The Cybersecurity Industry’s Most Frequent Typo: On-Premise vs. On-Premises

Throughout my 25+ year career in the IT industry, I’ve developed a significant pet peeve – cybersecurity vendors incorrectly saying “on-premise” when they really mean “on-premises.” So, let’s clear this matter up right now.

“On-premises” means on site. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it means, “inside a building or on the area of land that it is on.” Examples with and without hyphens include:

  • “… available in both on-premises and cloud-based offerings.”
  • “… experienced consultants available to work on premises.”
  • “… has received numerous accolades for its on-premises solutions.”

I know this last example sounds awkward: “on-premises solutions.” It’s hard to tell where one word ends and the other begins. I’m sorry, but you’re just going to have to deal with it.

“On-premise” means on point. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, premise means, “a proposition antecedently supposed or proved as a basis of argument or inference.” I won’t provide examples of on-premise in a sentence because, technically, the term doesn’t exist.

The Debate Amongst Marketing Professionals

There are some marketing professionals who feel that on-premise is acceptable because it’s widely used and it just sounds better. I’m not one of them.

Whenever I see on-premise in a trade show booth graphic, in an online ad, or in a product brochure, I always assume that the copy was written by an inexperienced marketing person. And I know, for certain, there are others out there who feel exactly the same way.

In my view, there’s little upside to embracing on-premise. The biggest downside, aside from people like me rolling their eyes, is cybersecurity decision makers who fail to shortlist your offering because they feel your messaging is unprofessional. I’ll concede this isn’t terribly likely, especially since most people aren’t grammar geeks like me, but it absolutely could happen. Why take the risk?

Is “On-Prem” Acceptable?

Sure, in certain instances. I think on-prem is great when spoken verbally or when it appears in more casual content assets, such as blogs. But for websites and formal marketing communications, stick with on-premises.

What About the Hyphen?

Fair question. In practice, it seems that most cybersecurity vendors stick with the hyphen (i.e., on-premises) in all situations. I would definitely use the hyphen if on-premises is meant to be used as an adjective (e.g., on-premises solutions). But if it’s meant to be used as a noun, then I’m fine either way (e.g., work on premises, work on-premises).

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