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The Hidden Costs of WordPress Propel SaaS Models

Eventually the time comes to re-think why having your own WordPress website totally under your own control is still a good idea. It comes when you’ve just tried to update your WordPress site and it’s suite of plug-ins. For all your efforts you are left with the horrific shock that your beautiful website, which is fully exposed to the world, is now unusable. Your website’s Cost of Ownership has now gone far beyond monetary considerations. This is just the beginning of an exceptionally harsh lesson in technology ownership.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a business model that delivers software technology access on a subscription basis (usually). An example is wordpress.com. The idea is that such a model relieves clients of various technical responsibilities, including keeping software updated and hardened against cyber attacks. The SaaS provider handles the technology for the subscriber, allowing the subscriber to focus on the time-consuming business of updating the website’s content and keeping it relevant.

SaaS WordPress models are better for you if you answer “no” to the following questions:

  1. Do we know how to update the site and perform rollbacks should something go wrong?
  2. If we want to explore and try out different plug-ins to get new features, do we know how to evaluate the plugins for security (who had their hands on the code, when, and where is that documented), stability, compatibility, and ability to survive an update?
  3. Do we know the difference between a feature, and the plug-ins required to furnish that feature?
  4. Do we know how to spot points of interdependence between plug-ins so that if one fails we know which chain to inspect?
  5. Are we willing to learn the CMS well enough to post our own content?
  6. Do we understand how to “web optimize” images and why it is important to do so?
  7. Do we understand how media is organized in a CMS based website like WordPress?
  8. Is there specific functionality that we need which requires a developer to create?
  9. Is HIPAA or Sarbanes-Oxley a consideration as it relates to the way we need data stored and secured?
  10. Of the things we don’t know, is it feasible to learn them?

If #9 is  “Yes”, then get other specialists involved if you intend to use WordPress. They can help determine if there is an SaaS solution that makes sense, or if your self-hosted website can be made compliant within your budget. Cautiously evaluate plug-ins against strict criteria before, not after, you implement them. For example, a popular client portal plugin like WP-Client Pro is incompatible with HIPAA requirements according to the warning on that company’s own website. WP-Client Pro is a brilliant plug-in for furnishing the exact sorts of features you would want in a Patient Portal experience, but you would not want to learn of this regulatory incompatibility after you had already established a patient portal using it.

Some of these costs are based on knowledge deficits that can be overcome by a willingness to learn. Still, WordPress SaaS is not always a best fit, and there are more questions you could ask. Concerning yourself with Cost of Ownership, however elusive to quantify, provides both good perspective and a proactive means for containing it even before the website is built.