Software as a service (SaaS) is a thriving industry. Hence, startups continue to join the hype in building a SaaS company. Here is a step-by-step guide in starting one. Read on.
Aspiring entrepreneurs are part of the SaaS increasing number of market entrants. Yet, despite the hype, it is important to note that a SaaS company is not a traditional software company. This is because top SaaS companies behave differently. They implement custom strategic ways to succeed.
To have an in-depth understanding of what is a SaaS company, it is essential to know that SaaS itself is a strategic technology. SaaS companies already:
- open new markets
- create revenue streams
- provide a stable and recurring revenue model
But to stay ahead of the competition, one must build a strategic SaaS company. Strategic in the sense that SaaS offering is compatible with today’s robust Web services integration capabilities. Yet, it keeps up with the basic offering and must be accessible at any time and place using any web-enabled device.
The Operational Challenges for a SaaS Company
Building a SaaS company is a complex undertaking. It requires commitment, expertise, and focused efforts. Customers drive its demand. Thus, it should provide 100% uptime, appropriate Service Level Agreements (SLAs), and round-the-clock support.
These are the operational challenges of a SaaS company. How about the challenges in starting one?
Setting Up a SaaS Company
Starting a SaaS company is a challenge. In this article, let’s discuss the high-level step-by-step guide for successfully starting a SaaS company.
1. Company objectives
Clearly define the business requirements and objectives. The business objectives will guide your team in starting infrastructure design and component selection.
Investigate and perform the discovery process. Your SaaS application is the heart of your company. Therefore, it is essential to understand the intricacies of your on-demand offering.
2. Team selection
As mentioned earlier, SaaS is a non-traditional software. Therefore, build a team with expertise in multiple technologies such as:
- system and application management
- network and security management
- change control expertise
- infrastructure design
3. Define and understand the infrastructure
The team should define and architect a comprehensive SaaS infrastructure and its supporting components. These include:
- data center
- network components and connectivity
- hardware (e.g., systems, storage, storage backup)
- monitoring tools
- systems management tools
4. Select your hosting facility and Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
Aim for a consistent end-user experience by hosting your infrastructure with a reliable ISP. Understand the demographics of your customers when reviewing bandwidth allocation.
There should be a discovery of endpoints. Start with: who will use your SaaS? Are they home-based users or corporate offices with dedicated high-speed Internet connections?
This will help you select a hosting infrastructure within the end-user community proximity. It will reduce network hops and increase performance.
Also, in using a third-party data center, you should consider the following:
- Are the data centers staffed 24/7?
- What is the testing frequency?
- Are there backup systems for power and cooling?
- What are the physical security measures?
5. Procure the infrastructure and software required
For the actual production infrastructure, it will need a core set of components such as:
- Firewall/Intrusion Detection System (IDS) devices
- Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) acceleration units
- load Balancers
- storage devices
- support contracts
- other software applications
SaaS is all about guaranteed uptime commitment. These components are important to have a successful deployment. Thus, selecting the right equipment is critical.
6. Implement disaster recovery and business continuity planning
Startup owners must build a team that focuses on business continuity issues as well. Here are two key questions to consider:
- What happens in the event of a disaster?
- How quickly can the application recover after such a disaster?
Although there are varying disaster preparedness strategies, every Saas company should have a custom approach. Refer to your business requirements and build a disaster recovery approach relative to your budget limitations.
For instance, do you deploy across multiple geographic locations? If so, you should acquire leading-edge global load balancing technologies to cater to the demand.
7. Integrate a monitoring solution
A monitoring solution is part of the design infrastructure to ensure that all components are working. Here are SaaS key components that should send status reports periodically:
- Hardware (e.g., memory, CPU, hard drives)
- Operating Systems (e.g., event logs, process lists, key services)
- Application Layer (e.g., process, TCP ports, Web service checks)
8. Establish a support system
A SaaS company should establish a company’s Network Office Center (NOC). It functions as a monitoring station that performs correlations between triggered alerts and appropriate responses.
NOC also improves SaaS health and performance. It should work under a set of policies and procedures. The NOC must validate an alert. Then, determine and set the appropriate response.
The escalation process should also be part of NOC. For instance, an unresolved issue requires escalation and immediate response from an on-call engineer.
End-user support is a key component in successfully deploying SaaS. A SaaS company should invest in NOCs as it serves as a conduit for business intelligence.
It can generate daily operations status such as usability issues, requested enhancements, etc. These are excellent sources of information for continuous improvement.
9. Design and manage Service Level Agreements(SLA)
A SaaS company should develop a comprehensive SLA that meets end-user expectations.
The SLA elements should include:
- application availability
- infrastructure alert response time
- support response time
10. Document and manage the solution
Technical writers play an important role to document the entire infrastructure. Use collaborative tools such as Confluence in the documentation. Plus, it should be accessible within a centralized knowledge base.
Here are key points in SaaS company documentation:
- the data center
- Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
- network and security components and configuration
- system components and configuration
- disaster recovery activities and plans
- business continuity planning
Build a SaaS Company the Smart Way
Starting a business or a company always requires a robust methodology. However, every method requires complementary expertise.
At Full Scale, we can build your team of experts in SaaS operations and engineering. Our project managers and software developers have designed, built, and managed complex SaaS infrastructures.
To successfully start building a SaaS company, it is important to note the most critical element. Customers use SaaS and expect that when a problem occurs, it is fixed on time and with a satisfactory result.
Full Scale’s Guided Development offers processes to build better SaaS infrastructure design. Our software developers assure your customers that the most recent version of the application is available. We also have DevOps and support engineers to help your customers.
Talk to us, and we can further discuss other scalable methods to meet your dynamic business requirements.