One of the key drawbacks of investing in an IT solution is lock-in. Wikipedia defines lock-in as the act of making a customer “dependent on a vendor for products and services, unable to use another vendor without substantial switching costs”.
Vendor Lock-In and Cloud Computing
There has been much debate over whether cloud computing eases or exacerbates problems with vendor lock-in. There are many industry pundits who believe that cloud solutions eliminate lock-in risk. Then, there are experts like Gartner who believe that the potential for lock-in has become a key concern among those companies considering software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions.
How does the cloud really stack up when it comes to vendor lock-in?
Horizontal lock-in occurs in cloud scenarios when migrating data, training users, and re-creating integrations between SaaS and on-premise systems will be a harrowing endeavor. However, this can be avoided by choosing a SaaS provider that will make it easy to retrieve/download application data from the environment at any time, so it can be easily uploaded into the new solution. And, when it comes to integrations, making the move to a vendor who uses open APIs to connect to internal systems will make the process of moving to a competitive product quick and painless.
Vertical lock-in can be more challenging to avoid in SaaS environments, since the vendor will decide what hardware is used in their own data center, to run the application and store related data. But, as more and more cloud solution vendors embrace open systems, customers are finding they have much more flexibility.
Diagonal lock-in is often associated with large vendors who offer multiple different products. Choosing a specialty or niche cloud solution vendor will eliminate this problem, as will choosing one with an intuitive interface that requires little or no training and open APIs to aid in fast, economical integrations.
And finally, cloud computing all but eliminates the potential for generational lock-in. SaaS vendors keep their technology infrastructures updated using the latest and greatest innovations. Upgrades and enhancements happen frequently and seamlessly – with no cost or effort on the part of the client. Unless a company has contracted with a SaaS vendor who does not have a proven reputation and demonstrable customer success, they can always rest assured that they are using next-generation technologies.