Thinking About SaaS Risks – Part 3: IT issues are not just IT issues

Andrew Staples —  October 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

A popular argument for deploying SaaS software is that it “just works.” It is simple for users to get started and use everyday without burdening the IT department. This argument has merit. The cloud has put the power in the hands of the user and minimized the need for IT to troubleshoot software issues. Instead, users can simply open up a browser and be productive.

However, that doesn’t mean technical concerns have been eliminated, they are simply hidden below the surface. SaaS customers need to understand the technical details of service they are using, especially when it comes to mission critical business applications like a CRM.

There are three major areas that can affect your business – maintenance, software upgrades and outages:

  • When is routine maintenance scheduled and how long will the system be down during that period?
  • How frequently are software upgrades made?
  • How will the upgrades affect how the application looks, and relatedly, how much of learning curve will there be to understand product updates?

Think about the consumer services like Facebook and Twitter that you are used to using everyday. There is an adjustment period when even a minor tweak to the service changes “the look and feel.”

Now, imagine coming into work on a Monday morning – and the tools you use to do your job are suddenly barely recognizable due to a major product upgrade? How would that affect your productivity for the short term? Or, imagine as a manager of dozens of sales reps, you get the message that you need to immediately begin training on a new CRM because the old system is “going away.” What if this happens near the end of the quarter?

The IT department is responsible for maintenance and upgrades for software they deploy, and are usually responsible to plan for changes. But regular employees, and entire companies can be negatively impacted by changes both expected and unexpected.

When you rely on software applications to run critical parts of your business, any downtime is costly. The inability to access data, reach and respond to customers, or close deals equates to lost revenue or other hard costs. Research firm Gartner estimates that an hour of downtime for a critical system costs a company $42,000 on average.

And, if you are leaning toward the argument, “an outage is so rare, it won’t happen to me.” SaaS services delivered via the cloud are susceptible to outages. Just last month, an Amazon Web Services data center went down, taking access to Netflix, Reddit and Nest with it.

Now, think about what happens if your sales automation or customer support system goes down. You can probably tolerate a few minutes of downtime, but if it last hours or even a full day, it will dramatically affect the bottom line.

If you unexpectedly, or even with some warning, lose access to your systems – rebuilding that same system with another software product takes time and lots of energy. Costs include:

  •      Purchase of replacement software
  •      Staff or consultants to replicate customizations in the new system
  •      Staff learning curve and training costs
  •      Potential legal costs for re-acquiring data

All of these costs are significant. They can hinder operations at the largest of organizations, and could be catastrophic for smaller businesses. Thus, it is of utmost importance to ensure you have access to your data and system in light of any type of disaster or unforeseen “outage” of your SaaS applications.

By choosing a SaaS vendor with multiple deployment options, open software so the data can “live on”, and a solid business continuity plan – you can deploy cloud and SaaS apps with the highest level of confidence.

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