In the market for a new SaaS-based solution, but frazzled by the evaluation process? You’re not alone. Many companies embarking on a SaaS initiative find the selection process rather confusing, since SaaS systems are so different from their on-premise counterparts.
We’re about to make things easier! If you’re in the process of evaluating SaaS solutions, here are some questions you should ask the prospective vendor:
This is a key concern among many SaaS users. Be sure to ask for details about the protections techniques utilized in the vendor’s data center, so you know your information is always secure from unauthorized access. Choose a vendor with around-the-clock monitoring, firewalls, intrusion detection, SSL and application security, and other advanced security mechanisms in place.
2. Data Ownership and Retention
Your SaaS vendor will be overseeing the storage and management of your data, so you’ll want to find out about their policies related to recovery and portability. Make sure you’re fully protected (and can easily retrieve your data) if your service provider goes out of business, or if you choose to discontinue use of the solution in favor of another SaaS system.
3. Performance and Availability
Uptime is critical to your success with your new SaaS solution. So, the vendor you select must have optimal availability statistics (at least 99.5 percent), and have sufficient processes in place to preserve continuity in the event of disaster, such as redundant or back-up operations at off-site locations.
What kind of services does the vendor provide to ensure you realize maximum value? What channels can you leverage for assistance, and when is support staff available to help you, if needed? Ideally, support should be flexible and convenient, and delivered by highly skilled and well-trained professionals.
5. Enhancements and Upgrades
You’ll want to make sure you always have access to the latest innovations. Ask your vendor how frequently they roll out new features (the more often, the better), and whether or not those upgrades will disrupt your operations (the answer should be no). You’ll also want to make sure they have a formal mechanism in place for collecting customer feedback, and incorporating it into new versions.
You’ve already invested heavily in on-premise applications, so you’ll want to make sure your new SaaS solution will easily integrate with them. Avoid vendors with limited integration capabilities, or ones that require extensive hand-coding to achieve the needed links between systems. Instead, look for one who uses open APIs for the fastest and most economical approach to integration.
Systems that are not intuitive can be costly and suffer from low user adoption. You’ll need one that users can get up and running quickly with, without the need for extensive training. But, all vendors will tell you their solutions are user-friendly, so you’ll want to judge for yourself with either a hands-on demo or a free trial.
8. Contractual Flexibility
You don’t want to get locked into long contracts that will be hard – and expensive – to get out of. Look for a vendor with a wide range of flexible options, as well as discounts for long-term commitments. And, make sure there won’t be a penalty for cancelling your subscription.
There has been much debate about single vs. multi-tenant infrastructures. But, most experts believe that multi-tenant architectures are far superior, particularly when it comes to scalability, performance, upgrades, and the vendor’s ability to effectively support the environment. Ask the vendor what type of infrastructure their solution is built on. If its single-tenant, look elsewhere.
Any vendor worth their weight in salt will be able to offer up several current users who are willing to attest to the solution’s performance and usefulness. Be wary of any provider who won’t let you talk openly to users about things like uptime, usability, functionality, and the responsiveness of the vendor’s support team.
By asking the right questions, you can choose the right SaaS solution from the right provider – and as a result, maximize return on your SaaS investment.
About Nathan Riley
Nathan Riley is a Sales Director, ITSM at SolarWinds. He has nine years experience in the industry, and has had a front row seat for the evolution of service management as a platform for the entire organization. He helps organizations ranging from SMB to Fortune 500 bring customized service to employees. Nathan proudly served the United States Armed Forces in the United States Marine Corps.
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