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Cloud computing and cloud-based solutions have become increasingly popular for law enforcement agencies.  Should your agency consider Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)? 

Many agencies calculate the total cost of ownership (TCO), not just the initial expense, when deciding between an on-premise or cloud-based software solution. TCO considers both direct and indirect costs associated with a purchase over the course of the full lifespan of the purchase. Your TCO calculation should include fixed indirect costs like administration and personnel costs, as well as recurring indirect costs such as subscription and maintenance fees. 

In performing a TCO comparison between on-premise and cloud-based software, most agencies soon realize there is a huge cost savings in cloud-based solutions for public safety agencies. 


Software License & Subscription 

Cloud-based Software On-Premise Systems 
  • Licensed as a “pay as you go” subscription 
  • Low initial set-up fee.  
  • Recurring subscription payments. 
  • Requires a large upfront purchase of a software license and annual maintenance fees. 



System Hardware 

Cloud-based Software On-Premise Systems 
  • No physical hardware to purchase or maintain. 
  • No storage or operational costs.  
  • Server capacity, data compliance, and security are included. 
  • Significant upfront costs for hardware purchases.
  • Requires regular maintenance and other operational costs.  
  • The agency is responsible for storing, securing, powering, and maintaining their system, and ensuring compliance with data storage requirements. 

Hardware and Software Installation 

Cloud-based Software On-Premise Systems 
  • Accessed from any internet-connected device.
  • No need to install physical hardware. 
  • Requires the purchase of hardware, associated equipment and related vendor professional services.  
  • Agency must provide secure facilities with physical storage spacereliable power/AC systems, and redundant network access. 
  • Software must be installed on-site directly on agency hardware. 

Software Upgrades & Updates 

Cloud-based Software On-Premise Systems 
  • Shorter, more frequent upgrade cycles.  
  • No downtime during updates so your applications are available on a constant, reliable basis. 
  • Software upgrades are usually expensive, irregularly timed, interrupt on-going work and are time-consuming to roll out.  
  • Agencies often skip scheduled upgrades, leading to increased vulnerability to cyber-attack. 


Cloud-based Software On-Premise Systems 
  • Scalable and Future-proof” to handle increasing demands of the agency 
  • Additional storage capacity is included in your subscription cost or available for an additional fee. 
  • Systems hardware requires periodic upgrades to meet expanding demands for increased speed and storage capacity. 



Cloud-based Software On-Premise Systems 
  • Security updates and upgrades for systems are kept up to date. 
  • CJIS facilities and Security certifications and protections are available.  
  • All security measures are the responsibility of and must be performed entirely by the agency. 
  • Keeping up to date with security checks is costly and time consuming for IT staff. 
  • Security certifications and facility audits may be too expensive and time-consuming for individual agencies. 



Evaluate vendors based on their success in providing software services of similar size and function. Choosing an experienced software-as-a-service provider helps ensure the success of your project by lowering technical, cost, and schedule risksThe selected vendor should be attuned to the special needs of law enforcement agencies and the impact on public safety. A complete solution includes ongoing user training to agency staff and support for software functional changes as a result of changes to statutes and agency policies. 



The OffenderWatch sex offender registry product has been provided as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution for law enforcement since 2001. An annual subscription enables agencies to adopt the latest technology while minimizing operating expenses. Our law enforcement partners enjoyed online maps before Google Maps was available, and OffenderWatch pioneered email notifications from law enforcement to the public. Over 20 years OffenderWatch has successfully scaled to support over 15,000 users from 3,400 law enforcement agencies in 38 states. Today OffenderWatch is expanding internationally and introducing new smart phone apps and artificial intelligence technologies to our public safety partners.