Expert SaaS Advice: Implementing Software as a Service: Page 2

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“As your business changes, you may want to bring the application on-premise. You can’t be locked into a certain data set. You need portability and you need to know how you’re going to migrate data [off their servers],” he says. Microsoft has several SaaS offerings, including Dynamics Live and Office Live.

He also warns that although there are great promises of “broadband ubiquity,” outages do happen and IT managers must protect themselves from this probability. “You need some measure of local capability behind your firewall to maintain business operations,” he says. “Also, the terms of use between you and the provider become very, very important. You have to lay out what happens if data gets lost or there is downtime.”

O’Brien says IT managers should pay close attention to their provider’s accounting methods. “You should know how the billing mechanism on the back-end works. How are your charged? On a per-transaction basis or monthly?” he says. One of the many advantages of the pay-as-you-go model is the built-in reporting it offers. Everything is metered so companies can see usage trends, he says. With such detail, there is opportunity to negotiate optimal rates.

Before organizations even consider SaaS as an option, they must do some legwork, according to Rachel Lyubovitzky, director at SaaS-vendor KnowledgeSum. IT teams must first inventory all their on-premise applications and tasks and decide what’s core and what’s commodity. They then need to consider how much customization and integration with other software they’ll need for optimal user productivity. Finally, she says IT managers must consider the requirements they have around data ownership, such as security, privacy regulations, and federal and private sector mandates.

Once you approach the provider, Lyubovitzky says it’s important not to get pinned down. “If anything is unclear – data security, compliance or service levels – and you don’t feel 100% sure, then just walk away,” she says.

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