Cloud migration is in full swing and for companies to make the trek; step one is to determine whether or not the destination is indeed a true cloud vs. an on-premise solution in disguise. With global spending on SaaS rising by 17.9 percent to $14 billion, it's time for companies to be able to spot a fake when they see one and ultimately become a more discerning buyer.
Many software vendors simply modify their applications so they can be accessed online—but application hosting is not the same as "real" SaaS. On-premise solutions cannot deliver on the real promises of cloud computing. "True" SaaS delivers seamless upgrades, lower operating costs,ubiquitous access and ease-of-use.
The Problem with On-Premise
Onsite, hosted solutions promise hassle-free software management, but they are not truly cloud-based. You still have the processes, architectures and maintenance associated with an on-premise environment.
You run, maintain and scale systems in-house—and that comes with manpower and cost commitments. You'll be dealing with multiple versions, which can be costly and confusing. On-premise software must also be customized, which is a more involved process that changes the underlying code and can cause problems down the line with future integrations.
On the cloud, all clientsare always on the same, centralized version, so updates don't leave you in the dust—and you can spend your time innovating rather than maintaining software. Moreover, cloud-based software can be configured to your needs, eliminating the problems that come with on-premise customizations.
The real cloud pays off. In a recent cost comparison of on-premise software with true SaaS solutions over a seven year period, the accounting and advisory firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP found that if a $300 million automotive manufacturer used true SaaS cloud-based software, they would spend 46% less than the on-premise solution and 35% less than a hosted solution. The trick now is to distinguish cloud-based lies from truth.
Distinguishing Features of the Real Cloud
To ensure that your SaaS is the real deal, look for these five things.
1. Multi-Tenant Architecture
Multi-tenant means cost-efficient scalability, upgrades, integrations and customizations. It means the software is always fresh and functional out of the box, and doesn't require your IT department to tool around to do much of anything. It also means that the software stays cost-effective.
2. Integration With Existing Products
Remember, SaaS is about keeping things simple and cost-effective. Your SaaS product should integrate seamlessly with most or all of your existing solutions, so that you can add functionality to them in a seamless manner. Users around the world should have access to these enhanced functions—at the will of the admin. You want to look for SaaS providers that help you avoid multiple or complicated systems.
3. Availability and Performance
Part of the promise of the cloud is that your systems will stay up, 24-7-365. Vendors using on-premise software management cannot guarantee service availability and cannot publish their uptime status online.
A true SaaS has a 99.5% uptime with full transparency, and should be able to back up performance claims with a history of uptime and downtime for the last two years at minimum. True cloud vendors with a strong history of uptime statistics guarantee consistent service levels in their License Agreements.
4. Consistent, Frequent Upgrades
Many software management vendors take between six months to a year for upgrades; true SaaS providers issue updates on a weekly basis and deploy them with no interruption to your business.
A good SaaS provider enables hassle-free testing of upgrades before deployment, so you can opt-out of any upgrades pre-production.
True SaaS is also responsive to client feedback and invests heavily in research and development. Any good provider is always one step ahead, anticipating trends and integrating its clients' responses to upgrades in meaningful ways.
Good SaaS providers invest in your security on all levels. Look for information encryption between your computers and the vendors' host server, including user authentication, password protection and role-based user access limits to specific modules.
Firewalls, including anti-virus software, should be in place to separate the SaaS application network from outside traffic. Also look for physical security measures such as identical data facilities, mirrored transactions, auto fail over, regular backups and manned data centers. Finally, look for annual SSAE 16 audits, which ensure the longevity of internal data security controls.
Review Before You Buy
By taking a few simple steps to look closely at SaaS solutions, you'll be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is crucial to take the time to do this. The future of your revenues, and the sanity of your IT department, partially depend on it.
- Raj Narayanaswamy is co-founder and co-CEO of Replicon, the leading provider of cloud-based time-tracking software
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