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How Do I Choose the Best SaaS Application?

D. Nelson
D. Nelson

In order to choose the best Software as a Service (SaaS) application, it is important that you choose a host that is reputable and which has a history of successfully serving businesses in your field and of your size. In most cases, SaaS application hosts list this information on their websites. Once you have found a number of reliable SaaS hosts, it is a good idea to consider how complex or mature of an application you need. You also should consider factors such as service levels, usability, and compatibility with your existing business systems.

An SaaS application is any kind of software that users can access online. Individuals who use Saas products are often less dependent on Information Technology (IT) services, since upgrades are performed by a vendor. Many proponents of Saas believe that these programs are more user driven since vendors continually communicate with their clients to perfect their systems. In most cases, users pay subscription fees to access SaaS applications.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

As with most software products, SaaS applications vary in complexity. By choosing an SaaS application that is more or less complex than you require, you can negatively impact your organization's daily operations. For example, a small business with a relatively low volume of transactions might benefit from an application that allows users to customize interfaces or accounts for individual customers. Professionals from larger corporations, on the other hand, should seek SaaS applications with source codes that can support a number of different clients at one time. While customization is possible with a complex SaaS application, it can be a time consuming process since professionals on the vendor side might need to write new code.

It is important that you consider a vendor's service levels prior to signing up for an SaaS application. A service level describes how often users can access an application without problems. While it may be impossible to find a host that has a service level of 100 percent, you should make sure that a vendor guarantees a level of at least 99 percent. Acceptable service levels should be written into a contract with your vendor.

Professionals also consider compatibility when choosing the best SaaS application. Chances are that you need to upload data to a vendor's server and retrieve information that you can store in your own databases. Make sure that an SaaS application you choose works well with software and document formats that you use in your office.

Discussion Comments


@miriam98 - I like the subscription model personally and the fact that the software can be customized to each customer. The web is the ideal format for this.

It’s like having your own personal home page, where you aggregate news and content to reflect your own unique interests and styles. Imagine customizing software that way.

How easily could that be done with a shrink wrapped desktop application? I think it would be next to impossible, in a way that’s not practical for all users.

I also think that by going to the subscription model, you can cut down on some of the costs of the software development and offer it at a lower price.


@hamje32 - I think the best SAAS solutions for the scenarios you’ve described is software that only requires some of its presence to be on the desktop, and the rest to be web based.

In other words, try an incremental approach. You can customize the SAAS application from what I read here, so I suppose you could tailor it to reflect your unique needs, while keeping a part of your software local to your site. That would make the most sense to me.


@SkyWhisperer - It depends on what kind of industry you’re in. I am in the energy industry, and I suppose that might work. But what about if you are in the financial services industry or you are in the stock markets?

Markets need to respond to real time data fluctuations. That’s not a problem for a SAAS web application necessarily – in some sense, the web application may be the ideal platform for rapid data fluctuations.

The problem, as mentioned in the article, is that the hosting providers cannot guarantee 100% up time. So what about if they only offer 99%, but in that 1% of down time something happens in the market and your software cannot reflect that change? You’ve just lost money.


I work for a software company and we are exploring the SAAS model as a possible roll out for one of our new software products. One of the things we’ve discovered is that many clients are not that computer savvy and don’t want the hassle of installing independent client software on their desktop computers.

For them, cloud computing would be a more compelling alternative. Their software would be available as an Internet application, and in that case, we would be responsible for hosting both the software and the data.

We could also provide a certain layer of security as well, by providing redundant backups across a wide geographical area. Furthermore, any updates to the software would be completely web based and instantaneous, rather than requiring clients to download our latest executable from our web site. I think it’s an ideal solution.

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