SaaS checklist

Check before switching to SaaSIf you’re not yet familiar with software as a service, or SaaS for the tech-inclined, there’s a good chance you already know what it is. Think Hotmail, Gmail, Zoho and scores of other online-only applications which are made available to users, on-demand.

For the highly mobile users, SaaS provides a much needed alternative to desktop software, in part because the data is stored remotely and then, instantly made available to the properly authentified owner, wherever he or she may be.

SaaS also comes in handy for people who jockey between computers, for instance, between a laptop computer and a desktop. Logging into the web service grants them access to their work, whichever computer they be working on at that time.

But if you’re still unsure about bringing in more complex web services into your company, the following checklist should help you decide if SaaS is right for you, in a given line of work:

  • Will modifications of IT or network integration be necessary, to accomodate the SaaS?
  • Can I retire redundant IT infrastructure, by using the SaaS application?
  • How long will the SaaS deployment take versus software?
  • What training is need to use the SaaS application?
  • How does the end-user experience compare between the SaaS application and software?
  • Is SaaS data security up to corporate standards?
  • What’s the operational security of SaaS compared to software?
  • Will SaaS subscription fees end up costing more or less than a software setup?
  • What kind of support do I get for SaaS compared to software?
  • How easily can each solution be scaled, over time?
  • What’s the financial stability like for the SaaS provider?
  • Generally speaking, will SaaS better serve our business than software?
  • Will the management and employees notice any difference with SaaS?

Depending on your answers, you’ll have a better idea if you’re ready to jump on the SaaS bandwagon that’s gaining speed in the online world, right now.

Successful upstarts, such as Salesforce.com, WebEx, RightNow, Taleo, Blackboard and NetSuite are benefiting the most from their disruptive offerings, in terms of SaaS applications. Companies can simply subscribe to their services online and start using them right away. This business model, depending on the needs, provides for a credible alternative to software, especially when applications need to be heavily networked across multiple locations.

It goes without saying that users that don’t have a reliable internet connection will shy away from SaaS as that entire business model is based on quality internet connectivity. That means the internet providers, including the big telcos, need to massively upgrade their network, all the way to the user (in offices or homes, whichever).

Security will also need to be reinforced in conjunction with ironclad privacy protection for serious work to be hosted in the internet cloud, meaning that at any given time, a specific user can’t be sure of the exact location where his or her data is stored — which is very different from using desktop software and saving the work on a local hard drive.

This being said, SaaS is big enough for everybody to notice and even though software is still the foundation of desktop computing, more web services are being launched regularly and it’s possible that some of them may end up changing our relationship with computing and how we get things done.

Tags: saas, web services, online services, software, desktop, computing, working online, web technology, web 2.0, end users, operational stability, application ownership, network infrastruction, web connectivity

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