The Pros and Cons of Cloud Automation – Part 2

To reduce the cost of ownership and increase both scale and ROI, more companies that began their automation journeys using on-premise, client side robotic process automation (RPA) solutions are making the switch to cloud-first automation platforms. A recent client survey conducted by Automation Anywhere, for example, indicates that 68% of their customers have migrated their automation estates to the cloud.

As the first article in this two-part series demonstrated, on-premise automation has its advantages, particularly for organizations in which high security and regulation is a pressing concern. Companies looking to reduce the cost of on-premise platforms and their dependence on internal resources to host, maintain, and support that infrastructure, however, are increasingly opting for cloud automation.

Using the same criteria as the first article to assess on-premise setups, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of cloud automation, beginning with implementation – perhaps the cloud’s strongest benefit. Because cloud automation offers a web-based interface, implementing it is instantaneous. It also requires limited IT intervention, unlike on-premise platforms which create dependencies on a company’s IT and SysOps teams because their infrastructure is hosted internally.

For cloud-first platforms, user management typically relies on a sole administrator (or perhaps a few administrators for larger organizations) tasked with distribution and management of pre-defined users and roles with simple access. It is important to note, however, that user management is based on the vendor’s policies, not the company’s. This potentially can cause problems, especially for organizations that demand high security or are subject to regulatory controls.

Security, in fact, might be the most contentious issue in trying to decide between on-premise and cloud automation. On the face of it, cloud automation enables a secure setup right out of the box. The vendor typically handles all aspects of security upgrades, disaster recovery, and data integrity, so there is little need for internal IT teams to intervene. While this represents an advantage for organizations happy to let the vendor manage those elements or without the internal resources to handle that responsibility themselves, it should be a red flag for users in highly regulated or high security industries.

Maintenance and support also offers mixed results, depending on the user’s specific needs. On one hand, many companies prefer maintenance and support of cloud-native platforms to be handled by the vendor. That means software updates are automatically pushed to the cloud, enabling users to always operate on the latest version without having to depend on internal resources to perform upgrades and train employees.

But while reliance on the vendor may translate into savings in both time and money, it also means the user is entirely dependent on the ability and response time of the vendor’s service team (as well as the service level agreements) if there is a problem. And as with any other SaaS provider, support can vary widely from vendor to vendor. Again, the preference usually comes down to the organization’s need for high security and regulatory compliance.

While security and support can be grey areas, cloud automation is the clear cut winner when it comes to cost. Cost, in fact, is one of the main drivers for organizations to move to the cloud. Cloud automation offers more competitive pricing than on-premise platforms with respect to the price structures of both its licenses and utilization. In addition, there is no need to designate IT teams to manage and monitor the infrastructure because it is web-based. This means savings in both time and money, enabling the organization to realize a faster return on investment.

The potential for costs to rise over time as pricing models and automation estates increase, in fact, represents the only real downside to cloud automation. That disadvantage, however, is far outweighed by the significantly higher costs of licensing, hosting, user management, and infrastructure maintenance that typically accompany on-premise automation.

Finally, cloud automation offers out-of-the-box visibility and analytics, with a selection of established reports and dashboards at the user’s fingertips, all with easily configurable scheduling. Beyond immediacy, this represents yet another feature that eliminates the need for in-house resources to handle hosting, maintenance, and support. The downside, of course, is that ready-to-use translates into lack of customization and access to backend data. While that may not be a big deal for most businesses, it could be problematic for high security or highly regulated organizations.

Given that, is there a clear-cut choice between on-premise and cloud automation. To repeat a sentence from the first article in this series, there is no right or wrong answer. The best solution depends on each organization’s specific needs. For those that want lower costs and ease of use and maintenance, cloud automation would seem to be the way to go. For companies which need more customization and internal control, though, on-premise platforms still represent a viable option.

Irina Lunin
Vice President of Research & Development at Blueprint Software Systems | + posts

Irina Lunin is the Vice President of Research & Development at Blueprint Software Systems and is responsible for the vision and evolution of Blueprint’s Business Transformation Platform, a powerful solution that helps large enterprises understand how work is getting done today, so that they can improve it as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Irina has a proven track record of delivering innovative solutions and is passionate about building technology that helps organizations consolidate all of their process information in one place, allowing them to optimize and automate their business processes. For more information, visit