What is WaaS?
You have heard of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS, but what is WaaS? A quick Google search will tell you that WaaS stands for Wide Area Augmentation System. But that is not what we are talking about here.
We are talking about Website as a Service (WaaS). It is a new concept that has emerged out of necessity.
It is the necessity of digital marketing and web development agencies to stay relevant.
It is the necessity of individual and small business owners who do not have enough funds to pump in as a one-time cost for the development of their websites.
A website is essentially a product, albeit a digital one! Its development comes with various costs that include:
- Domain registration
- Software updates
- Design updates
You can strike off SEO and content if you can do that yourself. In such a case, those things will not attract cost barring the opportunity cost. But here is the thing – anything you do has an opportunity cost. So, talking about it does not make much sense.
Coming back to the point, developing a website involves cost. The cost can be anything from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars or even millions, depending on the complexity of the website in question.
There was a time (and it continues to this day) when web development agencies used to charge the whole amount at once or in two or three installments.
Such payment structures do not go down well with people with small budgets that they need to split between various things including marketing, covering overhead cost, operational costs, and more!
This cost factor also became a big impediment for digital marketing and web development agencies. Their existence depends on those who need websites and digital marketing services.
When people do not have big budgets, they stall their website building activities, leaving such agencies with fewer work. These agencies, just like any other business, have various costs. If they do not earn properly, they cannot cover those costs, which often forces many of them to shut down.
This is where some brilliant mind came up with the idea of Website as a Service or WaaS.
In this model, a website is not treated as a product. It is rather considered as a service.
WaaS providers do not charge a one-time fee in bulk.
They provide services like website design and development, hosting, updates, security patches, etc. on an on-going basis, charging a low setup fee followed by monthly payments for different tasks they complete.
WaaS providers provide all these services for a year or two (or an agreed amount of time), after which, the client takes back the control of the website. The client may decide to keep the original hosting provided by the WaaS provider or decide to move it to a different hosting.
If the client decides to move the site to a different hosting, the WaaS provider may provide the website migration service as one of the last services they provide as per the contract obligation, or as a separate chargeable service.
What Services Should You Expect from a WaaS Provider?
This is the question where different WaaS providers draw a line claiming that what they offer is the standard practice.
The reality is quite different.
It all depends on one WaaS provider to another.
WaaS is not a time-tested thing. It is a concept that is quite new, and industry standard rules and regulations are not in place.
In fact, such rules cannot exist. It all depends on what a WaaS provider and a client mutually decide.
A WaaS provider can be an individual freelancer. It can be a web development agency, or it can be a full-service digital agency offering everything from website development services, branding & graphic design services to digital marketing and even SEO.
Different providers can have different offerings.
So, what you expect from a WaaS provider will depend on which provider you are selecting.
The basic things that a WaaS provider offers include:
- Domain name ideation and purchase (you can do that yourself)
- Suggesting hosting provider and purchasing a hosting package (you can do that yourself).
- Preliminary website design and layout ideation.
- Development of the website.
- Setting up the website.
- Implementing speed optimization.
- Updating the core software during the contract period.
- Updating design to avoid conflicts and errors caused by software updates (during the contract period).
Full-service digital agencies can offer additional services like:
- Logo design and branding.
- Content strategy and content creation.
- On-page and off-page SEO.
- Social media marketing.
- Email marketing.
- Lead generation.
So, it all depends on which provider you are choosing and what you expect from the agency or the provided.
Which is the Most Important Aspect of WaaS?
- Security patches
- Technology upgrades
Design is the most important aspect of WaaS. Websites are built using programming languages that keep updating time to time. To keep up with these changes and ensuring that the website design and functionalities do not break over time, continuous design updates are necessary.
Next comes the security patches. They are just as important because there are times when updates in programming languages and software are not meant for introducing new features. Rather, they are meant for closing security loopholes that can lead to hacking, malware injection and several other problems.
Let us take an example!
Have you ever wondered what is Office365?
It is a Software as a Service or SaaS.
Before Office365 was introduced into the market by Microsoft, people had to purchase a copy of MS Office that came in the form of a CD or DVD.
To purchase MS Office, people had to shell out $300 (approximately). Microsoft kept rolling out newer versions of office with more features and better security almost every two years.
People had two choices – stick with the outdated version they were using or pay another $300 dollars or so to get the newer version. That was often not a feasible option for people because of budgetary constraints.
That constraint forced them to keep using the older version for as long at they could even with increased risk.
Office365 gave a solution. Instead of a large one-time payment, people can now pay a small amount per month, and never worry about outdated software program, while at the same time, keep receiving newer features.
Finally, the technologies used for creating your website will keep updating. So, the WaaS provider should integrate the newer versions to ensure that the website remains functional.
What are the Benefits of WaaS?
There are several benefits of WaaS. Let us go through them one at a time.
Low Initial Setup Cost
Typically, a small to medium-sized website will cost you a one-time development fee of $3,000 to $5,000. This price can increase depending on the complexity and features of the website.
With WaaS, the initial setup cost typically stays between $600 and $1000, or slightly more.
What follows next is a monthly fee that can range between $100 and $600. This monthly fee usually fluctuates depending on the number of requests that the client makes. These requests can be anything like:
- A new feature.
- Integration of third-party services.
- Addition of e-commerce.
- Creating a custom image gallery, or just about anything that the client needs.
The more the requests, the greater the price. The more complex the website and the more difficult the features and integrations, more is the price!
Continuous Design Improvements
A design that looks stunning today may become old and irrelevant six months down the line. This is not any assumption. This is a trend. It happens!
Designers keep coming up with elegant modern designs every now and then. If you cannot keep up with those changes, your business will look outdated. That is a risk you should not be taking.
With time, your website’s design should also evolve. You do not need to, and you should not change your website design entirely every now and then. That is not good either.
However, you can always make subtle changes that make a significant difference! WaaS gives you that. The team working on your website will make such changes whenever you request. If you request a completely contemporary design, even that happens.
Backend technology keeps updating. YouTube, for instance, can change the way you embed your videos. A deprecated feature from the outdated version of a browser can make the images on your website disappear.
New protocols, new integrations – these are a common happening in the technology world. Anything new can quickly conflict with your website’s current structure. When that happens, your website can break.
This is where WaaS comes to rescue. You can rest assured that the team handling your website will make technical adjustments to your website and prevent it from breaking down. A broken website looks unprofessional.
Optimizing a website for speed and better user experience can be a challenging task for novice. This is where WaaS can help. Providers can implement such optimizations quickly because they have the technical knowhow.
Integration of New Technology
Let us explain this with an example or two. You may be using Font Awesome icons in your website. When a latest version of Font Awesome comes out, the company may decide to drop the support for the older version.
Browsers will update accordingly, but if your website is not updated, what you will see are nasty little boxes instead of beautiful icons. To prevent that from happening, you will have to integrate the latest version. If that is not your forte, you will need technical help.
WaaS providers will take care of these issues.
Again, if your website is built using PHP, you will have to keep updating your website for supporting newer versions of PHP. This is especially important if you have third-party integrations that use the latest PHP version. If you do not update your website and integrate the latest PHP version, those third-party integrations will not work.
WaaS providers ensure that no such thing happens and make quick changes to your website to integrate new versions of technologies required for proper functioning of your website.
WaaS providers also ensure that the websites they create follow legal compliance. Especially with the advent of GDPR, legal compliance is a major issue, but forgetting about MAR is not an option either.
WaaS providers ensure that they handle the cookie policies, provide archives of general meetings, make the websites MAR and GDPR compliant, etc.
Thinking that your website will not be hacked or infected with malware, or other such problems is utter foolishness.
Every website in this world is vulnerable, and hence, security measures should there be in place to thwart online threats. Implementing security like firewall, bot protection, DDoS protection, etc. is important and they are extremely complicated.
WaaS providers take care of all those things without you needing to break a sweat.
More Time for Content & Marketing
If you are handling your content and marketing, depending on a WaaS provider will ensure that you have more time for content creation and marketing your business.
Also, since you will not be paying big just for the development, you can allocate more money towards content creation and marketing, that can help your website and business to grow faster.
With technology, things can go wrong. Situations can escalate very quickly. Sometimes, certain problems do not even originate from your website or your origin server. Those problems may come from third-party integrations like CDN, image processors, email-marketing, and more.
WaaS providers perform ongoing maintenance and take care of those issues by identifying the source of the problem and fixing it.
Performing such ongoing maintenances can bring some unexpected expenses that can run high. With WaaS, ongoing maintenance is always a part of the contract.
What is the Cost of Using a WaaS Provider?
I told it earlier. The initial setup cost is between $600 and $1,000. The regular monthly payments can range anywhere between $100 and $600.
However, the initial setup price you need to pay will depend on the complexity of the website. So, the initial setup price may go all the way up to $3,000.
In the follow up months you may have to pay up to $1,000 a month depending on type of changes and integrations you are requesting and the frequency of such requests.
How to Select a WaaS Provider?
The rules here are simple.
Talk to different providers and learn about the experience and the price they are charging. Select the one with maximum experience and lowest price.
However, do not forget that a new provider with low cost may be just as good, or even better. A new provider will usually want to get a foothold in the market, thereby offering the services at a lower price.
This is where you should use your logic, intuition, and everything that you can put together to decide.
Time Zone Matters
It is not a wise thing to select a provider located in a different time zone. There can be availability issues and problems with communication. Try to find a local solution.
If you cannot find a local provider, go to online freelancing websites, and post your requirements there. You will find many providers spread globally.
Choose only the one with stellar reputation among local and international clients and has a good portfolio to display.
Consider the Language Barrier
I am never saying that providers from other countries are bad. But you need to consider the language barrier.
If there is a communication problem, if the provider is unable to understand your requirements, or if you are unable to put across your message clearly because of the language, you will end up with frustration. You will also lose valuable time.
Compare the Offerings
Do not forget the three basic things that a WaaS provider should provide. They are design updates, security patches, and technology upgrades. If a WaaS provider is not offering all three, just avoid the provider.
Apart from these three, a provider can offer things like hosting, optimization, branding, etc. as complimentary stuff. The more they offer, the better it is. But again, keep an eye on their track record. Freebies may be attractive, but they may very well be masking the inferior performance and horrible track record!
Is a WaaS provider offering valuable suggestions to improve on your website ideation when you provide your requirements? This can be a great value-added service without additional cost.
You might not be well-versed with everything related to websites. Your lack of practical experience may make you set unrealistic goals. A WaaS provider should go through your requirements and give you important suggestions that will help to create something better than your expectations.
Follow their Websites
WaaS providers will usually have their business websites displaying their services and prices. Do not forget to scan their websites. If their websites are flawed or broken, if their websites do not have a contemporary look, if their websites are painfully slow during load, run! Run as far away from them as possible.
Though WaaS is a relatively new concept, it is gradually growing in popularity. Many small and medium businesses are gradually settling for WaaS providers to minimize the development cost.
If you have a tight budget, using a WaaS provider makes much more sense than paying a one-off price and straining your finances. Also, you get to offload the technical side of your business on people who know how to handle the technicalities.