SaaS Vendors Can Win Over Customers with Honesty

By Thomas Wailgum , CIO |  On-demand Software, NetSuite, Salesforce.com

All computer systems go down. They just do. And the more you talk to people in IT, the more those 99.999 percent uptime numbers you hear about seem to be just that: numbers.

When it comes to the fledgling on-demand, SaaS and cloud computing marketspace, however, those system reliability and application uptime 9's have become inextricably linked to SaaS vendors' success-or failure.

For instance, back in January, Salesforce.com was castigated on the Web for a "full service failure" caused by a networking device gone awry: "Salesforce Demonstrates How (Un)reliable SaaS Really Is," noted one blogger. Chimed in another blogger: "Salesforce.com Crashes," with just a little too much schandenfraude-ian glee.

Approximately 30 minutes after the outage, and after Salesforce.com techs initiated manual recovery steps, the Salesforce.com apps were back up. A post on its trust.salesforce.com blog explained the unplanned service disruption.

That kind of real-time transparency not only benefits harried and worried customers, of course, but also has become table stakes for SaaS providers. ( NetSuite, for instance, promises 99.5 percent uptime as part of its standard agreement.)

But now it's time for SaaS providers to offer even greater transparency to their customers and a willingness to become true "partners," as the trite saying goes in enterprise software. What better way to do that than to take a potentially disastrous event-like a three-hour unplanned outage-and turn it into something positive? To move the vendor-customer relationship beyond the 9's stipulated in a contract and actually create that trust, which is sorely lacking today, even with on-premise vendors.

Because make no mistake: Traditional on-premise ERP, CRM, BI and supply chain vendors are looking for any chinks in the SaaS armor, and are not afraid to cut through the fleshy parts of the SaaS body when they think they can.

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