7 Essential Questions for SaaS Hosting Providers

Updated: May 19, 2010

Below are 7 essential questions any company should ask before selecting a SaaS hosting provider.

1) Is a 100% service guarantee the same thing as an SLA?

SaaS hosting providers offer a certain level of functionality to their customers, with the level of service being specified in a Service Level Agreement (SLA).

Many SaaS hosting providers will offer a "guaranteed 100%" uptime. However, this doesn't mean they deliver 100% uptime. Instead, the SaaS hosting providers receive a service credit if 100% uptime isn't delivered. Therefore companies should carefully review the SaaS hosting provider's uptime statistics and SLAs to make sure it is consistent with the SLA being offered to customers. Also ask for written details on how they deliver their electrical power, network and server SLAs.

2) Do they get the big picture?

Want to know a SaaS company's worst hosting provider nightmare? Signing a contract only to discover that their SaaS hosting provider does little more than deliver 'ping, power & pipe'.

What's saved in low monthly costs is lost many times over by not being able to expand the infrastructure in order to support rapid growth, or recover quickly from operational problems. Be sure to gain a full, written understanding of the technical and business relationship that will be in place before signing a contract with a SaaS hosting provider.

3) Does the SaaS hosting provider offer 'high availability' managed dedicated servers?

Business-class data centers require significant capital investments to provide and maintain space, power, cooling and network functionality in a way that is cost-effective for SaaS companies to take advantage of. At the server level this translates into being able to deliver a range of affordable, high-end managed server solutions that match business requirements.

Contrast that approach with one where a SaaS hosting provider assigns an in-house developer the often hurried task of deploying poorly configured servers for testing, staging and even production. That infrastructure quickly becomes a growth bottleneck due to security, reliability or scalability issues.

4) How do they balance real-time maintenance windows with always-on service?

If a SaaS hosting provider's hardware stack is designed properly and redundant hardware is used correctly, full production availability can be maintained even during a maintenance window.

Real-time maintenance allows new features to roll out quickly since maintenance windows do not have to be scheduled and announced to customers. Developers will appreciate it because they're able to work more normal business hours, but in a real-time maintenance environment. Users like it too because their confidence in the reliability and stability of the entire application solution increases.

5) How exactly will the managed server hosting solutions keep pace with your business growth?

A significant challenge for a SaaS hosting provider is to properly size the "store." It's very important to select a hosting provider who has the infrastructure to support future growth.

For example, a company begins with dedicated servers and a managed backup server in the same data center. Then, as clients and data traffic increase, the business model will require that backup data is securely replicated offsite on a daily basis.

But if the managed server hosting provider has only one data center, how will this be achieved? Such unplanned limitations can become major roadblocks for expanding SaaS companies.

6) Does the SaaS hosting provider offer professional incident management and escalation procedures?

Nothing is more frustrating as a SaaS hosting provider than getting little to no information about a service issue from the hosting provider.

The best SaaS hosting providers have a genuine and very visible culture of service that prevents this from happening to clients. Expect to see systems such as port-level network monitoring plus automated trouble ticket notification in the event of a service issue.

Any reputable SaaS hosting provider should be following clearly documented guidelines for all aspects of configuration and change management. If necessary, ask to see these documents.

The best SaaS hosting providers will also show a willingness to help with application upgrades by involving their network engineers and Sys Admin staff to minimize the impact of any service disruptions.

7) How can a business be sure that their customers' application data is securely and reliably hosted by the SaaS provider?

The Internet has given a whole new meaning to the idea of a 'data bank'. For SaaS hosting providers, it's becoming critical that a trusted business partner securely and reliably hosts their customers' data.
To some extent, managed dedicated servers hosted in an outsourced data center have now become a trusted data bank on which the SaaS business model depends.

Featured Research
  • Best ERP Features and Benefits for Your Business

    Are you considering investing in ERP software for the first time? Or maybe you already have an ERP solution but you’re worried it’s becoming dated. If either of the above apply to you, read our latest guide on the top ERP features and benefits based on the size of your business. You may be surprised at how versatile and cost-effective it is becoming - regardless of if you own a small business or run a large enterprise. more

  • 9 Spooky Signs You Need a Contact Center Upgrade

    When was the last time you evaluated the performance of your current contact center and the software you are using? The results may be frightening! If it’s been awhile since you invested in contact center software, there is a good chance that your needs have changed or that there are better options available now. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to determine if you need an upgrade or not. more

  • 7 Ways the Wrong Phone System Can Haunt Your Business

    The wrong phone system could be haunting your business - and we’re talking about problems more serious than ghosts and ghouls. From increased costs to issues with scaling, we’ve identified seven important ways that a less than ideal phone system could be holding you back. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference this can make to your bottom line too. more

  • Ditch Your Fax Servers

    An in-house fax server gives an IT department centralized management and monitoring over the entire enterprise's faxing. This can help your company track usage and better maintain records for auditing and record keeping. However, there are serious drawbacks that come with utilizing an in-house fax server solution and these range from security to cost-prohibitive pricing. more

  • The IT Manager's Survival Guide

    As an IT manager, maintaining physical fax servers and infrastructure is not a high priority. However, fax capability remains a business need simply because chances are your industry is dependent on its security. What if there was a way to reduce the amount of time spent handling fax complaints and maintaining physical servers? And this way took into account security, cost savings, and freed up your IT resources. Would you be interested? more