A common trait you’ll find among entrepreneurs is that they have tons of ideas and routinely can be described as ADHD. Due to this phenomenon, SaaS products, and the web in general, make for an ideal medium as it affords an elegant manner with which to constantly tinker. In many cases, you can have an idea, see it live in production, and get customer feedback in a matter of days or weeks (with strong automated testing, of course!). What other types of products allow you to do that? Physical goods? No. Services? Rarely.
Constant iteration and innovation really is adrenaline for enterpreneurs. It doesn’t get much better than SaaS/Web for products.
Jacques Chester over at Club Troppo has a nice piece titled “Shared Hosting is Doomed.” One of the arguments he makes revolves around the idea that over time labor costs for technical administrators will rise substantially while the costs of hardware will continue to drop precipitously. I’m in complete agreement.
One of the big benefits I see for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is that the technical labor costs are spread over a large group of users in a very efficient manner. His argument, as it pertains to the low-end, shared web hosting environment is a positive for SaaS: increased technical labor costs will drive more companies to SaaS solutions.
SaaS is going to have a greater impact than most people realize. I’m looking forward to it.
One of the best techniques to employ during the interview process is that of a written portion. For us, we have a series of research questions that aren’t easily answered without effort. It helps us understand the candidates’ writing skills, resourcefulness, and attention to detail.
In addition, being a SaaS company makes it easy for us to provide a few simple assignments for the candidate to do using our web-based software. This helps us better understand how quickly they pick up new products, their resourcefulness, and their likelihood of success in the company.
I recommend using a variety of different techniques to assess candidates.
Another SaaS benefit that isn’t readily apparent before going live is the relationship between quick product enhancements and reference customers. Because you can update and enhance the product so fast, customers that make small requests can see the changes within a matter of days or weeks (assuming you accept the tweak and it fits in your opinionated vision!). This goes a long way towards having them become a reference account that you can use for future prospects. With installed software, it is difficult and time consuming to keep making little patches so customers often have to wait several months for the release cycle to happen before they can actually appreciate that your team has been working hard on their request.
Near instant gratification with product change requests is something many clients have never experienced. Please make sure and temper expectations that it won’t always happen but that you’ll always be there to hear them out and be understanding.
After our hosting provider had internal network issues last week, setting up redundant datacenters became a top priority. After much debate, here’s what we decided on for our new SaaS infrastructure:
- Enterprise-class round robin DNS with automatic fail-over
- Two datacenters with identical infrastructure:
- One Linux load balancer (1 dual core CPU, 2 GB of RAM)
- Two Linux app servers (1 quad core CPU, 4 GB of RAM)
- High-end MySQL database server (2 quad core CPUs, 12 GB of RAM, RAID 5)
The database servers are configured in a master-master replication setup such that each datacenter is fully autonomous.
Now, time to get to work and set things up.
After reading Nicholas Carr’s book, The Big Switch (as recommended by my friend Wayt King), I’ve been trying to be more cognizant of what my company can put into the cloud and no longer worry about. Well, yesterday, we put our Asterisk PBX into the cloud courtesy of Aretta Communications. I must say, we should have done it a long time ago. Several benefits include:
- Fully managed by a specialist
- Daily back-ups
- Phones still work even if the multiple T1s in our office go down
For $100/month, we should have done it a long time ago. I love the cloud.