Software as a service: caveats cautions

In our previous article we concluded our initial review of SaaS applications you can implement right here, right now, to transform your business into all it can be. Chances are that at least one of these apps is a good fit for your business – but even if none of these apps quite match, there is almost certainly one that does. Stay tuned for additional updates on applications suitable for immediate implementation but also try to keep the big picture in mind:

SaaS, when implemented correctly, offers reduced infrastructure and maintenance costs at comparable or better customer experience. More and more companies are making the transition to a wholly or mostly SaaS business model and at some point your company will likely want to do so as well. Early planning now will save you pain and costs later on down the line.

However, that potential comes with several caveats and cautions which we will outline in this article:

Limited customization

When SaaS applications were initially launched, they offered little in the way of customization options. Every company got the same technological solution and had to adapt their practices and business processes to it, rather than the other way around. That is not quite the situation today and it is increasingly common for users to customize their SaaS systems. As a matter of fact, there are SaaS application customization specialists who deal in tweaking the apps to adapt them to your business needs.

You can customize the appearances and feel of the apps, and tweak data fields to display the data your business needs. Still, at the end of the day the customization potential of SaaS software is still lower than that of on-site software. You can expect greater flexibility as the SaaS sector matures, but that is a development which will take several years to mature. It’s worthwhile to compare customization options with different vendors, even of same or similar applications – considerable variability exists in this regard.

Data ownership

A common fear amongst companies considering the transition to the SaaS data model is that vendors will become the real “owners” of their proprietary data. This is definitely something to keep in mind when you are trying to reach a service level agreement (SLA) with a potential SaaS provider. The SLA does more than set down the system standards – it also defines the parameters of numerous other issues, including maintenance obligations, security needs and who exactly owns the data. For fuller coverage of what you should be careful about when signing a SLA, keep an eye out for our upcoming article on this topic – it is too large to be sufficiently covered in this article.

However, as far as data ownership is concerned, the important thing is to include in the SLA a clause which unambiguously declares their exclusive and undiluted ownership in the data. Most standard SLA allow for a contingency that safeguards access to your data, and guarantees your ownership of the same, should the vendor go bankrupt or go out of business for some other reason. By the same measure, you should include a clause in your SLA which provides you with an option to export and back up your data to an on-site location.

For additional tips on data safety and contingencies for safeguarding your data in case your vendor goes out of business, stay tuned for our next article!

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