SaaS has the potential to fundamentally change how a business operates. It’s therefore important to make sure you select the right SaaS provider for your business. Common business concerns about SaaS generally fall into three areas:
• Provider reliability
• Suitability of an offering to meet your needs
When evaluating a SaaS provider, businesses should:
1. Determine Reliability
Most SaaS providers pride themselves on being available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. High availability typically demonstrates that the provider has some level of fault tolerance or disaster recovery in place to help guarantee availability in the event of a major disaster.
SaaS providers may refer to ‘uptime’ in their selling proposition, which is the amount of time that their services are online as a percentage of time in a year (e.g. 99.9% uptime). Their downtime might include things like scheduled maintenance, but may not include “intermediate” issues, such as Internet routing problems, even though users may not be able to access their data and applications. When researching a provider’s availability figures, it is therefore important to ask how this is measured and consider all facets of downtime that could impact your business.
2. Request a Service Level Agreement
SaaS providers may offer different levels of availability and performance at different price scales. Discussing these levels and their corresponding price is a key component of negotiating a Service Level Agreement (SLA). The SLA should provide:
• Definitions of availability and downtime
• A complete list of services provided
• Required availability for each service and acceptable downtime limits
• Methods used to report any loss of service and downtime
• Notification requirements
Some of these factors may not be important to your business and there may be additional ones you want to consider. However, it can be used as a guide to discuss with your SaaS provider when evaluating their solution.
3. Check the provider’s reputation and industry position
Reputation is the most valuable competitive advantage in the service market. Each provider strives for the best possible position relative to its peers. Look for a provider that has a strong industry position. Consider the richness of their service offerings, independent product reviews, what analysts say about them, and their financial solvency.
4. Make sure the service meets your expectations
SaaS capabilities are advancing rapidly. Today the market is filled with a variety of SaaS applications that not only work well as services, but which offer richer features than traditional software. Some applications focus on very specific business processes, while others can be implemented at a company-wide level. Consider what business problem you are trying to solve to ensure that the service can meet these expectations. Also consider your future plans for SaaS. Can the application add value elsewhere in the business?
5. Dig deeper into their security offerings
Using a SaaS model means your data is hosted by a third party and accessed through the Internet. This brings up a series of security and privacy concerns that require careful planning. When researching a prospective SaaS provider, dig deeper into their security features. Do they have adequate redundancy for data storage and fault tolerance? What are their technical security safeguards? What are their physical security safeguards? Can their employees access your data? What ethical guidelines are in place to ensure privacy?
Security requirements vary greatly depending on the organization and industry. It is therefore important to consider what security features matter to you most and ensure your prospective SaaS provider can satisfy them.