The internet has enabled many things. Beyond the communication, information access and knowledge transfer benefits, it has also reduced the total cost of operations when it comes to the software and services domain. In an offline world consumption of legitimate software that supported a business process was by way of a compact disk that was run to install the software in a server or pc environment. This often put the cost of access out of reach for thousands of business owners who more often than not opted for bootleg copies of software that they proceeded to crack, a loss – loss situation for both the business and the owner of the software and its attendant rights.
Data connectivity on web and mobile has seen the business model for software move to Platform As A Service (PaaS) and Software As A Service (SaaS). As well defined by Wikipedia, PaaS allows customers to develop, run, and manage applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and running the same, while SaaS is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. This has seen the cost of access for many services that are critical to running a modern enterprise drop, riding on economies of scale.
At their most basic PaaS and SaaS offerings commoditize certain core functions and make them available through various clients such as browsers or mobile apps while also allowing for bespoke implementations through robust API ecosystems. In essence, one size fits many, with provision for businesses to tailor their own additional features or carry a deployment unique to their situation.
The support structure behind PaaS and SaaS is by and large misunderstood by small and medium sized businesses and enterprises alike, especially in the local context. Two examples to give good perspective would be, one – an SME purchases off-the-shelf software of the traditional kind that can only connected to 3rd party services in a way that may be outdated and demands customized provisioning, and two – a large enterprise demanding a 24 hour always-on-call technical support, both expected at no additional cost.
That the business can access core commoditized functionality at a certain discounted value, does not mean that the solution provider should or will meet support needs at the same price point. Providers often have stock supports plans for using the services as-is, with packages, plans or bouquets to cover support needs that fall outside basic plans that comes with every account.
Many local service providers bear the brunt of this and their bottom-line suffers. Unfettered, runaway unbilled support destroy margins for the service provider and make your business unprofitable for them. In the end they will either go under or drop you as a customer. Play well.