Pros and Cons of Build or Buy for Enterprise Environments

by in Industry, Trends

When it comes to enterprise software, the eternal question for companies is whether to build or buy the platforms they need to use for their daily operations. This is true for businesses of all sizes as they weigh various cost, time and resource factors for new software investments.

Man in front of whiteboard drawing for the pros and cons of build or buy solutions.

This decision affects all of the systems that companies rely on for their everyday operations. Whether building a new website or deciding on a video conferencing solution, making decisions about whether to design systems from scratch, or purchase off the shelf solutions requires careful consideration.

On-Premise vs. Cloud

A major factor when designing any system is whether to go for an on-premise or cloud-based solution. On-premise systems provide added control, but also come with some major disadvantages: variable pricing, and the cost of maintaining physical infrastructure and ongoing maintenance. Cloud solutions, by contrast, offer predictable pricing, rented infrastructure, and vendor-managed maintenance.

Before launching into any new software project, a company's leaders should do a full analysis of their business requirements in order to understand which of these tools fit them best. In this article, we'll cover some of the primary considerations that influence the build vs buy decision for video conferencing solutions.

Build or Buy? Consider these 4 Factors

1. Cost

Corporations need to manage their software projects within a given budget, which means that cost can often be a primary driver for decisions that are made. Companies obviously want tools that will meet their needs and be reliable, but sometimes saving money is the top priority.

For the most part, open-source solutions are available as completely free software packages. This is because of the community approach which requires individuals to be able to download the applications and experiment with them. Because there is no official vendor distributing the software, users can obtain it at no cost.

Open-source software solutions also offer many other advantages. Because code is maintained in a central repository, and is open for anyone to use and edit, these systems offer far more interoperability than proprietary systems. This is an important consideration if you are looking to implement a complex system in which services such as video conferencing are integrated into your business productivity suite. This is true for both internal open source initiatives as well as SaaS applications built on open standards.

Using open-source applications for free might seem like an obvious decision for companies. However, certain software packages have license restrictions that dictate how they can be used. In many cases, if an organization plans to use the software at the enterprise level, they are required to obtain a site license that charges a fee on a monthly or yearly basis.

Some software packages do not come with these limitations, however. Open source solutions are increasingly being used by modern SaaS solutions, including video conferencing systems like Lifesize with WebRTC. The use of open source standards in these systems has two main advantages. It provides customers with transparency when it comes to data privacy and security, as well as giving companies greater interoperability in large-scale enterprise systems.

2. Security Implications

Cybersecurity should always be a top priority when considering what kinds of new software packages to add to an enterprise's environment. Simply picking new tools based on cost or compatibility could leave you exposed and open to attacks from outsiders with malicious intent.

In many cases, standards-based applications built on open source are more secure than vendor counterparts because their source code is open to the public and has been reviewed by cybersecurity professionals. A quick review of the best web hosting providers today shows that many use server architecture based on open-source software applications, for exactly this reason. This can include things like the Apache web server, MySQL database engine or the Drupal content management system. 

Systems built using open standards are fundamentally more secure as they are consistently tested and improved by a global community, as opposed to relying for your security on a single vendor which uses a proprietary code base that is invisible to the wider public. 

Again, it's important to research the reputations of various open-source options and compare their track record when it comes to security. After installing and integrating a new tool, your enterprise's IT staff should ensure it is properly locked down and protected behind a controlled firewall.

3. Audio and Video Protocols

In the early days of the internet, dealing with audio and video files was a complicated mess. You had to own a playback application that was compatible with the original encoding of the content or else you were out of luck. As the web has matured, standards have emerged for both audio and video protocols that make this process more open and simple.

Many modern companies now opt to not run normal telephone lines in their offices and instead rely on web-based solutions. By relying on standards and open-source protocols, it becomes easier to interface with other organizations as well.

4. Enterprise Support

When planning a new software project or investment, often times a company's focus is centered on the initial build-up and launch. While this is a critical phase for any technology deployment, it's important to remember the costs and effort required to maintain applications over time.

With open-source or on-premise solutions, enterprises are typically on their own to support themselves either through an internal staff or by outsourcing the activity, both of which can be costly endeavors. SaaS technologies may require more of a financial investment up-front but will typically come with around the clock support and proactive monitoring to help troubleshoot, or event prevent, issues that may occur.

Final Thoughts

When a company has identified a need for a new or updated software tool, they will likely be flooded with a range of different options. If the program is to be highly customized based on internal business logic, then building the tool within the organization may be the safest bet.

For those companies looking for a more standard out-of-the-box solution, the decision is between paying for a vendor product off-the-shelf or integrating a piece of open-source technology. 

There are pros and cons for both options and in reality, the right choice is dependent on the scope of the project. It's most important to perform an adequate analysis of the business needs before launching into any new software project. If you pick the solution before you fully understand the problem, disaster might ensue or at least some variation of it.