Building vs Buying: Exploring the Pros and Cons of Custom-Built In-House Survey Applications, Using On-Premise or Cloud-Based Survey Software


As the collection of sensitive data and compliance regulations continue to evolve, companies are continuously facing the challenge of finding the most efficient and secure method for gathering feedback and information from their audience. When it comes to survey and form management, if an organization deals with multiple forms on a daily basis, and requires complex survey designs or specific functionalities that cannot be easily implemented within the limitations of an online survey platform (SaaS with cloud storage), it has two main choices: developing a custom survey application in-house or investing in some ready-to-use on-premise software. In this blog post, we will discuss and compare these three options considering factors such as customization, data privacy, cost, and maintenance, and will talk about SurveyJS, a product suite of open-source JavaScript libraries that offer an eclectic approach to survey and form management.

Option 1: Cloud-Based Survey Software

There is an abundance of various online survey platforms in the market these days, including some well-established players like Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, TypeForm, Qualtrics, JotForm, and many more. Having to appeal to a broad audience, they have all been able to develop intuitive and user-friendly user interfaces (UIs), and offer a number of pre-built question types with decent customization options, making it easy even for a non-tech user to design and share forms in a few steps. Most online survey platforms also support robust data analysis and reporting features , including graphical representation, and allow collaboration and co-editing.

They have made surveying and form creation available to anyone with the initial investment close to zilch as when dealing with a cloud solution, there is no need to create the infrastructure, a third-party organization does it for you which certainly has its drawbacks in terms of data ownership and security especially when it comes to collecting sensitive or confidential information. As the data is stored on third-party servers which you don't have any control over, users may have concerns about the security measures and data protection practices implemented by the platform. The lack of transparency as to the data processing could also potentially impact its sovereignty and compliance requirements.

Although some more advanced features, such as skip logic and branching, are available across online survey platforms (most often in paid plans only), the flexibility of survey design for more complex scenarios is still very limited. Since such platforms make a profit from subscription fees that increase exponentially with the number of users and form submissions, as well as amount of storage (GB) included in a plan, if you need to survey a large sample size to do the research, or get information from patients, employees, or customers using multiple forms, then the maintenance costs can add up to a fortune by the end of the year.

Finally, it may be impossible to integrate the survey system into your in-house IT infrastructure, e.g., embed a cloud front-end into your web front-end, and so on. Nor can you implement any proper user audit to monitor and restrict user activities, such as logins, data modifications, and access permissions at the platform or form level.

Option 2: On-Premise Survey Software

On-premise survey software refers to survey software that is installed and operated on local infrastructure within an organization's premises or data center. Unlike cloud-based SaaS solutions, on-premise survey software is hosted and managed internally, giving organizations considerable control over their survey data and infrastructure , and ensuring compliance with data privacy regulations.

Compared to online survey platforms, there are only a few on-premise survey software providers to recall , including LimeSurvey, Checkbox Survey, and QuickTapSurvey. The reason for that lies in a low demand that could be explained by a few significant downsides of on-premise software. To start with, implementing on-premise survey software typically involves high upfront costs for hardware, licensing, and infrastructure setup , making it a more significant investment compared to cloud-based alternatives.

While allowing for some space for customization, seamless integration with existing internal systems, databases, or applications, is not always possible as on-premise survey solutions often require dedicated server platforms, databases, or even front-end frameworks as well as some considerable maintenance and security efforts.

Finally, when it comes to basic aspects such as a user-friendly and intuitive UI, on-premise survey solutions significantly lag behind cloud services, primarily due to the lower demand and investment in the former. The user experience delivered by cloud platforms is unparalleled and sets a benchmark that on-premise solutions will always struggle to match.

Option 3: Developing a Custom Survey Application In-House

Developing a survey application in-house provides the advantages of tailor-made fully-integrated solutions that include user security and audit, your preferred front-end UI , and much more - it is a part of your application. Having a custom survey solution in place, companies have complete control over the functionality, design, and features of the application. This level of customization allows developers to seamlessly integrate the application with existing systems, unique branding, and specific business requirements.

When dealing with private data, companies must ensure compliance with data protection regulations such as GDPR or CCPA. Developing an in-house solution facilitates control over data security , ensuring that the necessary security measures are implemented.

However, developing a survey application in-house requires significant time and resources. Organizations need to put together a team of developers, designers, and testers, as well as allocate sufficient budget and project management. The development process can be time-consuming : it could take at least 12-months' work of 5 developers (60 months in total) to build a form builder with some basic functionality that wouldn't even include a built-in conditional logic. Even if you manage to implement everything on time and on budget (which is rarely the case), simple requests for device adaptation or support of different UI themes can easily double the development time.

Finally, with a custom solution, ongoing maintenance and support become the responsibility of the company. Bug fixes, feature updates, support for new browser versions and new devices will require a dedicated team of developers which inevitably incurs additional maintenance expenses. The company should also allow for a long-term commitment to ensure the application remains compatible with evolving technologies.

What if you were told that you could build an enterprise-grade survey management system with a user-friendly UI in hours? It would be your own in-house survey application fully integrated into your company IT infrastructure and it would allow only your employees to access the data.

Such a solution does exist and is called SurveyJS, and it has already been tried, tested and integrated into the workflow by hundreds of companies, including the Big Four.

Option 4: The Cream of the Survey Crop

SurveyJS is a product suite of four open-source JavaScript libraries that provide you with all the advantages of a custom-built in-house survey application while significantly reducing time-to-market and resources required to get the system up and running. The libraries do not directly work with any server code or database, and are compatible with most popular JavaScript frameworks , such as React, Angular, Vue.js, jQuery, Knockout etc. They can communicate with any server that can post and get a request in JSON format which makes them server- and database-agnostic.

If the default UI and functionality seem abundant, you can easily limit it to only leave what your users require. And if some of your users want more, you can extend the libraries the same way you customize any JavaScript library. Being an open-source solution, SurveyJS provides a degree of flexibility to tailor the UI to the needs of its various users. Whatever sectors you come from - whether it's healthcare, HR, education, finance or anything in between - SurveyJS has been successfully integrated and modified - sometimes to an unrecognizable degree - by companies with various requirements and business tasks.

SurveyJS comprises an open-source MIT-licensed rendering library that renders dynamic JSON-based forms in your web application, and collects responses; an in-house drag-and-drop form builder that automatically generates JSON definition (schemas) of your forms in real time; PDF Generator, a library that renders SurveyJS surveys and forms as PDF files in a browser; and the Dashboard library that allows you to simplify survey data analysis with interactive and customizable charts and tables.

SurveyJS is free at the base and offers a perpetual developer-based licensing model for the Creator, PDF Generator and Dashboard libraries, allowing you to make a one-time payment and use the software indefinitely, thus also reducing the initial investment required.

If you want to evaluate the capabilities of the SurveyJS, try out this free full-scale demo or get started with the dedicated step-by-step guides.


When it comes to survey applications, organizations have multiple options to consider: cloud-based survey software, an on-premise third-party survey solution, or a custom in-house survey application. Each option has its own set of pros and cons, which must be carefully evaluated based on specific business requirements. If you run surveys occasionally just to get some feedback from your customers, then most likely any of the online platforms will do. However, if you are looking to set up a robust form management system fully integrated in your IT infrastructure that allows you to retain full control over the data flow, and you don’t want to spend months and thousands of dollars to get it up and running, then SurveyJS is probably the most effective and secure way for you to deal with form automation and survey implementation.

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