What SMBs Need to Know When Evaluating SaaS

The days of small and mid-sized business owners purchasing expensive permanent software for their companies are long gone. Most enterprises now look to cloud-based SaaS technologies to increase accessibility and efficiency for their workforce. From customer relationship management systems to human resources software and everything in between, small and mid-sized businesses are pursuing SaaS as a primary technology option for their companies. According to a survey of over 1,800 IT professionals by BetterCloud, a SaaS Operation Management Platform, recent data reveals the rise of SaaS:

  • In 2017, organizations used an average of 16 SaaS apps. This is an increase from 12 in 2016.

  • 75 percent of small and mid-sized businesses say the majority of their apps will be SaaS by 2020.

  • These are the top five factors IT professionals look for in selecting a SaaS application:

  • Cost -- 59 percent

  • Security -- 47 percent

  • Ease of Use -- 38 percent

  • Integrations -- 30 percent

  • Customer Support -- 24 percent

  • 86 percent of end users feel SaaS apps help them succeed more than desktop alternatives.

BetterCloud's study reveals that SaaS is here to stay, and businesses who jump in are likely to be better for it. However, how can companies be sure they are selecting the right SaaS technologies for their company? There are numerous factors owners need to consider when choosing the best SaaS program. Read on for tips SMBs can use to evaluate the best SaaS software choices.

Price

According to BetterCloud, this was the factor with which owners were most concerned. Owners must first ask themselves what fits in their budget? One system may come with all the bells and whistles but will put a considerable dent in finances, while another option may have fewer nuances but show itself to be more affordable.

Many times, owners will have to balance quality and support with the price. Also, are there any costs associated with maintenance and receiving training materials for the technology? How much is it going to cost to install the system and pay the labor costs of IT professionals to distribute the program across the network? Are there hidden costs related to how many users can use the system? These are all factors owners need to think about when selecting their next SaaS system.

Scalability

How does the system handle multiple users? Since SaaS technologies may slow due to external factors like server speed and wi-fi network loads, owners need to be aware if more users will bring a strain on the speed of the system. Can only a certain number of users work on a program within the system at a time before there is a system crash? How does the SaaS program handle running on multiple types of devices such as mobile, PC, Mac, or tablets at the same time? Owners need to run a parallel test on trial versions of this software to assess scalability among the workforce.

Scalability is also a factor for pricing, storage, and data capacity. Adding multiple users as your company grows can sometimes result in exponential pricing increases, so be sure to check the user limits. Data storage or usage capacity may also start off feeling nearly-unlimited, but as more users sign on and your company makes more and more API calls, you may quickly find your upper limit. Speak with service reps to learn the data storage and usage limits.

Features

This factor goes along closely with price, but small and mid-sized business owners need to check in on the types of features included with specific pricing tiers. Are their particular specifications promoted in advertising that are only included with higher-priced packages? Also, do the features offered by the program align with the company's goals and strategy? Having 24/7 support may be great for the extra cost, but if business is only conducted eight to ten hours a day, is it necessary?

Before deciding on any features, owners should spend time strategizing with leaders in the company and front-line employees to get a feel for what is needed instead of desired. The owner should only pay for what they need, and they should look out for SaaS vendors who offer an a la carte option.

Integrations

Again, according to the BetterCloud study, on average, businesses now work with almost 16 different SaaS applications. The workflow management over this many systems can be daunting and nearly defeat the purpose of using SaaS systems in the first place. Can the new SaaS application help to integrate some of these other programs and make the digital workday a bit more streamlined? Does the system have an excellent ---but still efficient --- portfolio of APIs and an excellent reputation for quick data sharing between programs.

A decent example of this is a program like Zapier. This software system exists to help various types of other software systems ---especially email clients and content management systems---communicate with one another to accomplish multiple daily tasks. The goal of any SaaS selection should be to increase productivity and create a way for workers not to have to re-enter information or continuously switch between programs to get work done.

Security

This was number two on the list, and with good reason. Companies are handling more financial and personal data from customers ---and themselves---than ever before. Any SaaS system that is selected should have an ironclad security plan.

First, what actions will the software company take if the system experiences an outage? Are redundancies built into the application to prevent data loss? Can the IT department perform their own backups using the system?

Second, who owns the information? Can the vendor do what they like with the data companies collect, or are they prevented from doing this? Third, how does that program avoid the hacking and theft of data? Are there robust firewalls in place to prevent this from happening? In light of many recent data breaching scandals, it is crucial for owners to spend a lot of time discussing this feature with vendors.

Mobility

How much does this SaaS support mobile functionality? Are some features not as powerful on the mobile app as they are on the web version? Can workers take their work on the go? These are essential factors to a workforce that has decided to move into an innovative technology space. Also, as hard as it is to believe, some SaaS technologies may not work the same on each web browser. Check that every browser your team may use to access the SaaS systems support the app. Owners need to know going in if the system is compatible with all browsers or if some are off limits. How does the program operate if an older browser system is utilized or if updates are consistently needed? Assessing mobility has to be on the radar.

There are a lot of factors small and mid-sized business owners need to pay attention to when selecting a SaaS program. Businesses are moving more toward cloud-based SaaS applications, so choosing the right one is critical to business success and maintaining a competitive reputation in a respective industry. If owners plan, consult with team members, and are sure to ask SaaS vendors about the factors above, then they are more likely to choose the best system for their company.

Chanell Alexander is a writer for TechnologyAdvice. She is a freelance writer and digital marketing strategist. She has over seven years of experience in the nonprofit field, and enjoys blending innovative technology solutions with communications. When she is not writing, Chanell enjoys traveling, contributing to video game blogs, and embracing her inner foodie. See what else Chanell has been up to on her LinkedIn profile and Twitter page.