Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

July 7, 2009

The Compelling TCO Case for Cloud-based business applications in SMB and Mid-Market Enterprises

A 4-year total cost of ownership (TCO) perspective comparing cloud and on-premise business application deployment

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) face a tricky dilemma in today’s tough economic climate. It’s no longer business as usual; companies need to figure out how to survive through the current downturn, and get on track to capitalize on new opportunities that will emerge as the economy starts to grow again. They need business solutions to help them to manage more efficiently day-to-day, and also the intelligence they need to move the business forward.

As SMBs weather through turbulent economic storms, total cost of ownership (TCO) is often top of mind when evaluating new business applications. Many customers have become interested in how cloud computing or software-as-a-service (SaaS) can help lower their costs by eliminating upfront capital investments and ongoing maintenance costs associated with on-premise solutions.

Hurwitz & Associates recently completed an in-depth study comparing TCO of cloud-based business application and equivalent on-premise solutions.

Cloud computing essentially eliminates the need for customers to buy, deploy and maintain IT infrastructure or application software individually. Regardless of the application, the cloud computing vendor takes responsibility for all of the infrastructure required to run the solution–servers, backup, software, operating systems, databases, updates, migration, power and cooling, facility space, etc., and associated internal and third-party staffing costs. Because cloud computing vendors manage all of their customers on a single instance of the software, they can amortize costs over thousands of customers. This yields substantial economies of scale and skill, and lowers TCO.

Key findings from our analysis include:

  • Overall TCO for cloud-based integrated solution suite is significantly lower than a comparable on-premise solution. This holds true for both SMB and mid-market firms.
  • IT Infrastructure costs (hardware, software and maintenance) account for about 10% of the total cost of deploying on-premise business applications.
  • The cost advantages of cloud computing slowly taper off as the number of users increases beyond mid-market to larger enterprise companies.
  • Application subscription costs account for two-thirds of the total solution cost in the cloud computing model, where the subscription fee encompasses underlying IT infrastructure and personnel costs required to manage business solution. In comparison, business application costs comprise about 27% of total cost in an on-premise situation.
  • Costs for internal IT staff and/or value-added reseller (VAR), consultant or systems integrator (SI) resources required for application implementation and support represent a significantly higher percentage of total cost for on-premise solutions than for cloud-based business solutions.
  • Pre-integrated front and back office functionality in the integrated business application offering contributes to reducing integration complexity and lowers application implementation costs.

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