When – and why – hybrid SaaS might be a better option

Cloud services, particularly SaaS products like Office 365, G Suite, Slack and Zoom have been invaluable to enterprises trying to maintain functioning, productive operations amidst this year’s sudden shift to remote work and distributed teams.

SaaS has long been popular as a replacement for internally operating broadly-used, commodified IT software like productivity suites and communications platforms.

However, the pandemic, which forced IT operations and support staff to work from home, led more organizations to investigate and adopt SaaS for backend business services like CRM, ERP and content management.

Indeed, Flexera’s annual cloud survey found that one of the fastest-growing enterprise initiatives is migrating on-premises software to SaaS.

The deeper SaaS creeps into an organization’s back end services, the more it renders the availability and performance of critical business processes dependant upon a SaaS product and vendor that the business doesn’t control. When revenue, customer satisfaction and business operations rely upon an external service provider, it forces business executives to fully understand the tradeoffs of SaaS and options for mitigating the risks without sacrificing the benefits. A hybrid SaaS implementation that combines shared and single-tenant infrastructure is often the right option. 

Shared- versus single-tenant SaaS

The SaaS deployment model is typically conflated with implementations using shared infrastructure. The concepts are understandably merged since the vast majority of SaaS products, and all consumer titles, are delivered from infrastructure shared across hundreds or thousands of customers. Nonetheless, the sensitive nature of customer, financial, procurement and HR data held in CRM, ERP, CMS and EHR systems led many software vendors to enter the SaaS market with single-tenant infrastructure to assuage the fears of skeptical business leaders. SAP S/4 HANA Cloud, STE is a prime example of the type that Brian Sommer warned about almost two years ago when he wrote:

Great SaaS apps run in the cloud in multi-tenancy (Old ERP vendors still peddle single-tenant on-premises, hosted and private cloud solutions).

Although Sommer lumps single-tenant SaaS together with on-premises software (“and their countless variants”), the single-tenant deployment model doesn’t necessitate uncontrolled heterogeneity. Indeed, it is often built from a standardized software distribution, run on the same cloud environment as a vendor’s multi-tenant customers, but using cloud resources, i.e. compute instances, storage columns and buckets and virtual networks, that are dedicated to one customer. Such implementations sacrifice some of the operational efficiencies of shared infrastructure for greater control over performance levels, maintenance windows and data placement.

A better SaaS alternative is a hybrid model in which parts of an application, such as the Web UI, mobile interface and administrative console are delivered from shared infrastructure while the backend databases and business logic run on dedicated infrastructure. For example, Generis CARA, a content management SaaS that targets highly regulated industries like life sciences and financial services provides two classes of service that vary the mix between shared and single-tenant resources: 

  • Standard with shared infrastructure for the application logic and UI servers, with a dedicated database for each customer. Updates are automatically applied each quarter.
  • VIP with dedicated services for the application middleware, UI and database. Updates are available each quarter, with customer control over the schedule (including the option of skipping updates)

The advantages of a hybrid approach include:

  • Predictable application performance by eliminating resource contention.
  • Customer control over software updates and maintenance downtime.
  • Customer control over application version and configuration, backup policies and the physical location of data repositories. 
  • Lower lock-in risk by using dedicated databases that are more easily replicated or migrated to other cloud infrastructures. 
  • Faster data restoration in the event of accidental or malicious deletion, again due to not comingling customers on a shared database or storage repository.

Noisy neighbors and other cloud performance concerns

Data security and cost control usually top the list of business concerns when asking executives about cloud usage, however, dig deeper and you’ll find that many IT leaders also worry about performance when using SaaS applications. An ESG survey focusing on applications for distributed workers, i.e. every employee in the COVID era, found that dismal SaaS performance for remote workers is common. – Read more

The 5 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Cloud Solutions

We believe there are many reasons to migrate your organisation’s applications to the cloud, not least of which are cost savings, streamlined operations, redeployment of resources, reskilling of your internal teams and talent retention.  

In this blog, I answer the five most common questions I get asked about moving applications to the cloud, so you can make an informed decision about whether it’s the right thing for your organisation.  

1. Is it secure and where is my data? 

“Is it secure?”  is one of the most commonly asked questions about the cloud. But as the cloud has become universal in organisations, the nature of the question has changed. 

Every year, major cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft spend billions to make their cloud services stable, robust and secure. Security measures and compliance certifications are available for all to see, and Microsoft’s cloud offering is as secure as it gets in terms of compliance, governance and physical security.  

The result? Today, almost everyone accepts that the cloud is secure. The conversation now is less around how secure it is and more around data control. It’s essential that organisations understand where their data lives, where it may go and who can access it in order to feel comfortable with moving to the cloud. 

A lack of understanding around how the cloud works is a barrier to adoption for many organisations. In the UK, law firms are amongst some of the most cautious adopters of cloud solutions, largely because of questions about where confidential client data will reside and who can access it.  

There needs to be an understanding that, by its very nature, the cloud exists in multiple locations – and your data can too. Azure, for example, for resilience can have multiple copies of data in multiple locations. And this conversation isn’t always an IT-led discussion; it needs the business to decide in which country their data should be reside, and whether they are comfortable with it potentially leaving UK soil. The cloud gives customers choice here, different services having different options about where data is stored, but it’s important that well informed decisions are made in this regard. 

Organisations need to know what they are letting themselves in for and understand how data will be stored and accessed which needs a complex, but not impossible, discussion about trust and understanding. In our experience, anyone who truly understands the options and how the cloud works has been confident in making an informed decision based on facts not fear.  

2.  Will all my IT staff be out of work/redundant? 

Generally, there isn’t a direct correlation between adopting cloud services and IT staff being let go.  We prefer to see this as freeing up IT staff to focus on more strategic tasks. 

Whether they’re in retail, manufacturing, healthcare or any other sector, businesses are trying to be ‘the best’ and provide the best service to their customers. IT should enable them to do that. It should be a supporter and enabler for a business to do its job and operate at its highest level. And for organisations that are held back by inefficient, outdated IT systems, embracing the cloud is one way to make improvements. 

Few organisations today choose to use physical servers; they are costly, require office space and need people to maintain and manage them. Solutions like O365 and Exchange Online are making delivery of common IT services easier, better and lower cost, and like it or not, the requirement for on-premise skills will reduce as cloud adoption becomes the new norm. As IT evolves, the skillset of IT teams needs to evolve with it, or face being left behind.  – Read more

Questions to ask before choosing a sales CRM

If you’re still deciding which sales CRM you’re going to use in your business, here are some questions to consider to make sure you choose the right CRM.

In this video, I discuss how to evaluate different CRM’s and how Pipedrive stacks up against in each area (this video was made in partnership with Pipedrive):

1. Can the CRM grow with my business?

2. How simple is it to use and onboard my sales team?

3. What kind of support does it have?

4. What kind of customisation does it offer?

5. What kind of reporting capabilities does it offer?

Learn More About Pipedrive