What is SaaS Hosting?
If your company develops software, software as a service (SaaS) hosting could open a new realm of business opportunities.
SaaS is a software delivery model wherein the software is delivered to the user online in a subscription-based or pay-as-you-go model, allowing for continual updates, the ability to access the software nearly anywhere, and the option for the customer to stop or start using the software service at will.
SaaS Hosting is a type of web hosting service wherein your software application and files are stored on a hosting provider’s servers, allowing your customers to access your software solution or application through the Internet.
SaaS Hosting 101
In SaaS hosting, your company’s software/app resides on dedicated or virtual servers that run the app. Customers access the software interface through the Internet - via either a local client specifically built for the software or through a browser. They never actually have a copy of the software on their own workstation or other Internet-capable device. With SaaS hosting, the software is maintained and updated at the server level, generally avoiding the need for the end user to update or patch the software.
SaaS hosting is also a smart investment for actual software developers. With third-party hosting, the software developers don’t have to manage the infrastructure requirements of hosting the software in-house. Moreover, when the software needs to be upgraded, it can be done in seconds in the cloud environment, rather than asking the end user to download the latest version (or a patch if a physical copy of the software was purchased).
While SaaS can in theory be supported with any type of hosting environment, typically they feature the following:
- Cloud environments: These solutions are both virtualized and scalable, meaning they can grow at the same rate your company grows. They are used for hosting the application, its data and its storage.
- Content delivery network (CDN): A CDN is a network of distributed servers that send Web pages and other content such as videos to end-users around the world.
- Security: The more widespread your SaaS is and the more popular it gets, the more unwanted attention it is likely to receive. A good SaaS hosting environment will have dedicated protection against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and other known forms of trying to disrupt or disable your service.
Five features every company should expect from its SaaS Host Environment
Research by SkyHigh Networks shows that SaaS is the fastest-growing use for cloud technology. This year, nearly one-third of all applications in the worldwide enterprise market will be based in SaaS, and SaaS revenue will increase to $50.8 billion from $22.6 billion in 2013, a surge of 125%.
From these figures, we can take away that SaaS hosting is an enormously competitive market where the largest software developers have the advantage of being pursued by hosting companies. When comparing companies to hire as your SaaS hosting solution, here are five essential features you should look for.
- Availability: The most singular essential characteristic of SaaS hosting is availability, according to a LinkedIn study. Your end-users will want the right to log in and use your application no matter where they are or what time it is. If demand is widespread, your app will be used all over the world, which means use and collaboration across a dozen time zones. This means your SaaS hosting solution must be able to ensure uptime and reliability 100% of the time.
- Ease of Use: The moment a user starts to struggle with your SaaS is the moment they move on to one of your competitors, never to return. The challenge then becomes making your app easy to use, but doing so in a way that doesn’t risk exposing your customers’ business data. Security is the key; the more robust the cybersecurity of the hosting company, the more faith end-users and enterprises will have in your product, according to a report by Blissfully.
- Room for Documentation and User Support: Just because your app seems intuitive to you or your developers doesn’t mean it will be that way for a first-time user. Hosting your app is great, but you should consider that your hosting environment may need to support things like 24/7 customer support, a video or interactive tutorial for new users, a feedback system to report bugs, or a documentation guide that goes over the app from wire to wire.
- Tools for Analytics: Your SaaS hosting provider should be able to assist with gathering metrics to support analysis of access, behavior and usage within the hosting environment. All of these metrics will help you improve your business. Standard metrics include how many people are using the app, where they are signing in from and what time of day (or night) they are online, how long they spend online, and what purposes they are using the SaaS for.
- Single Sign-On: To help sell your SaaS to bigger clients like SMBs and full-scale enterprises, you should make accessing your product as convenient as possible. Having single sign-on in the provider environment streamlines your customers’ ability to get on and off your service quickly. It also cuts down on the number of passwords each employee has to remember, which will improve perception of your software.
Advantages of IaaS
While many larger companies prefer the security of housing all of their infrastructure components in a private server farm, the benefits of IaaS are difficult to look past. Here are a few ways that IaaS deployment has far outstripped its physical component first cousin.
- Cost savings: Migration to IaaS can often mean substanial cost savings. It’s not just the price of maintaining and running server infrastructure, but the reduction of downtime that often results from moving to IaaS, along with a drop in the cost of replacing old equipment or savings from eliminating internal IT services from a business.
- Scalability: Nearly every business works towards exponential growth in demand for their product or service. But when that moment comes, many are caught flat-footed because they don’t have the processing power or budget to scale their business up to match demand. A similar situation can occur when business is doing a special promotion or sale. Employing IaaS allows a business to add just as much infrastructure as is necessary to keep up with demand without having to invest in new local hardware.
- Backup and Disaster Recovery: Whether a website crashes due to high demand or a hurricane knocks out electrical services for days, IaaS gives businesses the ability to overcome a worst-case scenario. With a company’s data, processes and disaster recovery protocol stored safely in the cloud, returning to normal operations can be a much simpler proposition.
- Incorporating SaaS and PaaS: When a company thoroughly incorporates IaaS into its internal processes, its management typically becomes aware of the convenience and cost-saving ability of other ‘as a service’ offerings. SaaS (software as a service) is the great equalizer of small companies that no longer have to buy another copy of the same software every time a new employee comes aboard. Both IaaS and SaaS are good opening steps to moving an organization’s whole operation online with PaaS (platform as a service). With PaaS, Employees can login from anywhere in the world and use the exact same system that office workers are seeing. That sort of collaborative power increases efficiency and can mean long-term improvements in profitability.