There’s a lot of promise in the new SaaS (software as a service; what used to be called ASPs, or Application Service providers, till Microsoft crapped all over that acronym) and newer PaaS (platform as a service) spaces (and look for a steady stream of new “aaS”es to come). However, there are a lot of gotchas in signing on with a SaaS vendor. You’d like to be able to believe that they have decent performance, uptime, security, etc., especially after they tell you “Oh, all kinds of big companies use us; Dell, IBM…” This is exacerbated by SaaS often being an “end run” around IT in the enterprise, so naive users can get sold a bill of goods without proper technical oversight. SaaS is a big buzzword now, and there are a lot of startups springing up that do not necessarily have experience running large scale sites. Think about how many MMORPG games still get scuttled due to poor operational performance. SaaS is the same.
Here’s some things to keep in mind when selecting a SaaS vendor, laced with real life horror stories from our experiences.
1. Performance/Availability. Set a hard performance/availability SLA in the contract. Many vendors won’t even have an SLA clause, or they’ll have one that says “99.9% uptime!” without any remedy clause for what if they don’t hit that. You want a clear SLA with a clear measurement method and clear “money back” if they don’t hit it. We use a 2 second global performance SLA as measured by a Keynote Global 35 monitor. But the SLA isn’t the whole story – you are counting on these people to accomplish your goals.