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Cloud Talk

Andre Yee

Is SaaS Enterprise Ready? How to Assess Your SaaS Vendor.

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Few would argue that SaaS has crossed threshold into mainstream adoption over the past three years. Most corporations of any size today would likely have at least one SaaS application running somewhere in their organization.

It's so commonplace, SaaS has almost become passe - after all, the latest buzz is all about cloud computing. Time to move on? Not so fast - the adoption of SaaS into larger enterprises and into business critical functions is far from being a done deal.

There are some who question whether SaaS is enterprise ready today. Clearly, that's a loaded question and far to broad to frame an answer for. The only appropriate answer is..."It depends". What SaaS applications/vendors, what mission critical functions are we talking about?

It is true that in the rush to quickly deploy and benefit from SaaS, many companies haven't taken the time to properly assess the enterprise readiness of the SaaS application. Here are a checklist to help assess your SaaS vendor in terms of enterprise readiness and perhaps your readiness in adopting SaaS -

  • Reliability - if you're planning to implement SaaS for a critical business process, application uptime is an important consideration. The best SaaS applications and leading cloud services like Amazon S3 boast of better than 99.99% uptime...which translates to approximately 52 minutes of unscheduled downtime every year. You should demand no less from your vendor
  • Security - with SaaS, you're entrusting corporate data to the vendor and expecting the level of data protection applied to your on-premise enterprise applications. Yet, here's the dirty little secret - for many SaaS vendors, security is an afterthought. Wonder if your SaaS vendor is taking security seriously? Do a security audit - not just an audit of the security features within the application but also of the network security applied and the security controls within the organization.
  • Scalability - scale isn't something SMBs typically care about. But if you're a larger enterprise, scale translates to the growth of your business. Unlike an on-premise application where you have control over hardware selection & network configurations, if your SaaS vendor hits a wall in its ability to scale, you may find yourself in a serious bind. Expect your SaaS vendor to provide detailed numbers on scale - not simply in terms of the number of customers they support but also in terms of transaction volume and peak traffic loads. Remember - if they can't tell you, it means they don't know.
  • Business Process Integration - it's often overlooked but in today's enterprise, no application is or should be an island. Every business function and hence every application lives within the larger enterprise ecosystem. Ensuring that the SaaS application has data level integration with other key applications is essential.
  • Data Conversion Services - It's possible that you're going to start populating your application from scratch but more likely, you have an existing system running and will need to convert the data over and pre-populate your SaaS app. Assess what that looks like and more importantly, how much that will cost. Time to value with your SaaS application will depend on what you discover. Remember to think of this in reverse as well. What if it doesn't work out, how do you get your data out of their system and moved over into another solution. The last thing you want is to be trapped in a bad solution because of migration costs
  • SAS 70/Auditing IT Controls - this is related to security but so much more. Many SaaS companies are small startups that have been around for just a couple of years. Their IT processes related to security, backups, data recovery, etc... are often so immature, they are not only undocumented, they are not repeatable and untested. This is why the SAS 70 audit is important - it allows you to get a read on the maturity of the vendor's IT processes and controls. It's not optional.

This is just a checklist to get you started but I know I've left out a couple of items and probably overlooked a couple more. Please, tell me what I missed. What are the other measures of enterprise readiness?

3 Comments

An excellent overview of key evaluation criteria for SaaS vendors -- I would only add to the list interoperability with incumbent infrastructures (perhaps obvious) and other SaaS solutions (perhaps not so obvious), and financial stability (tricky, but essential). See my SaaS blog at www.dortchonit.com for more.

Michael - thanks for your thoughts here. Interoperability is definitely important and not simpy an old style SDK either - I cannot imagine a serious SaaS application today that doesn't have either a SOAP or REST interface.

Financial stability? Absolutely - there are so many upstart SaaS applications springing up, it can be hard for a buyer to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Financial viability audit is a must.

I'll definitely check out your SaaS blog, too,.

Relgolook is a productivity application for outlook users. Archival and email management for organizing and archiving relationships. Managed service provides online referral campaigns, online surveys, online polls, online test.

Andre Yee blogs about cloud computing, SaaS, Web 2.0 and other emerging technologies that matter to businesses.

Andre Yee

Andre Yee is an entrepreneur and technologist with nearly 20 years of experience in the business of technology.

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