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10 Tips for Choosing an SaaS Approach to Software Deployment

If your small business is looking at new software solutions that won't take up space and reside on your company's servers, the answer's likely in the cloud.

Software as a Service model (SaaS), or on-demand software, is a software delivery model in which the data is hosted at a central location, known as cloud computing. This developing market comes with its own set of issues for businesses making a buying decision. Unlike software products that reside on an enterprise server of a workstation, SaaS circumvents the traditional feature-rich model of demonstrating value. In the cloud, it's usability that counts, as well as some other key benefits.

Here are some of the most important tips and considerations for small businesses:

1. Does the platform rely on open standards? Proprietary standards tend to lock customers in. You don't want to have to pay big bucks later if you migrate your data elsewhere (i.e., "switching costs" should be minimal). Maintaining control over your apps and data is important.

2. Conversely, how easy is it to upload and get your data onto the hosted environment?

3. Lurk around and pick up intelligence in user groups. A robust user group is usually a good sign of a software's usefulness, in and of itself. Often, a lot of useful information, such as FAQs, can often be found.

4. Productivity: Can your users effectively accomplish their work goals within the cloud solution? It has to be easy for teams to join up on the fly; Collaboration is one of the main benefits of SaaS.

5. Integration: Can you plug in other hardware, or what are the software's limitations? Effective and efficient enterprise solutions must work with other systems.

6. What's your exit strategy if your provider goes down, or worse, disappears? Remember Coghead?

7. How easily is the solution modified? Can you adapt it to fit your enterprise needs?

8. Test the solution by trying free trial offers commonly provided.

9. How reliable is the solution? In the end, any software solution is all about performance, availability, scalability and security.

10. And, finally, price is important - but it's often more difficult to compare SaaS solutions side-by-side because they vary so much in price. Gone are the high upfront costs in exchange for pay-as-you go fee structures. In cloud computing, you need to fully understand what the upfront and ongoing costs going to be.

There are a host of other important criteria in choosing SaaS - perhaps the biggest being security - and the point of this blog is merely to demonstrate the myriad issues that ever business must consider when forging ahead toward a software deployment decision. If your IT department is unfamiliar with any of the issues mentioned here, make sure your decision makers seek experienced professional advice.

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