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Five reasons to subscribe rather than buy software

Subscribe or buy software?

Requests to buy Datanow systems outright come up reasonably often. I know producers of other internet based software get asked about this too.

Lease vs. buy decisions are made by businesses all the time. For assets such as vehicles or property, cash is often a major factor. But when it comes to subscribing to (the software word for leasing) or buying software, there are several considerations that will shape your future relationship with the software.

In this article, I’m going to explain how modern software products have complex layers. Then, using Datanow as an example, I’ll give five reasons why a subscription model will benefit your business more than owning it outright.

What’s in a software solution?

A good starting place is “what goods and services am I getting from a software supplier”. Modern software solutions are made up of many parts. Visualise it as a multi-layer cake. Each layer does a job, the whole cake provides the solution.

What layers are there in a Datanow solution?

Datanow is used for getting and sharing information about plant and machinery performance. To do this, there are hardware, software and communications networks involved.

To offer customers flexibility, there are different bundles which you can purchase. Just note that even with the software only bundle there are multiple layers. The table below shows the layers and bundles.

Layer Detail Complete PLC integration Software only
1 Hardware capture y - -
2 Site network y - -
3 Base station y y -
4 Internet connection y y -
5 Server processing y y y
6 Web apps y y y
7 Mobile apps y y y
8 Reporting y y y
9 API y y y
  1. Hardware capture devices: These connect to sensors, instruments and electrical equipment on a site.
  2. Site networks: These are used to allow capture devices to communicate with the base station.
  3. Base station: This prepares and processes information before sending it to the cloud (internet).
  4. Internet connection: Some kind of connection to the internet is needed. In New Zealand, we usually use mobile networks provided by Spark, Vodafone or 2degrees.
  5. Server processing: Data from a site needs to be checked and stored permanently. Datanow uses servers on the internet to do that.
  6. Web Apps: This is the software that lets you see and interact with the data on a web browser.
  7. Mobile Apps: This is the software that you can load onto your Android or iPhone, for quick convenient access.
  8. Reporting: Datanow contains a powerful reporting engine which lets data be presented in a way that very closely matches the way your operation works. This also happens in internet based servers.
  9. API: Think of this as connection or glue software. It’s optional and lets you share or export your Datanow information with other software systems.

Now that we understand that software is a set of layers, you’ll want to carefully consider which (if any) layers you want to own yourself. All of the reasons boil down to whether you want to be responsile for keeping things running over the long term. Let’s now go through the five reasons.

1. You want your data to be correct

If you want a reliable, long term record plant performance, you need to be ready for the unexpected. Sensors will fail, a wire will fall off somewhere, and people will do things that lets incorrect information into the system. Subscription products like Datanow are tightly bundled with responsive customer support. The beauty of this is that we can easily get access and help you clean and correct the data.

2. You want your data to be continuous

Continuous is slight to correct. Continuous means 24/7/365 without any gaps. Gaps can be created by a wide range of issues in the hardware, network or software. Some of these are within your control, some of them aren’t! With subscription products, data security is taken care of. Software patches, updates and backups are not something you need or want to be doing.

If your subscription includes hardware, that benefit applies to the entire system. I’ve seen many systems where a simple hardware fault has led to weeks of data gaps as the ‘owner’ has to track down parts and the specialists to put things back together again.

3. You want to grow your data

As the manufacturing world embraces digital and data, you don’t want to isolate yourself by buying the wrong size solution. Subscription products like Datanow have the ability to grow (and shrink) as your needs change. Whether its using data in new ways or expanding to capture more detail, you’re ready to go with a subscription solution.

4. You want to trial it first

Because subscription solutions are already up and running (in the cloud), setting up a trial is not a big deal. Click here if you’re not sure about plant performance monitoring and want a demo or trial.

5. You want known costs

Software and IT projects a notorious for failing to deliver and blowing out on cost. Subscription solutions offer great benefits here too. They let you spread costs and limit risk. Datanow offers simple pricing which covers everything to get going, stay going and be supported.

But it’s really about your strategy.

It would be a mistake to think that this decision was just about these five key points. It’s actually more about business strategy. If collecting and using data is going to be part of your drive to be competitive, then it’s about investing in the right solution to support that strategy. Subscription is a compelling way to go.

To summarise, subscription offers

  • Correct and continuous data, by helping when issues arise.
  • Grow (or shrink) capability as your needs and appetite changes
  • Reduced risks through real-world trials
  • Known costs


As a final note, I need to clarify that Datanow is not a control system. It doesn’t run the plant or have any critical real time function. We don’t recommend using a cloud based control system, those functions need to remain onsite!

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