On-demand or on-premise: Which is better for talent management? Part 2

John Kleeman HeadshotPosted by John Kleeman

In an earlier post, I explained 6 reasons why the Cloud is usually better for deploying talent management software.

These were:

1. On-demand gives you access to innovation and use of mobile devices

2. Deployment is easier with on-demand and allows quick pilots

3. On-demand requires less corporate IT bandwidth

4. You don’t need to worry about scalability with On-demand

5. On-demand is easier to make secure

6. On-demand is usually more reliable

We offer the on-premise Questionmark Perception as well as Questionmark OnDemand, our SaaS solution, so I have no “axe to grind”.

It’s important to consider all the angles when deciding between on-demand and on-premise — so now I’d like to identify 4 reasons why on-premise can be better:

1. Data protection is simpler if everything is in house

What are some of the reasons against on-demand deployment? One is data protection.

With an on-premise installation, you have full control of your own data protection.

With an on-demand installation, you need to ensure that you keep control of your data and that the Cloud provider responsibly processes it. Most reputable providers do a good job on data protection, so you can usually resolve this concern, but you do need to stay in control and be vigilant when using a network of data with different providers.

2. The US Patriot Act can be a concern for non-US organizations

Usually an organization will be reasonably confident that data in an on-premise system should be inaccessible by governments or other outside parties, at least without a legal process. But there is concern a government might force an on-demand provider to share data without the organization’s permission.

In particular, the US Patriot Act gives the US government the right to demand data from a US provider. If an organization is concerned about this, it would want to use an on-demand provider that is not US-owned, whose data center is outside the US and is not owned by a US company.  (Questionmark has a European data center for exactly this reason.)

3. There is less risk of lock-in with on-premise

Technology and suppliers and needs change, and every organization needs to be able to plan to move systems in the future. For both on-premise and on-demand, you need to make sure that your data is accessible in a documented format. But for on-demand, you also need to make sure that your contract permits you to get access to the data and export it or otherwise access the data to avoid lock-in.

4. You can customize on-premise

Picture of software development from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Coding_Shots_Annual_Plan_high_res-5.jpg)Typically you can configure an on-demand system and set up your own templates and branding, but major customization is harder. Most on-demand providers use the same software instance for all their customers; this is one of the key economies of scale that make on-demand successful.

An on-premise installation is much easier to customize, so a strong reason to go on-premise can be to do deep customization. For instance, you can usually access data via web services in the Cloud, but if you need direct database access or connections, you may need to go on-premise.

Of course, if you do customize, too wide a change can make things difficult when a new version of the software is produced. This goes back to the first reason on my list of arguments in favour of on-demand: it gives you easier access to new versions and innovation.

 Of course, other factors come into play as well – functionality, cost, support, and organization culture to name a few. Both routes are viable. There are advantages for on-demand services, but some organizations prefer on-premise installations for good reason.

If you’re trying to decide what’s right for you, I hope both of these posts (part 1 is here) help highlight some of the issues.

On-demand or on-premise: Which is better for talent management?

John Kleeman HeadshotPosted by John Kleeman

Is it better to run assessment, learning and other talent management software on-demand, in the Cloud? Or is it wiser to run software on-premise, within your organization’s firewall?

I recently wrote about this on the SAP community and received a lot of feedback; I‘d like to share the topic with readers of the Questionmark Blog.

In this post I will share 6 reasons why the Cloud is usually better. And in my next post I’ll give you 4 reasons why it may not be.

1. On-demand gives you access to innovation and use of mobile devices


A critical advantage of on-demand deployment – or software as a service (SaaS) — is that you get the latest version of software. Most providers upgrade all their customers at the same time to the latest version, and you get bug fixes, feature improvements, security fixes and innovation as part of the service. With on-premise, you are in control of when you install updates. But due to the resources required to upgrade, it’s commonplace to only upgrade once every year or two, and therefore be several versions behind an on-demand system. Support for the latest mobile devices is an obvious casualty..

To quote Ed Cohen of SuccessFactors:

“If you look at the rate of innovation that can occur with a SaaS product as against a company maintaining a behind the firewall instance of something, it becomes super important for learning and talent.”


2. Deployment is easier with on-demand and allows quick pilots

An on-premise system needs setup of servers and software installation. This takes planning, time and resources, whereas an on-demand system can usually be deployed within hours of ordering it. An on-demand system is also easier to scale up and expand. You can start small with one project and add users or departments as needed.

3. On-demand requires less corporate IT bandwidth

This is often the strongest reason to go on-demand in the learning and assessment space. Corporate IT departments are typically overloaded, and talent management software is not their top priority. This creates a bottleneck, which in turn delays deployment.

On-demand still needs the involvement of corporate IT, but you can usually make headway and provide improved functionality quicker than when deploying on-premise.

4. You don’t need to worry about scalability with on-demand

With an on-premise solution, you have to scale servers to cope with the busiest times (e.g. an end-of-year deadline, exam season or a compliance milestone). But if you use on-demand software, you delegate this to the Cloud provider, who will usually be able to expand to handle your highest load.

5. On-demand is easier to make secure

Both on-premise and on-demand can be very secure, but achieving a high level of security is expensive and involves constant vigilance. Unless you invest heavily in security, Cloud providers will usually provide higher security than the typical on-premise solutions.

This point is well described by SAP’s  Prashanth Padmanabhan in his blog article Why Do We Keep Our Valuables In A Bank Locker?. He states:

“… one of the SAP – SuccessFactors Hybrid customers announced publicly that their own security audit found that SuccessFactors cloud infrastructure was more secure than their own fire wall.”

And the respected UK Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association says in its Cloud briefing paper:

“In practice, data is probably more secure in cloud services than can be provided by in house solutions.”

6. On-demand is usually more reliable

Usually, providing your users have good Internet connectivity, an on-demand system will also be more reliable and have higher up-time.

Stylized picture of bridge

Unless you invest heavily in your on-premise infrastructure, a professionally maintained on-demand server is likely to provide a higher level of 24/7 availability and uptime than a locally maintained system. A professional system is likely to have redundancy in every component and will not fail if a piece of hardware fails, whereas it may not be cost-effective to have such redundancy in an on-premise system. Redundancy makes sure, just like in a bridge over a river, that if one piece fails, the rest of the bridge survives.

In a follow-up post, I’ll explain some reasons why on-premise can be better.

Cutting the ribbon at the Questionmark European Data Center

Posted by John Kleeman

I’m pleased to let you know we have just opened a European data center for our Questionmark OnDemand service, a scalable, flexible assessment SaaS solution with available 24/7 support. The new data center gives European Questionmark OnDemand customers a highly secure place to keep their assessment data within the European Union.

Basic protections include:

  • Physical security with 24/7 guards and CCTV
  • Fire suppression with 24×7 environmental monitoring
  • N+1 redundant heating / air conditioning system
  • Power feeds from multiple providers, battery UPSs and on-site generators
  • Diverse and scalable Internet connections to multiple carriers

But being an assessment company, certification is also very important for us, as is adherence to appropriate security standards for our customers throughout the world.

In the US, most data centers are certified to a standard called SSAE 16. This standard (which used to be called SAS 70) is controlled by the AICPA – American Institute of Certified Public Accountants – and looking at a data center’s SSAE 16 report is a useful way of checking its security and standards.

But in Europe, SSAE 16 is little used; instead reputable data centers are usually certified to an ISO (International Standards Organization) standard, ISO 27001. ISO 27001 is an information security standard which requires you to assess risks and then set up controls to meet them. Like SSAE 16, ISO 27001 is certified by an independent auditor. Questionmark’s new European data center is not only ISO 27001 certified, but also certified to another important ISO standard, ISO 9001. ISO 9001 is a quality management standard and shows that an organization has strong quality processes in place.

It’s wonderful to have the European data center providing robust and scalable assessment delivery together with the highest levels of security and data protection. We thought of breaking a bottle of top-quality Champagne on the computers, but figured it might be safer to cut some ribbon! In the picture below, you can see me and our VP of Sales Che Osborne cutting the ribbon to formally open the data center.

Click here for more information on Questionmark OnDemand.

I wandered lonely as a virtual machine – with apologies to William Wordsworth

Over the next few months I’m going to be taking a closer look at how to set up Questionmark Perception on cloud-based virtual machines.  I’ll be writing some tutorials aimed at system administrators and integration developers.  I’ll show you, in detail, how to install and configure Perception in Amazon’s cloud and how to use it to test your own integrations.

But first: what are virtual machines, and why do they form clouds?

Ten years ago you could walk into a typical data centre and locate the physical machine that was running your application. You could walk around the server room and do a quick scan of the flashing LEDs to get a dashboard-like view of your running applications. Sometimes a big server would be shared between multiple applications, but sharing the operating system, web server and other common components was error prone and things quickly got complicated!

Today, data centres are often just populated with anonymous machines that combine to form a cloud of computing resources. Each application is installed on its own virtual machine with its own virtual operating system. Virtual machines ‘float’ in the cloud, wandering transparently between the physical machines as required.

One of the main advantages of virtualization is that it enables resources to be used more efficiently. When an application is inactive, the physical resources it was using can be quickly recycled, saving energy and helping ensure that future generations can also enjoy the “vales and hills” that Wordsworth once wandered through.

One of the most popular computing clouds is Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, known as Amazon EC2 for short.  Virtual machines in Amazon’s EC2 are rented out to Amazon account holders on an hour-by-hour basis for just a few dollars.

The physical machines that make up the cloud are distributed around the world in Amazon’s data centres.  But clouds can be private too.  Software for virtualization is available from well known suppliers like VMWare and Microsoft allowing companies to create private clouds in their own data centres.  There is even an open source cloud platform called Eucalyptus.

The easiest way to get going with Questionmark Perception is with our OnDemand solution, but if you need an OnPremise solution you might already be thinking of installing Perception on your own cloud based-systems. This is a subject I’ll be covering in more detail later.

Announcing Questionmark Analytics for Easy, Flexible Reporting

Posted by Joan Phaup

We’re very pleased to announce that Questionmark Analytics, our next-generation reporting system, has just become available with this week’s release of Questionmark Perception version 5.3 OnDemand.

Example Course Summary Report Chart

Users of our OnDemand Solutions now have access to the next-generation reporting tools of Questionmark Analytics, which is one of several improvements in version 5.3. The others include:

  • A new, portal-based interface for access to administrative and reporting functions
  • Multilingual Administrative interfaces now available in six language
  • Shorter, standardized URLs for both participants and administrators to log in with

Questionmark Analytics pulls information from a shared repository and stores it in a specially constructed Results Warehouse. Users can designate what data to analyze and display in their reports. They can also choose how they’d like to distribute reports to stakeholders — as HTML, PDF or CSV files.

Questionmark Analytics includes eight new reports – including four focused on course evaluation and two new item bank reports:

  • Course Summary
  • Instructor Summary
  • Class Summary
  • Class Detail Report
  • Survey Frequency Analysis
  • Assessment Results Over Time
  • Question Status
  • Question Type

We’ll be explaining how to use these reports in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

Connect directly to Perception server with Questionmark’s iPhone/iPad App


Posted by Jim Farrell

Before the Apple® iPad™ hit the streets, we knew that it would be an immediate player in the education market. Its large, color touch screen has made the iPad the darling of college and corporate campuses. So we knew we wanted our Apple iPhone® App to work on this new device. 

We also wanted to make it easier for our customers to use the App immediately after downloading it. We added the ability for you to configure the App to connect directly to your Perception server install, whether it is On Premise or On Demand.

Watch this short video showing you how easy it is to connect directly to your Perception server using our iPhone/iPad App today. If you haven’t played with the App, download it today! Just follow the link from our information page.