maintaining the system. A SaaS provides all of the software and any associated services, and the customer is responsible for installing, configuring, and maintaining the system. Installing and configuring the system to work with a particular service provider is the exclusive responsibility of the customer.

By comparison, the defining feature of a POA is that the product provider is responsible for providing the system. Any services that the customer might require are additional, third-party services that the product provider integrates with their offering. When a customer buys a VPN client, they are not just getting a tool to use; they are purchasing the entire package that includes the VPN server and associated services (i.e., the network and bandwidth the server will use to provide the service). The responsibility for actually using the product falls to the customer, but the provider is still responsible for installing, configuring, and maintaining the product.

The key difference between a SaaS and a POA is that with a SaaS, the customer is in full control of the product and can do anything with it that they want. With a POA, the provider is in full control of the product and can do anything with it that they want, but the customer has no say in how the product is used or what features are available. To put it another way, with a SaaS, the customer is in charge; with a POA, it is more like the product is in charge.

Value-Based Versus Function-Based

A SaaS is an application or software system that is offered to customers with the value proposition that it will provide or make available certain services or functions that are beneficial or desirable to the customer. Naturally, the value proposition is highly dependent on the specific services or functions being offered by the SaaS. There is typically no upfront cost or monthly fee for a SaaS, and customers can have any number of instances of the application or service running on their servers without additional charge. Since the SaaS is designed to provide particular value-added services or features to customers, it follows that the provider can and often does raise their prices based on some of the unique services or functions the SaaS provides.

In contrast, a VPN provider that offers a VPN server and management software as a package (i.e., a POA) is usually focused more on selling the hardware than the software, and the value proposition for the VPN server and associated services is basically that it is a safe and easy way to keep your browsing and personal data secure while on the move. The main difference between a SaaS and a POA is that with a SaaS, the customer is providing the value and can, therefore, dictate the pricing structure and the value proposition of the product or service; with a POA, it is more like the product provider is providing the value and has the final say in how the product will be used and how it will be priced. The provider can make arguments that certain services or features provide greater value than others, but ultimately, the customer has the final say in whether or not the product or service will be purchased.

Reduce Costs

Since a SaaS is designed to provide additional functionality or value to customers, it follows that a SaaS can and often does offer substantial cost savings to customers when compared to purchasing a similar product or service offered as a stand-alone product (i.e., a product-oriented architecture, or POA). This is mainly because the SaaS provides functionality and value that the customer could not get elsewhere, and it does so at a substantially reduced cost. The customer, in other words, gets a better value for their money with a SaaS.

A SaaS could also reduce overhead costs for a company. Instead of having to install and maintain an in-house VPN server, the customer can have a SaaS provider with resources that are much better suited to handling large volumes of traffic. In addition, since the customer is in full control of the product, they can create as many accounts as they want for free and use the VPN for personal or commercial purposes, without having to ask permission from the provider first.

Flexibility

Another important difference between a SaaS and a POA concerns how well the products or services can accommodate changes that occur over time. It is highly unlikely that a SaaS will offer dedicated support, since it will not have any direct costs associated with providing support. Therefore, the burden of keeping the product or service updated and supported will fall on the customer. Any updates or changes will have to be made by the customer, who will either have to pay for the support themselves or find volunteers from within their organization to help out.

In contrast, a VPN server and management software that is marketed as part of a bundled product (i.e., a product-oriented architecture, or POA) will have dedicated support from the VPN provider, and any updates or changes will be made by the provider, who will either have to pay for the support themselves or find volunteers from within their organization to help out.

The flexibility that a SaaS offers is, therefore, mainly in the area of cost. Since a SaaS is typically much less expensive than a similar product offered as a stand-alone product, it makes a lot of financial sense for a company to go the SaaS route. The ROI on a SaaS is much quicker and easier to calculate because there are no upfront costs or ongoing maintenance fees to consider. The key difference between a SaaS and a POA is that with a SaaS, the customer gains the flexibility to change their mind at any time and cancel the service, while with a POA, the customer essentially owns the product and is stuck with it for the full term of the contract. Changing your mind is, however, not a problem with a SaaS, since there are no long-term commitments and you can cancel at any time.

The most basic distinction between a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and a products-oriented architecture (POA) concerns how a software system is sold to a customer. A SOA is typically offered as a software-as-a-service (SaaS), where the software and any associated services are provided to a customer over the Internet. A POA is provided as a physical product with associated services built in or integrated with the product itself. For example, a VPN (virtual private network) client is marketed as a stand-alone product, but with a typical VPN supplier bundle that includes a VPN server and management software, there is actually very little difference in how the end product is delivered between a SaaS and a POA.

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