SaaS Providers - In The Rush For Growth, Don’t Forget Scalability
06 May 2021 | Terry Storrar
Terry Storrar, MD of Leaseweb UK writes about scaling a SaaS business.
Anyone currently working in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) space will quite rightly be focused on the opportunities that exist for significant growth. In fact, the segment as a whole is expected to reach a value of $220.21 billion as soon as next year. And, while the last 12 months have been hugely challenging, remote working has been a particularly strong driver for SaaS spend, perhaps best summed up by Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, who said last April that his company had seen “two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”
But like any rapidly expanding industry, rapid expansion always brings with it the risk of growing pains. SaaS providers in every niche are working against the backdrop of intense competition, and while companies are in growth mode, they must always make sure their infrastructure is capable of growing with them. The last thing a SaaS business should be worrying about is whether its ability to scale is going to impede success in the short or long term.
For the many SaaS businesses working with infrastructure partners, successfully managing increasing demand and planning for growth depends on a number of factors. In particular, they need to ensure they are not restricted by inflexible SLAs, that they can access the right technology at the right location, and that they have access to the level of support that will meet their needs and those of their own customers.
A Choice Of Scalable, Tiered SLAs
Service Level Agreements have become a fundamental component of modern cloud-centric service provision, but not all SLAs are created equal. SaaS businesses are well advised to carefully study the terms of each SLA they are offered by infrastructure partners, because growth brings with it changing priorities. What might have been an ideal set of terms at one stage in the development of a business may no longer be fit for purpose once infrastructure requirements expand.
For example, it’s useful to have the option of different SLA tiers that are specifically designed to meet their customer’s changing needs as they grow. This could provide additional assistance for business critical functions and guarantee faster response times, priority technical help or advanced support that delivers round the clock technical expertise, enabling SaaS businesses to pass on these capabilities to their customer base.
Better SLA tiers can also focus on infrastructure performance to ensure that the latency and uptime of key services, ranging from servers, cloud and colocation to network and hosting can be tiered as needs dictate.
Access To The Right Tech In The Right Location
Ideally, infrastructure providers will put time and effort into understanding both the existing and future business and technology goals of each of their SaaS customers. Not only does this ensure they can offer appropriate technologies based on need, but they can understand more specifically where this infrastructure needs to be located and what the probability will be that demand will grow in the future. This can be hugely important to organisations selling SaaS products, who ideally, don’t want to be making frequent changes to their infrastructure strategy or partners.
The challenge is, growth can come quickly and companies need to act fast if they are to embrace new opportunities for success. It’s not unprecedented, for example, for organisations in the media and gaming sectors to require dozens or even hundreds of new servers in various international markets in order to accommodate demand for a new title. Being in a position to specify the scale and location of these infrastructure assets can make a significant difference to service performance, reliability and the overall customer experience.
Flexible Support That Grows With Demand
SaaS-focused infrastructure providers should be heavily focused on their support capabilities. ‘Must haves’ should include 24/7 support availability, minimum-to-no downtime and maximum flexibility. Every SaaS business has unique needs, priorities and customer requirements, and infrastructure support should be geared to enable growth, not hinder it.
The importance of support has become even more apparent during the past 12 months, as organisations have relied on their SaaS providers more than ever. As services have been scaled to meet increasing demand, everyone in the ‘end user - SaaS provider - infrastructure provider’ ecosystem has been reminded about the importance of getting effective help when it’s needed.
Software-as-a-Service is one of the most spectacular success stories of the cloud computing era. As the market continues to grow and diversify, customer expectations will increase, and SaaS businesses that are organised to accommodate increasing demand will be best placed to stay at the forefront of the industry. Whether growth comes as a result of organic success, via acquisitions or through successful partnerships, capitalising on economies of scale will remain central to success.
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