There are a lot of Cloud BI tools that have out of the box connectors to major SaaS/Cloud apps, but have you heard of the benefits of using a self-hosted and on-premise business intelligence (BI) tools for SaaS and Cloud APIs?
Using self-hosted BI tools can be highly beneficial– especially for company decision-makers who need a BI tool that can generate dashboards and reports and help them understand where their data is located (and data security, privacy, and control are important).
This guide will break down SaaS tools, APIs, data locations, and the advantages of utilizing self-hosted BI tools for SaaS or Cloud APIs.
Common Use Cases and Needs for BI Tools for SaaS/Cloud APIs
A rising percentage of small businesses and startups are "Cloud-First” or “Cloud-Only," meaning that their tech stacks are almost entirely cloud-based, and each product comes from a SaaS vendor. That means that the only way they can access their data directly is via the vendor's API.
When it comes down to it, SaaS/Cloud solutions are excellent for any purpose you use them for, including accounting, marketing, sales, etc.
However, when it comes to ad-hoc reporting and custom dashboards, many businesses are limited to only the tools available inside the SaaS product, as API-based reporting is simply too difficult without a seasoned developer.
There are many significant use cases where a flexible and easy-to-use BI tool that can communicate with SaaS/Cloud APIs is needed:
- People need customized reports.
- Users want to share the reports with people who don't use or have licenses to the SaaS or Cloud application.
- Users might want to share the reports with customers or an audience and need customer-level security applied.
- To make a helpful report, you must combine data from varying sources, such as other cloud apps or spreadsheet data.
- You want to share the data in other ways, such as via email, embedded on a web page, exported, etc.
It might be challenging to meet all the criteria mentioned above when the data is hidden behind an API. You must engage an API developer to generate a custom report or create a bespoke application. This may get quite pricey. What, then, can a business do? They more or less search for a BI solution that can communicate with the SaaS or Cloud vendor.
Many cloud-based suppliers exist now that focus on reporting from other cloud-based vendors. Numerous significant cloud vendors are already connected by default to products like Klipfolio, Domo, Cyfe, Geckoboard, and others. They feature pre-built connections that enable one to start creating reports by only plugging in their credentials. However, there are limits to many cloud-based BI tools.
Limitations of Cloud-Based Vendors
Cloud-based suppliers that have pre-configured connections to API-based data nevertheless have a lot of limitations:
- Data blending remains a problem.
- It is still challenging to create a bespoke report because such providers frequently only provide hard-coded reports.
- Now that you're exchanging your private information with a different third-party vendor, you and your company may have extra GDPR and privacy issues.
- The cost of such cloud-based BI systems is a concern because they might be pricey.
- They frequently don't fit many typical corporate use cases.
The Benefits of Using an On-Premise Self-Hosted BI Solution to Communicate with API Endpoints
Using such technology, such as DashboardFox, has many benefits. However, it’s essential to consider the nature of on-premise self-hosted technology. It is not simply plug-and-play, ready to go out of the box. There is more to the setups than simply entering in your credentials, as such technology is customizable and does not have an out-of-the-box config– and that’s a good thing.
To better understand the nature of such software for API reporting, consider DashboardFox’s process for API reporting:
- On your server or a cloud server, you install DashboardFox. Everything related to the installation, access, security, etc., is in your control.
- You configure the API connection following the demands of your cloud vendor, which may include oAuth2, apikey, simple http, etc.
- Set up the API endpoints from which you wish to retrieve data.
- If the API is JSON-based, DashboardFox will automatically create a set of database tables to record all the results when you first collect data from the endpoint.
- DashboardFox will download the new data and update the relevant database tables when the API endpoint is fetched on your specified schedule.
- Create all your reports and dashboards in DashboardFox using those database tables, just like any other database. Without creating any code, combine data from several sources and do many more tasks.
Now that we better understand how such technology works and how it is installed, let’s consider some benefits of self-hosted on-premise BI tools like DashboardFox for businesses that want solid API endpoint reporting.
Security Becomes Easier
Now, you may restrict access to the data at the client and data levels and share it with anyone, even if they don't have a SaaS tool user or license.
Users Have More Control
Another thing is you have complete control over your server's location, data, privacy and security settings, when you wish to update, etc. The user is not subject to the vagaries of a cloud provider who has outages, upgrades you whenever they choose, may have data or security breaches, etc.
Your Data Becomes Available Locally
Since you have access to the database where the data is kept, you can use it to arrange and change the data for more straightforward reporting by creating database views. This is crucial since, occasionally, API-based data doesn't come in a format suitable for reporting.
You Have Fewer Restrictions for Querying
When you run a report, you don't have many restrictions with directly asking the API. APIs include restrictions on how frequently, how much data, how many times you may query them, etc. You may encounter those if many people are executing the reports. In a self-hosted on-premises architecture, you only have access to the data since you are querying database tables, which restricts your exposure to API.
Your Data Becomes Unlocked
You now have a local repository for the data in addition to the cloud. You have all of your data in case you need to import the old data to a different vendor or if you decide to quit the SaaS provider or are locked out for any other reason. Compared to dealing with a vendor's export choices, DashboardFox simplifies exporting data and puts it in the format you want.
Data Blending Becomes a Breeze
Self-hosted BI technologies that are hosted on-premise make it simple to blend data. You no longer need to worry about exporting data from several SaaS suppliers and manually combining it in Excel since DashboardFox allows you to take data from different sources and develop unique calculations.
The Challenges of Using an On-Premise Self-Hosted BI Solution to Communicate with API Endpoints
When it comes down to it, this technology is more difficult to utilize than what a cloud-based provider might provide. With vendor-provided cloud-based software, you provide your login information or an API for your SaaS tool, and the Cloud BI tool creates the connection for you.
A callback is frequently performed by the SaaS tool, and there is some bi-directional security communication to ensure that all parties are permitted, especially with oAuth2 connections. On-premise servers and SaaS vendors often need to be configured for this.
It's technical work, which is the bad news. The good news is that you are in charge and don't need to deal with a middleman Cloud-BI platform. At DashboardFox, we've observed several instances when a SaaS tool invalidates access to a cloud-integrated product because of nefarious activity or because another client misused the API.
Unfortunately, it ceases to function for all product consumers when the API integration is invalidated due to a bad actor. You won't have to be concerned about that possibility if you integrate on-premise.
Additionally, with many self-hosted/on-premise BI tools where you make your own connection to a vendor’s API, there’s no out-of-box reports and dashboards. While it may be easy to generate content, with many Cloud BI vendors, you authenticate and are instantly gratified with dashboards and reports.
However, upon inspection, many BI providers are trying to market eye-catching solutions by capitalizing on the BI buzz– and those out-of-box eye-catching solutions may not always suit your company or use cases.
For their SaaS integrations, cloud BI products include pre-built reports, as we discussed previously. They aren't an improvement above what's currently in the SaaS application itself, and you can't change them.
How Can Self-Hosted BI Tools Avoid These Challenges?
They can’t be entirely avoided but can be made more accessible. You are not alone in using DashboardFox since we have comprehensive support staff.
Our development team is currently developing a mechanism to streamline the procedure, make as much of the connection information for each vendor available, and offer comprehensive instructions to get you the rest of the way. For the leading SaaS companies, we're also searching for a means to develop pre-built apps, reports, and dashboards.
How DashboardFox Can Help as a Self-Hosted BI Tool
Well, DashboardFox is self-hosted and on-premise.
You control the infrastructure, the security, the data location, the branding, and more.
DashboardFox has a robust way as described above to connect to API endpoints and to schedule the fetching of data on a schedule.
Then the benefits of DashboardFox kick in such as no-code reporting building, data-level and role based security, scheduling and notifications, embedding, mobile access, and for many best of all, a one-time price model, not an annual subscription.
Now that we have laid most of our cards on the table, we can talk more about the ‘Fox by scheduling a meeting or booking a live demo session for free. We will be waiting!
How was our guide to the benefits of self-hosted, on-premise BI tools for SaaS and Cloud API reporting? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.