SaaS, or Software as a Service, has been successfully adopted for quite a few years now. Typically marketed as a subscription model, SaaS is unlike traditional models where software is sold with a lifetime license, with updates being pushed over the next years.
The advantages that the SaaS model brings to the table, both for the provider and the end-user, certainly trumps the traditional model of software licensing and implementation. It isn't surprising the popularity has profoundly increased for SaaS applications.
SaaS is hosted on the cloud so it does not need to be physically implemented in your systems. It negates the need to buy expensive hardware, as one only needs to pay for the resources to run the applications. Therefore, there is a benefit from a cost-efficiency perspective. Furthermore, SaaS is hosted on the cloud across a network of servers, so reliability concerns are a non-issue. SaaS also means lower upfront costs for end-users as they only pay for what they use and at the same time, for developers, it can be a sticky source of revenue over time.
On that note, we take a look at some of the essential steps that should be undertaken in the process of implementing SaaS as a model.
1.Compare On-Prem and SaaS
First of all, any business should weigh the need for SaaS implementation. Businesses should evaluate both the on-premises and SaaS models separately, considering the following points.
Is SaaS a good fit or not?
Cost of implementation.
The flexibility of the SaaS model.
Potential risks of SaaS-based applications.
Support provided by the vendors.
After comparing all the points and evaluating their needs, a business will likely opt for SaaS implementation.
2. Identify Requirements
One of the most important tasks before undertaking any kind of development is to understand the requirements of the end-users. It is downright impossible to build a suitable application without having a core understanding of the business requirements. These are surely the most important initial steps that one must understand. Having an understanding of the requirements works best largely because it serves as an inventory for the solutions that are truly necessary and sets them apart from ‘good to have features. Adding non-essentials adds to the complexity, scope, delay, and costs, so having a clear-cut idea of your project parameters helps.
Some of the essentials to ponder upon would be the scalability of the application, security issues, and the ways challenges and failures are handled.
3. Encourage Employee Adoption
Teamwork is always essential to build anything good. The same principle applies here as well. Having a team that comes with sufficient experience and fluency in various technologies surely helps in building the right application that caters well to all stakeholders. Team members should also engage in continuous learning in order to implement the current best industry practices.
For the successful adoption of SaaS, everyone should be on board. The management should communicate properly and highlight the benefits of SaaS. It will encourage all the departments to come forward and adopt it faster. Proper training should be provided to make the employees comfortable with the new system. (Read also: 8 Best Practices for Managing Cloud Applications.)
4. Procure Scalable SaaS Components
Once the objectives of the application are understood, the next immediate step is to focus on the design of the infrastructure. The preferred way should always be to opt for a scalable, reliable and well-networked infrastructure. Importance must be given to having a robust data center, with proper backup facilities and monitoring tools.
You will need to ensure your developers have the tools to create a solid, usable platform. Both client-facing and server-side must be accounted for. A relational database (MySQL or PostgreSQL) will be used for backend data storage.
Ideally, infrastructure should be well optimized for any costs involved and need to be backed with Service Level Agreements (SLA) that are clearly defined. Further, there should be string security measures taken as well
After the completion of design aspects of the SaaS implementation process comes the component procurement phase. The need to have components that are proven in terms of reliability and functionality is something to note. Their deployment and configuration is also a step that needs to be carefully implemented as per requirements.
5. Consider Bandwidth and Hosting
In SaaS, perhaps one of the most important aspects of its implementation is that of connectivity. Connectivity is what forms the backbone of the entire service model and so choosing the right service provider as a host is non-negotiable.
While there must be a possibility to aim for the lowest hops between the user and the hosting facility, there must be accommodation for multiple connectivity points to the host data center so that there are no hiccups in the availability of services.
6. Evaluate Performance and Quality
Another vital point of consideration in SaaS is platform performance. While the developer will be aware of how good the application performs locally, it is imperative that end-users too, have a similar experience. A lot of this will depend on several factors, like bandwidth, reliability and most importantly, finding the optimal point of delivery. The latter is the toughest to achieve and requires plenty of fine tuning to achieve.
7. Ensure Data Security and Management
Security is essential right from the word go! If end-users at any point feel that their data, Intellectual Property and privacy are not being safely managed, it spells only doom for the business. Again, security would comprise of two aspects, data at rest and data in transition.
The SaaS provider should provide details about the security levels at their data centers. Next, you need to make sure that the roles and access rights are exactly the same as your on-premise systems (for migration projects). And, it should match your guidelines for new projects.
Take the quiz: What Do You Know About SaaS Risk?
8. Investigate Disaster Recovery Solutions
Disasters can strike in any form and any time. Hence is the need to have a disaster recovery solution that allows the application to be available to customers at all times. Also, in the case of an outage that disrupts the service, it is necessary to have a quick turnaround time for restoration as well.
9. Assess Customer Support & Monitoring
What forms an important part of a service experience is customer support availability and quality. Oftentimes, this is what differentiates a good service from a rather poor one.
A responsive customer support system, such as having a ticket system that further connects to the call center can be one way of achieving this. An email system of support may also work just fine. No matter what the process is, seamless availability is surely the most important parameter in terms of customer support.
An extensive monitoring solution can be really helpful in keeping track of events. This helps in timely intervention when needed and also help prevent disasters from occurring.
A monitoring system also must consider a number of things like, consumption patterns of CPU and memory, application and OS event logs, and other components such as database, network features, etc.
10. Analyze the SLA & Documentation
The Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an important document that should be checked thoroughly before signing any contracts. This SLA document clearly defines the offering of the SaaS vendor and also the consequences, if any failure is identified. If the business is satisfied with the SLA, the next step should be taken forward.
Documentation is one of the most important aspects in application development. Robust documentation accounts for every aspect of infrastructure. Furthermore, it acts as the Bible for any changes that may be required at a later stage.
SaaS has been successful and the go to method of late for development. It clearly does have its advantages over the traditional software licensing model and the steps mentioned above can be an essential checklist to follow.
11. Build Exit Strategies
An exit strategy is an important aspect of any new adoption. So, the business should have a proper exit plan, if they want to leave the SaaS service provider at any point of time. The exit plan should consider the following points. (Read also: Data Center Transition Operations: A Critical Plan.)
How to return back to on-premises software or other SaaS service?
What will happen to the data stored in SaaS?
What will be the migration process?
If there is any cost involved?
Any new change comes with roadblocks. It is also true for SaaS adoption. So, the business/management should prepare a proper implementation road map considering the requirements, goals, cost, and many more factors. Once the initial phase of implementation is rolled out successfully, the rest will be streamlined over time. But, strict monitoring is always required for its long-term success.