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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
May 2007 - Volume 25 / Number 12
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CRM SaaS: Paying More For Uptime

By David Sims
TMCnet Contributing Editor

According to a recent customer survey conducted by managed Web hosting provider Rackspace Managed Hosting, nearly 36 percent of responding SaaS (software as a service) customers do not know the uptime guarantees provided in the SaaS vendor service level agreement (SLA) although, the survey found, “security, application uptime and network connectivity are among their top technical concerns.”

The survey also concluded that 49 percent of enterprise SaaS customers do not know where the infrastructure behind their SaaS application lies, whether it is hosted internally with the SaaS provider or through a third-party hosting provider.

John Engates, chief technology officer of Rackspace, said “SaaS providers need to clearly communicate their hosting and infrastructure details in the service level agreement, drilling down to security promises, uptime guarantees, network connectivity, data backup processes and more. This way, customers are aware of their SaaS provider’s service obligations, and they can rest assured their mission-critical applications such as e-mail or customer relationship management (CRM) software will perform as promised.”
The Rackspace’s SaaS survey found that customers value application uptime differently for each category of SaaS application. E-mail and business productivity applications such as spreadsheets and document creation were listed as the most critical applications when it comes to availability, with customer relationship management applications running a close second.

In music to some companies’ ears, SaaS customers value application uptime enough to pay significantly more for increased uptime guarantees. The Rackspace survey found that 30 percent of SaaS customers would pay “at least 25 percent more” for four extra minutes of guaranteed uptime per month, taking them from a 99.99 percent uptime SLA (i.e., approximately four minutes unplanned downtime per month) to a 100 percent uptime SLA (i.e., zero minutes unplanned downtime per month).

Overall, the Rackspace survey revealed that SaaS is making significant traction in the small-to-medium size and enterprise market with 51 percent of respondents using a SaaS application and 72 percent of those users considering additional SaaS applications. Rather than a brief IT trend, 69 percent of respondents believe SaaS is the preferred software delivery method of the future, indicating infrastructure scalability will be top of mind.

As more and more applications become available via the SaaS model, small to medium-sized businesses will continue to adopt them in an effort to broaden their business capabilities. In March, Gartner, Inc. reported that the worldwide SaaS market reached $6.3 billion in 2006 and is forecast to grow to $19.3 billion by year-end 2011.

SaaS is essentially hosted software based on a single set of common code and data definitions that are consumed in a one-to-many model by all contracted customers, at any time, on a pay-for-use basis, or as a subscription based on usage metrics. The SaaS model is popular for CRM applications, call center processes and technologies such as human resources solutions.
Why such success? “The dysfunction of the client/server era is driving alternative approaches to IT development, delivery and management, which SaaS is the most apparent version of,” said Ben Pring, research vice president for Gartner.

SaaS adoption is broadening out from CRM and HR into new areas such as procurement and compliance management, Gartner has found. However, the scale of change involved in moving to a SaaS approach is proving hard for many vendors to manage. “Due to the law of large numbers, traditional IT product models are becoming victims of their own success, while the relative smallness of new approaches facilitates growth much more easily,” said Pring.
By David Sims
TMCnet Contributing Editor

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