In its innate nature, SaaS rides on the premise that, it is ubiquitous in nature — available anywhere, any time
But it has its own drawbacks as well.
Allow me enumerate some of the disadvantages of using SaaS as a startup.
Security — Big Issue
You cannot understand the issue of security well unless first you understand the movement of the data between the hosting vendor and the client.
SaaS data is stored at the vendor’s site or in the cloud. Wherever the data is stored, it is not within the client’s premises. It is hosted elsewhere.
It traverses the internet before it reaches its storage or presented on your web browser.
This movement in itself presents some risks of hackers who use packet sniffer tools to get sensitive information. Unlike on-premise systems (client-server systems) where this risk is minimal.
A number of questions you need to ask yourself before you get a SaaS subscription are;
Are all users accessing data (even mobile devices) using secure connections? How safe is your data there?
It is as safe as your vendor’s understanding of safety. You have to decide if you can trust your vendor with your data.
How does your vendor carry out data backups and recoveries? What are backups frequencies? Does your vendor have an effective Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) in place? Has this DRP ever been tested, or will it fail when it will be truly required — in a-do-or-die situation? How long would it take to restore data? A whole day, week?
These questions are much of your concerns. It is good for you to do a one over on your vendor before you risk your hard-earned money into SaaS applications. If the vendor can answer all of those questions and you’re comfortable, then, go for it!
When using SaaS as your business solution, most of the workload is shifted to the vendor. In a way you lose most of system control. That is, the vendor calls the shots, as it were. His business acumen or lack thereof, will directly affect your business performance. Any unnecessary downtimes from his end will cost you dearly.
It is important that you do due diligence background check on your vendor before you engage. Avoid later regrets. Will you let go your total control of the System?
SaaS is not for you if you cannot trust your vendor to support you fully.
Statutory Data Protection Regulations
The issue of compliance with the government data protection and regulation must be addressed.
How easy will it be to get your data whenever required? It must be easy to do so. If it takes a whole day to get it, then it is not convenient at all.
The data must be safe always. Some businesses deal in sensitive data of their clients. Online eCommerce system for example deals with all its customers’ transaction details. A health care facility keeps all diagnostic data of their patients. A bank keeps all its customers transaction details, and so on.
Whatever type industry that use SaaS, must ensure that the data is safe, easy to access by the client and complies to your State Data Protection Regulations. Else, you will be in trouble up to your neck with your governmental authority.
General Low Response
Since SaaS is a web-based application, its performance relies on internet speed. For optimal speed of the application, you must invest heavily on a high-speed internet connection.
For reliability and for business continuity, you must have a back-up internet link from a different Internet Service Provider. This will ensure smooth business operations with minimal interruptions.
That means more costs on back-up links. You, the client, can agree with your second ISP, that you only pay for the services on demand to minimize your running cost. Only when you use their services. When the primary internet link goes down.
Rigid and Messy Data Portability
In the event that you are not satisfied with your vendor (data host) services, and opt to engage another vendor, it is not easy to mine your critical data and transfer it to your new service provider.
Although the two vendors may have application that are using SaaS platform, the software and their individual design may be entirely different. They may not be compatible. This will put you in a lot of stress when getting data into your new vendor’s system. In fact, some data may no longer be needed without a major customization. This may not be viable.
Exit plan must be well prepared in advance to avoid such headaches.
Integration & Interoperability
The client may have other client-server applications before going for SaaS solutions. These applications may need to be integrated with the SaaS system. However, their design and data structures might be so dissimilar that it would not be feasible to integrate them.
It is necessary therefore, to do a compatibility and interoperability check with SaaS vendors. This will give you a head start.
Short Supply of SaaS
SaaS is a new concept and it is slowly gaining currency. That means, many software applications are yet to offer cloud services. This means that you may still continue to use on-premise client-server systems until you get your best match.
Limited Functions & Features
Standard Client-server systems have many features that allow you to do your business operations with ease. In most instances, SaaS applications are partial in function. Some lack functions and features that you need for your business. You need to do a thorough check and testing of hosted applications to ensure they’ve got what you need.
Reliability & Steadiness
Although you have a beautiful Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place. With all terms and conditions, signed by all parties involved, it is just that — a contract. It is just an agreement. The vendor can breach this contract inadvertently or willingly.
You need to know your business outage threshold. Can it handle outages? How long can it survive on manual system?
Outages mean disruption of services or total lack of it. It means missed business opportunities — even massive losses, late payments among others.
Although SaaS has disadvantages and so is every other system, it is where the world is going. You can ignore it today, but not for long…
By Simon Kimani