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Moving card systems to SaaS

Navigating the future of hosted services

Entrusting a campus card instance to someone off premise might be a daunting thought for some, but the anxiety may be misguided. “Think of it this way; security and availability is their entire model. Their ability to keep your stuff running is their core business,” explains Falldien.

The business benefits of SaaS typically outweigh on premise, but there is still resistance from people who rely on managing those systems for job security.

“We create solutions in the cloud to add value and create meaningful operating advantage, not just to put applications out in the cloud for technology sake,” says Blackboard’s Staples. “We work to ensure there’s a true advantage to moving a client’s service.”

Regardless of the deployment, however, campuses need to comprehensively plan out the move to the cloud.

“Start by migrating one part of the overall solution and over time transition the rest of the system,” says Staples. “Things like end of life schedules, hardware replacement and compliance impacts will affect this timeline. Build out a road map for an overall plan on how best, in what capacity, and in what timeline to migrate.”

What’ll it cost me?

With these types of decisions cost is always a consideration, but the bottom line will ultimately depend on the campus.

“The cost question is related to opportunity cost and should be focused more specifically on what you want to direct your resources,” explains Staples. “Shifting the services side of implementation and management to a partner is more scalable. Software costs are comparable, but SaaS clearly benefits the client in terms of total cost of ownership.”

Investments in SaaS infrastructure and capability are spread across many clients making the per-client cost for security and service redundancy very economical, Staples adds.

Another way to look at the cost consideration of a SaaS deployment is the convenience value that a campus can achieve. “The model and analysis for the campus needs to be evaluated over multiple years. Costs are more predictable with the SaaS model, as the campus pays via subscription with continuous updates,” says Staples. “The provider takes care of issues for the campus and eliminates major server hardware and software upgrade cycles.”

Down the road

SaaS solutions for the campus card system have already arrived, but the roadmap will likely be one of iterative change that will accommodate new features and continuous innovation, rather than a mass migration.

“We don’t envision a ‘big bang’ inflection point for SaaS adoption, but rather the future will be a progressive realization, campus by campus, driven by each site’s specific needs and priorities,” says Staples. “Each institution can choose to consume services from on-premise or cloud-based services as it best fits their needs.”

We don’t envision a ‘big bang’ inflection point for SaaS adoption, but rather a progressive realization driven by each site’s specific needs and priorities.

Nevertheless the campus card industry is on the cusp of a paradigm shift that will see an increasing number of institutions explore SaaS options.

“I think ‘on the cusp’ is the best way to state it. Mixed environments are becoming more and more prevalent, particularly as people realize the benefits of decreased, localized overhead and an increased freedom for business units to open up possibilities and advancements,” says Falldien. “Most campus card vendors and partners are offering some form of SaaS solution, and it will become increasingly prevalent in the next couple of years.”

From the vendor side, progress is moving at a rapid rate and it seems most will be prepared to serve clients when institutions come around to SaaS.

“We’re not constrained to only release new features a few times a year, instead we add new features every month. This dramatically increases the rate of innovation while smoothing out the peaks and valleys inherent to a localized client server deployment,” says Staples. “As we look ahead, our clients will welcome a flow of robust API’s and platform features that create an increasingly more compelling solution set, all while enabling campuses to focus on the primary task of providing first-class service to students.”

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