Cloud computing is great, but it isn’t a backup system

My Post - 2019-09-06T163542.609One of the great things about the modern internet is the way in which we can share and move files around. But if you are dealing with important information, cloud computing is in no way a good backup system.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how excited to be about the thing we’re now calling “the cloud.” In one sense, it’s not a particularly new idea: most of us have been using something we could reasonably call “cloud email” since the 1990s. Where’s your email stored? Doesn’t matter; it’s on a server somewhere. Of course, we could write off much of the modern cloud as “a server somewhere.” What’s changed is that everyone’s internet connections, even wireless internet connections over large areas, have made it possible to do a lot more with the system than just tiny fragments of data such as emails.

In a lot of the world, and particularly here in the UK, governments and corporations seem to have concluded that there’s a certain maximum amount of money people are willing to pay for an internet connection, and that making greater provision doesn’t necessarily mean more income for a service provider. That’s a shame, because it risks denying a number of possible futures for the internet in general and the cloud – let’s call it wide-area distributed computing – in particular. Even so, the capability available is now enough to mean anyone who encounters a short-notice and temporary need for several terabytes of storage can have it, even if a bit slowly on the average home broadband connection. Hopefully, that’ll be a statement we can come back to and laugh about in a few years.

One of the most popular and encouraging things about the cloud is that reliability isn’t the user’s problem. At some level, cloud storage still (almost invariably) boils down to some hard disks in a rack somewhere, but we can quite safely assume that those hard disks will be part of some larger reliability arrangements, whether a conventional disk array or, more likely, some sort of vast distributed object storage system, the details of which are hidden from, and irrelevant to, the user. Either way, there will be redundancy built in. Usually, those racks full of servers are kept in deliberately nondescript buildings on industrial estates round the world.

The simplest cloud provision might not, or in fact probably would not, even let a user know where the data is physically located; as we know from Amazon’s example, these places are somewhat security sensitive. Some cloud providers, though, offer the option to specifically keep data in more than one of these locations, perhaps several at once. That creates a really impressive degree of what the information technology industry terms “disaster recovery.” If something genuinely catastrophic happens – fire, flood, meteor strike, zombie apocalypse – then there’s a huge resistance to actually losing any data. Great! Now we don’t need that LTO drive, anymore, do we? – Read more

The Essential SaaS Metrics for Growth

My Post - 2019-08-30T161032.726“If you cannot measure it,” declared Lord Kelvin, “you cannot improve it.” Perhaps SaaS companies have taken this advice too literally. 

SaaS sales and marketing teams can get overwhelmed by metrics. But without any metrics, it’s impossible to track growth. And without growth, a SaaS company is dead in the water.

According to Statista, the SaaS market will reach $157 billion next year. And while that figure is promising, early-stage SaaS companies need a ton of growth to survive. In fact, SaaS companies with an annual growth rate of 20% or less have a 92% chance of failure, according to research by McKinsey.

That same research found that “super growers” were eight times more likely than “stallers” to grow from $100 million to $1 billion, and three times more likely to do so than “growers.”

If growth is the best way to get out alive, marketing metrics do little unless they correlate with sales. After talking with a bunch of SaaS experts, here’s what I learned about which SaaS metrics deserve focus—and which ones don’t.  – Read more

Forget About SaaS: Software-as-a-Lender Could Be The Next Big Thing

My Post - 2019-08-13T154614.889Ella is a first time business owner who started a landscaping company two years ago that is now growing faster than she ever could have imagined.

In order to keep up with the rush of new business, she needs a loan as soon as possible to hire additional employees and buy more equipment. If she doesn’t get it, she’ll need to turn away new customers – something that could cripple her company’s reputation. She has been to three banks and called a dozen more but the answer is the same from all of them – they’ll need hundreds of documents and three months to review them before they can even consider her for a loan. This is time and resources Ella does not have.

The next day, however, she gets a business saving email from her software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, Green Software Systems. Ella uses Green Software to manage her scheduling, payroll, job status, and communication with employees. They also process all of Ella’s payments, making them a SaaS + Payments provider, which allows them to be in Ella’s payment flow collecting verified information about her business performance, and they have just announced they are launching a new lending product for their customers. With the click of a button, Green Software could issue Ella a one year loan to cover the new employees and equipment. It is the lifeline Ella needs and just like that, she is armed with the capital to expand her business and take on new customers.

Many small business owners constantly find themselves in Ella’s position, but the process of applying for a loan and getting approved is daunting and time-consuming. For example, if you’re applying for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, you typically have to provide a long list of documents: A business profile, resumes for “each owner and key member of management,” personal and business financial statements, cash flow projections, and many other statements and disclosures. The entire process takes an average of 60 to 90 days. Even if completed, there is still an 82% chance they will be denied. Even if approved, they still have to deal with the administrative headache of providing continuous and manual documentation after the loan is issued.

SaaS Companies Should Expand their TAM by Moving into Adjacent Products & Services

As we discussed in a prior article, many vertical SaaS companies like the one Ella uses have added payment processing functionality in order to expand their total addressable market (TAM) and become vertical SaaS + Payment companies. In the article, we used the example of Toast, a staff management, POS, and payment processor for the restaurant industry. As shown below, Toast increased their TAM 3.5x by incorporating payment processing into their SaaS solution. – Read more

How SaaS Companies Can Build a Compliance Roadmap

My Post - 2019-08-13T153622.567.pngMeeting compliance requirements can be a challenge, but it can also open up new markets, speed your sales process, and improve your company’s overall security posture.

When it comes to improving your security maturity, compliance can be a useful part of your strategy.

Whether you’re targeting specific industry verticals or going after international customers, entering new markets requires continuous education about the latest in compliance and regulatory standards as they relate to data privacy and security. With that in mind, this post takes a brief look at key standards in order to give you insights into the security and privacy requirements that may be pertinent to the way your SaaS company engages with prospects and customers and handles sensitive data.

First Steps

If you are operating in Amazon Web Services (AWS), as many SaaS companies are, you’ll want to make sure your infrastructure is configured in accordance with CIS benchmarks and AWS best practices. Doing so can help you meet many security and compliance requirements, simplifying your compliance journey from the start.

Once you’ve secured your AWS infrastructure, your next move should be to determine which compliance regulations apply to you now and which you want to adopt in the future, and, if you are already compliant, what changes and updates you need to be aware of. This will help determine where your company should focus its compliance efforts as you move ahead.

SOC 2

As a component of the American Institute of CPAs Service Organization Control reporting platform, SOC 2’s goal is to assure that systems are configured for maximum security and privacy of customer data. SOC 2 is specifically designed for service providers storing customer data in the cloud, meaning that it applies to nearly every SaaS company. It is one of the most common compliance frameworks and, thus, is often the first that SaaS companies choose to comply with.

So what does it take to become SOC 2 compliant? SOC 2 goes beyond a simple technical audit, requiring you to establish and follow stringent security policies and procedures that encompass the security, availability, processing integrity, and confidentiality of any data stored in the cloud.

In terms of monitoring, it’s important to set up a baseline of normal activity in order to continuously monitor for any unusual behavior. Detailed audit trails will allow for deep, contextual insight into the root cause of any attacks, allowing you to remediate the issues, thereby keeping up with SOC 2 requirements.

Threat Stack Successfully Completes Type 2 SOC 2 Examination

To learn about Threat Stack’s experience achieving Type 2 SOC 2 compliance, check out:

  • Threat Stack Successfully Completes Type 2 SOC 2 Examination (blog post)
  • How to Achieve Type 2 SOC 2 with Zero Exceptions (webinar)

GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has many companies working hard to understand and comply with some of the most stringent privacy standards we’ve seen yet. With beefed up enforcement, the new framework also establishes some of the highest financial penalties for those in breach, so you’ll want to pay attention. GDPR applies to any organization, regardless of location or industry, that processes or stores the personal data of EU subjects.

Enacted by the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission, GDPR is designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe. The mandate aims to empower individuals within the EU to regain control of their data privacy and to reshape the way organizations across Europe approach data privacy, while also addressing the export and use of data by organizations outside the EU. – Read more

9 Ways to Create a Successful Customer Onboarding Strategy in SaaS

My Post - 2019-08-13T153020.935.pngAsk yourself this question: Can a country’s government teach lessons to private companies on how to optimally use advanced IT solutions?

No, right? Well, here is an example that might help you understand this answer in a better manner.

The story of Estonia is an interesting one for anyone who holds an interest in the IT industry. Estonia is a small country in Northern Europe. It’s not really an interesting place for a long stay during winter since it becomes too cold. The chilly weather, decades of suppression under the Soviet Union regime and a lack of wealth made it difficult for the tiny nation to build an efficient physical infrastructure. So, did these disadvantages bog them down? No!

Estonians went on to build strong and robust virtual roads: their telecommunications infrastructure. The country’s e-Residency program has risen to fame lately, which is essentially the most awesome technology product in the region. It is a program by which a person of any country can be a virtual resident in Estonia and conduct business as a virtual citizen.

The most interesting part is that most of this process is done entirely over the internet. This is one of the best Software as a Service (SaaS) program ever offered by any government in the world. All the data is communicated with a cloud. Now imagine, narrating this concept to a person from the 1980s!

Today, there is a highly mature ecosystem of SaaS providers spreading all over the globe. The industry and its players are young and vibrant, and there is a rapid rise in demand for software products by the minute. From email automation to customer relations management, organizations all over the world are trying to bring about automation in their business and replace costly and unnecessary manual intervention. There are a number of benefits offered by these automation software packages, which include:

  • SaaS programs are hosted on a cloud server; there is no need for users to get it installed on their computer, which helps them go easily mobile.
  • Software modules and user interfaces are mostly customized according to the user’s needs, saving time and money.

Anyone can access SaaS services from any location with proper network connectivity. Most codes written today have the ability to run on any platform including Windows, iOS and the Android. But then, even this cross-platform facilitation of rendering software services is increasingly becoming commonplace. The competition is rising and the service providers do not aim merely to satisfy their customers but to entice them to try out all the features so as to build loyalty. – Read more

12 Key Issues for SaaS Startups Seeking Financing

My Post - 2019-08-13T152253.083.pngSaaS has become a widely used and recognized term in recent years.

The keywords ‘Software as a Service,’ or SaaS is in the name of over 1.2 million product pages. Google search also reports over 2 million company websites and webpages linked with phrases such as ‘SaaS products’ and ‘SaaS pricing models’.

While these numbers indicate that the SaaS industry has been spreading like wildfire, they also prove that if you’ve built a SaaS product, you’re up for a big challenge when selling it.

On average, a SaaS company today has a minimum of nine competitors. It’s you against a dozen other companies with similar marketing approaches and the same struggle of acquiring customers and traffic.

It’s you against me.

To thrive in a competitive industry like this, you have no alternative but to find plug and play growth hacks every day.

Growth occurs in different forms and through different strategies. Marketers and entrepreneurs across the world are so dedicated to aggressive marketing and customer acquisition strategies that they often neglect an important aspect of the business – product pricing.

Often, companies launching a business in the SaaS industry decide their pricing figures randomly without considering enterprise SaaS pricing models.

SaaS pricing models

According to OpenView Survey, more than 40% of companies never pilot or test their pricing strategy, and about 55% have never conducted research to understand how much their target customer is willing to pay.

This is not the right approach for any SaaS business wishing to be successful. Let’s have a look at the fundamentals of SaaS product pricing and essential things to consider when evaluating a pricing strategy for your SaaS.

SaaS pricing strategy

Before your product launch, you’ll need to come up with an appropriate pricing strategy. Let’s explore, analyze, and understand the following five SaaS pricing techniques used in SaaS business. – Read more

What Is Software as a Service? A Beginner’s Guide to SaaS

My Post - 2019-08-13T141252.557.pngThanks to the rise of cloud computing, it’s become easier for companies to create and deliver solutions over the Internet.

The sheer power that a cloud solution can bring, not to mention the ease of delivery, gives business an avenue for powerful solutions that clients and users can access from anywhere. There are many types of service models for a cloud-based technology delivered via the Internet, giving rise to the trend of “as a service” solutions. One of the most popular of these service models is software as a service, or SaaS. What exactly is SaaS, though?

Software as a service, or SaaS, is one of the most common types of cloud-based solutions on the market. It was one of the first applications of the cloud to be publicly introduced, and odds are just about every enterprise has adopted a SaaS solution into their infrastructure. Those unfamiliar with the term might be wondering; what is SaaS, and what are its benefits for both software distributors and end users?

What is software as a service?

Software as a service refers to a software distribution model where software is made generally available to users via the cloud. Software distributors host applications locally on their own hardware; then, via a connection to the Internet, users on other systems can access these applications via a web portal. This means that the software relies on the distributor’s hardware rather than the user’s hardware to run the solution.

Typically, SaaS programs are offered via a subscription, but they may also be offered for a flat rate up front.

What are the benefits of SaaS for software vendors?

Software as a service deployments offer a number of advantages for developers looking to distribute their software. The benefits of SaaS for software developers include, but are not limited to:

Eliminating the need for physical distribution

Traditionally, software developers needed to physically deliver their projects to users; typically, this is done through a storage method that stores the program that users then install on their computer. The SaaS delivery method means that developers don’t need to worry about physical distribution and only need to allow users to access resources on their on-premise hardware.

Easier to push updates

Because users are accessing your software via your own infrastructure, pushing out updates is as simple as updating the program locally. On the user’s end, all they have to do to receive an update is download the newest version of the software. Rather than applying updates on a machine-by-machine basis, vendors can host the updated software centrally and deliver the update to users when their local device requests it – a much quicker distribution for vendors.

What are the benefits of SaaS for software users?

The advantages of software as a service don’t just apply to software vendors; the end user can also benefit SaaS deployments as well. These benefits include:

Ease of accessibility

Because software as a service requires connectivity to the Internet to access rather than installing an update directly to a machine, users can access a SaaS deployment from anywhere. As long as a device is compatible with the software, all it needs to do is be connected to a network and it can access the software. That means that a user can operate a vendor’s software remotely, extending the business capabilities of a vendor’s program. – Read more

A comprehensive guide to selecting SaaS project monitoring tools

My Post - 2019-08-13T124147.968.pngProject monitoring is one of the most important aspects of the SaaS development process.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most neglected aspects. Given how complex and problem-prone this process can be, proceeding without careful scrutiny can create a lot of liabilities.

When monitoring is a priority in a SaaS project, system operation engineers are able to identify and address problems before end users even notice. Engineers can conduct workload and performance testing, estimate infrastructure performance, and gauge system accessibility by using monitoring software. All of this allows them to accommodate larger workloads from new users so system performance isn’t compromised. Additionally, project monitoring tools are necessary for calculating infrastructure costs when using a public cloud.

Evaluating public cloud monitoring tools

Two of the most widely used monitoring tools are Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Both have strengths and weaknesses, meaning it’s up to each user to choose the software that best fits his or her needs.

When working with an AWS infrastructure, the only tool necessary is Amazon CloudWatch, which works like an archive for metrics created by AWS. It persistently keeps track of the resources and applications running on AWS, and it gathers data points related to things like disc operations and usage of the central processing unit. If specific metrics reach preassigned limits, users receive a notification and have the option to automatically initiate Auto Scaling. Users can also create their own metric sets and track them accordingly as well as access CloudWatch through several convenient interfaces.

There’s a lot to like about this monitoring tool, but it has notable limitations. For instance, it can’t aggregate data from some locations or send alarms for more than five different metrics. Users also can’t manually remove metrics, and in some cases, obtaining them can be a lengthy process.

Despite this, however, CloudWatch is a popular monitoring tool because it excels at collecting data. The tool is designed to track and document what matters most to administrators, and those records can be kept for years to identify long-term patterns. CloudWatch handles monitoring, but more importantly, it provides insights.

Microsoft Azure is similar. It provides infrastructure metrics as well as Azure service logs. Data can be collected from application logs, activity logs, and performance counters. Users can then engage with the data in various ways. It can be sent to a third party for analysis or stored for 90 days in an archive (or routed to long-term storage). It can also be routed to an application like Application Insights or Power BI for in-depth analysis.

Much like CloudWatch, Azure Monitoring can also be set up to send alerts when metrics reach certain thresholds. Additionally, there are multiple ways to access Azure Monitoring tools. Users may not find the solution perfect, but it provides the functionality necessary to make project monitoring productive.

Evaluating private cloud monitoring tools

Applications that rely on a private cloud for infrastructure are harder to monitor, but it’s not impossible. There are several specialised solutions on the market, such as Nagios Core and Zabbix.

Nagios Core is a free, open-source product. It offers a number of tools that empower users to observe services alongside Windows and Linux hosts. Users have a fair amount of control over what metrics they want to follow, and the system can also be customised using common languages like C++ and PHP. Like all monitoring tools, this one also sends alerts.

The only real drawback of Nagios Core is that it doesn’t offer a graphic user interface to adjust system settings to customers’ needs. Instead, they have to be manually edited in the configuration files. Most users are able to look past this flaw, given that Nagios Core offers a wide range of free commercial plug-ins and, overall, is a highly customisable solution.

Zabbix is also a worthwhile monitoring software. It consists of a monitoring server that collects data, runs analyses, and sends alerts. It also includes a database, a web interface, and daemon agents that can run in either passive or active modes.

Unlike Nagios Core, Zabbix excels in terms of available customisations and the ease of implementing them. Thanks to intuitive templates, the initial configuration time is minimal, and additional templates can be applied later to further adapt the system. – Read more

7 Skills Every SaaS Provider Needs to Develop a Great Website

My Post - 2019-08-13T122027.244.pngThere are so many platforms out there that claim you can use them to build a high-quality website with no prior knowledge of how to do so.

Sure, you can use Squarespace or GoDaddy to claim a small amount of space on the world wide web. But will you be able to convert leads through that website? Probably not.

A professional web development team for SaaS providers is essential if you want a great website that can help you get results. If you’re just looking for a small website to put your name on the internet, then you can use a DIY solution. What’s the difference between professional web development for SaaS and the do-it-yourself method? If you don’t have these seven skills below, your website is guaranteed to be much lower quality than one that is professionally developed.

Ability to Work In HTML and CSS

How’s your coding skillset? Can you work comfortably in HTML and CSS or are you just learning? HTML is an important skill to learn as it’s used to create the documents and content on your website. It’s one of the more basic coding languages to learn and is crucial when writing headings and paragraphs or inserting links.

In order to be truly optimized for search engine rankings, it’s a good idea to include a blog on your website. This allows you to continuously produce content and increase your SEO rankings on search engine result pages. But in order to have a blog on your site, you need to know HTML inside and out.

CSS controls the layout, color, and fonts of your website. A truly professional web developer for SaaS will use well-coordinated colors and fonts with a layout that creates a great user experience. Unless you want to be stuck with the most basic of layouts and take your chances on the font, CSS is needed to help you create a well-designed website.

Deep Understanding of Website Design

Some people are inherently great at matching colors and fonts while others are a little less capable in this area. If you’re someone who has a natural talent for colors and fonts, congratulations. If you struggle with it a little more, join the club!

Website design isn’t just picking out a great color scheme or the right set of fonts. It’s designing for a beautiful and easy-to-use user experience that makes your website a pleasant site to visit. If buttons are hard to see or the font is difficult to read, you’ll receive fewer leads from your website and visitors are less likely to stay on it for long. Professionals in the web development field for SaaS know exactly what fonts will create a great user experience while also matching your company’s culture, image, and reputation. – Read more

Top 6 Financial Tips Every SaaS Founder Should Know

My Post - 2019-08-13T121152.691.pngStarting your own software as a service (SaaS) business is an appealing way to become an entrepreneur.

Just come up with your software solution, deploy it, and become indispensable to fellow business owners everywhere—right?

Of course, it’s never that simple. Coming up with and creating your software is the easy part. The hard part is turning your idea into an actual business that enough customers are willing to pay for.

With that in mind, once they finalize their business concept, SaaS founders need to immediately turn their attention to their business’s finances. Building a solvent business model depends on you figuring out the numbers early.

Not sure where to start? Here are six financial tips every SaaS should keep in mind when building out their business.

Validate your idea before committing real funds

Lots of articles on the web will convince you that all you need to start your SaaS or other ecommerce business is an MVP—minimum viable product—that you can start selling. You can always tweak your MVP later as you garner feedback and experience.

Even spending that much of your resources and time, however, can be wasteful. If you build an MVP without a real understanding of whether people will pay for it, you’re essentially throwing money away unless you’re lucky enough to strike gold on your first pass.

You don’t need to build your software until you can demonstrate interest from potential customers. To measure that interest, use landing pages to gauge whether people want to learn more about your idea. – Read more