By Seema Nair, delivery manager at Synoptek (www.synoptek.com)
There are three basic service models offered by cloud providers, all of which are designed to give customers varying degrees of control over a subset of their computing environment. Each of these models, infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS), present a variety of benefits in addition to different sets of responsibilities for customers regarding the security and configuration of the implemented systems.
Software as a service (SaaS) provides customers with complete software solutions that are accessed on a subscription basis from any location with an internet connection. SaaS solutions require a limited amount of customer management and configuration yet provide ample benefits to businesses, specifically e-commerce entities.
The Benefits of SaaS for Ecommerce
There are many substantial advantages associated with using a SaaS solution for online businesses. Following are some of the most valuable benefits driving the popularity of SaaS offerings for e-commerce:
1. Streamlined Implementation. SaaS solutions can be implemented in substantially less time than would be required to install and configure a similar application in-house. Most SaaS applications work right out of the box and require minimal installation and configuration. Once the solution has been provisioned, users can swiftly begin to apply the software.
2. Simplified Maintenance Management. Most management responsibilities lie with the SaaS provider. There is full capability to handle maintenance, upgrades, fix system bugs and address performance issues. Relying on the provider’s customer support team enables companies to focus more fully on their core business objectives.
3. Enhanced Security. The security of an e-commerce site and the data it contains are critical. A data breach can compromise sensitive customer information resulting in financial losses and negative publicity from which it is difficult to recover. Providing the level of security required to successfully protect an e-commerce site is beyond the capabilities and technical resources of many businesses.
With a SaaS e-commerce platform, security is a shared responsibility between the provider and the customer. The protection of the application, network and infrastructure is maintained by the cloud vendor’s technical resources and expertise. And while customers still must address the security of their data, the level of protection afforded by a cloud provider with a SaaS solution is robust and only second to organizations with fully dedicated security staff.
4. Effortless Scalability. One of the great appeals of cloud computing is the virtually limitless ability to scale systems and infrastructures up and down to address the changing needs of a business. Companies can eliminate any concerns over capital expenditures to provide capacity that may not meet peak demand or sit idle during slow periods. Cloud resources, including SaaS applications, offer flexibility not available with on-premises solutions.
5. Cost Savings. The low upfront costs of a SaaS solution are only one example of the potential savings businesses can enjoy. Subscription fees for the solution allow a company to project costs without being concerned about the hardware or maintenance expenses that will be handled by the provider.
6. Safer Payment Processing. Rather than implementing a payment processing system in-house, companies can leverage the experience demonstrated by the SaaS provider. A reliable SaaS supplier will ensure that the application is PCI-compliant to protect customer data and payment information. A trusted payment system contributes to elevated levels of customer satisfaction resulting in increased sales and revenue.
7. Access to Cutting-Edge Technology. Cloud providers are constantly innovating and developing cutting-edge solutions to appeal to customers and grow their business. In many cases, specialized skills are required to implement these solutions that are far beyond the capacity of most prospective customers. SaaS e-commerce solutions enable businesses to stay technologically competitive even if they lack in-house expertise.
How to Make the Transition
While there are many potential advantages when using SaaS solution, they will only become concrete if the right provider and product are selected. Following are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing a SaaS solution that addresses your business objectives while avoiding the pitfalls associated with making the wrong decision.
· Selecting the Most Suitable Solution. Based on the business type model of a company, there are usually multiple SaaS solutions that address some of or all its needs. The choice in the provider and solution can have a dramatic impact on the customer’s ability to achieve the business objectives. The wrong choice will minimize the potential benefits and can result in wasted time and resources. It’s wise to obtain as much detail as possible about the SaaS offering and look for opportunities to test the product before committing to a contract with a provider.
· Integration with Current Systems. When a business adds a SaaS solution, it is essential that the product is compatible and can be integrated with the systems that make up the computing environment. The time to ensure compatibility is before signing an agreement with a cloud provider. Failure to sufficiently check on the ability to integrate the SaaS solution with legacy systems can lead to a siloed application that does not provide the expected benefits to the business.
· Deployment Considerations. Once the determination is made to go forward with a selected SaaS solution, it needs to be deployed throughout the company. This is a critical step that should not be undertaken without proper planning. A viable strategy is to deploy the system to a subset of employees to identify any unexpected issues or concerns before making the application available to the whole organization.
· Data Migration. Migrating legacy data from on-premise to cloud SaaS applications needs to be done systematically to protect enterprise data assets. It’s best to start a data migration with a few clients and the least sensitive data volumes to protect the company in the event of unforeseen problems. It may be necessary for some businesses to contract with a data migration service to facilitate this step. Backing up all legacy data before embarking on a migration path is essential to ensure its safety.
· Removal of Redundant Legacy Systems. After the company has completed deployment and migration, it can begin the process of eliminating the redundant legacy systems that were replaced by the SaaS solution. This step can be complicated if there are data resources that could not be migrated to the new system or if there are integration concerns. Some instances of legacy systems may need to remain active to address these situations. Companies need to verify that there is no reason to maintain their legacy solutions before totally shutting them down. Final backups of legacy systems should be taken and stored securely before pulling the plug.
Which E-commerce Businesses Gain the Most from a Switch to SaaS Solutions?
E-commerce companies switching to SaaS platforms may be doing so for a variety of reasons. Online companies at different stages of growth or evolution can use SaaS to solve distinct issues. For example:
- Start-ups wishing to enter the competitive landscape of the 21st century marketplace need all the help they can get as they strive to develop a viable business model. SaaS solutions offer them a proven path to address issues holding them back and allow them to hit the ground running and present customers with a reliable e-commerce platform.
- Small brick-and-mortar businesses looking to expand their ability to reach customers can also benefit from SaaS e-commerce solutions. Rather than expend resources on in-house IT, they can leverage the offerings of a cloud provider to quickly develop an online presence designed to grow their business. Especially in the wake of the reduction in foot traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, expansions of this nature can spell the difference between a company’s long-term success or failure.
- Large enterprises can also benefit from the strategic use of the SaaS offerings from cloud providers in multiple ways. SaaS solutions furnishes a method of rapidly adding new functionality without putting additional stress on in-house technical resources. With a cloud provider supplying the manpower and hardware required to support the SaaS application, companies can focus on value-added projects to grow their business.
The advantages of employing a SaaS solution to boost e-commerce are tangible and available to any size and type of business. Platforms like Shopify, Magneto and WooCommerce make it easy for businesses to enter and compete successfully in the e-commerce arena. Enterprise SaaS e-commerce solutions provide a better return on investment and minimize or even eradicate high upfront expenses. They reduce customization costs in favor of lighter-weight point-and-click configurations and the best practices built into the applications. There is no longer a need for the long and costly process of developing proprietary systems.
The key to using SaaS solutions effectively is partnering with the right provider who can deliver the functionality needed to advance an organization’s business objectives. It pays to take the time to examine the options and find the solution that aligns with the business’ goals. When approached methodically, SaaS e-commerce solutions produce substantial value and a competitive edge that is difficult to obtain by other means.
About the Author: Seema Nair serves as a delivery manager of app development for Synoptek. (www.synoptek.com)