7 things to consider before purchasing a SaaS product
The move from desktop applications to online software as a service (SaaS) is becoming increasingly popular.
Some of the primary motivation for IT managers wanting to implement SaaS is cost-saving, followed by data security, ease of use and integration. Business managers are more likely to cite faster IT support, flexibility to adjust to market conditions, business continuity and improved customer relations.
Most businesses now know the benefits of SaaS but are still wary of it. The most common concerns are about data loss, privacy and confidentiality. Others are just wary of costs and contractual details. If your enterprise is considering a Saas purchase, we suggest the following seven things you should weigh up when making your decision.
1. Business security needs
Providers generally have high-security expertise and resources, but do they understand your specific business security requirements? Your enterprise is still legally responsible for the accuracy, confidentiality and safety of information when it is in the cloud, so to show your own compliance, you should thoroughly vet the companies you deal with.
If your firm operates in finance or healthcare, you may have extra sensitive information, greater regulation and tighter security requirements than other businesses. Ensure your chosen SaaS provider has a clear understanding of your firms required level of security.
It’s also essential to understand the limits of the security being provided. For example, providers have facilities to back up the data they handle if they experience problems, but that isn’t the same thing as giving backups for you. If your data becomes corrupted, for example by ransomware, you can’t depend on them to provide a pre-corruption copy unless you have negotiated a structured cloud backup plan with them.
Make sure that you understand the distinction between software as a service, cloud data storage and backup services.
2. Business software needs
What problems will SaaS solve for the business? Unless you determine this for each of your business operations, you won’t be able to measure the cost advantages and therefore how much you can afford to spend. Also, it will be more difficult rolling out the new software to your staff and getting them to use it.
A full procedural review of your business will often reveal additional ways in which you could standardise, integrate and economise by migrating to SaaS. Because cloud resources are available to employees in the field and remote workers, you may be able to switch to leaner, cheaper, more agile work practices.
Since most SaaS products use common standards, they integrate and automate easily. This creates new opportunities for labour-saving practices, such as pulling bank details into accounting software or generating market reports for your sales team.
3. Business reliability needs
There are several kinds of reliability. Things to consider in the context of a SaaS provider include their ability to communicate, their price transparency, and their customer service reviews. Use a little intuition; if they communicate in IT jargon, acronyms, and buzzwords, this doesn’t guarantee that they are competent, but it suggests that they may be hard to work with. Businesses should find a provider who understands the company, not one that expects you to understand them.
Conversely, one that will participate in your return on investment analysis should certainly rise towards the top of your list. If the SaaS provider offers a range of service tiers, this is an indicator that they have at least considered the needs of different types of customer.
4. Business migration needs
A SaaS provider’s revenue is proportional to how much you use them, so they are motivated to help you and your staff get on board. Nevertheless, there are still many that understand machines better than people and consequently design poor user interfaces and training materials.
Trial periods are an attractive option because they allow you to observe how quickly your team understands the software. If there is little helpful assistance during the trial, you still have time to consider alternatives.
5. Business contractual needs
Inflexibility before agreeing to a contract suggests that the provider will be inflexible after it too. If your business needs are simple, that may not matter too much. However, if your operations are subject to change, it could become a problem. Watch out for renewal terms and penalties for changing services early.
Your contract should include a service level agreement (SLA). What is and what isn’t your provider’s responsibility? How quickly will they address your support tickets? If the service is interrupted, when will you be compensated? The SLA should also specify some disaster recovery arrangements.
6. Future business needs
How likely is it that your requirements will change? If your business needs are likely to change, you may need more, less or different services, so it will be helpful to outline precisely how future plans could alter requirements. It can be a lot more straightforward to get code changed or new applications developed if your software and platform are open-source rather than proprietary.
Issues might also arise if your geographical coverage changes. Suppose you partner with a company in Hong Kong – will you be able to integrate your services with theirs using the provider’s platform?
7. Business exit strategy
Finally, what will you do if you need to move your services again? The future is always unknown.
One of the key concerns for a business is access and ownership of their data. Never put the business in a position where it can be denied control of its vital resources, or lose control over its protection and privacy. Firms should ask for a data ownership declaration to protect the interests of the business.