Starting a Business

Business technology solutions: What to look for in a SaaS

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is an invaluable information technology for small businesses.

Published: May 04, 2016
Updated: January 19, 2017

As a business owner, you're likely always looking for ways to save time and money — or both. Increasingly businesses are turning to cloud-based software-as-a-service, also known as SaaS, for just that: improved productivity and efficiency.

In fact, research by Intuit and Emergent Research predicts that 78% of U.S. small businesses will be fully cloud-operational by 2020, up from 37% today.

SaaS delivers applications on a subscription basis over the internet — or the cloud — instead of having to install and maintain the software on premise. Potential benefits include improved access to data so everyone at your business sees the same information at the same time, with easier and less expensive software upgrades.

Jeff Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies, which helps business owners select and implement SaaS, cloud-computing, and managed services, says SaaS can broaden the number of software applications available to businesses to drive productivity. "SaaS has such options as marketing automation and customer relationship management that also enables your sales team to do things more efficiently," he says.

If you're considering a cloud-based SaaS service, here's what you should look for.

A SaaS that bundles multiple tools

You may be able to stretch your investment further by choosing an offering that bundles multiple services like CRM, data management, and marketing tools. Some of the larger SaaS providers offer these all-in-one cloud-based solutions. Bundled offerings make implementation easier than buying one application at a time, which could increase the risk of another application not being compatible with those you may have already installed.

A mobile-friendly SaaS

A mobile-friendly SaaS can help you make timely decisions when you're out of the office. With about 43% of small business owners using a smartphone as the primary device to operate their business, according to Intuit, it just makes sense. "We've all had such exposure to mobile apps and gotten more comfortable with using technology in our personal lives that we're seeing that in leadership — small businesses can now take advantage of it," says Kaplan.

A SaaS that integrates with your existing systems

For a seamless transition to the cloud, look for a SaaS that can easily integrate with all of your existing operating systems and applications like Microsoft Office. If not, you could end up having to purchase separate integration tools before you can start using the SaaS solution. "This is where SaaS can get complicated, when you try to integrate it into your current software," says Kaplan. "The most prominent and well-known providers tend to be able to integrate will all systems." Ask if integration and setup are included in your monthly subscription fee (most subscription fees range from $25 to $300 per month), or if you'll pay an additional cost for those services.

A SaaS that meets your individual needs

Every business has a different set of needs. For example, if you have two employees and need to manage customer contacts and interaction, you may only benefit from CRM software rather than an entire suite of services.

Consider how many employees will have access to the software, the level of security that comes with it, the software's user-friendliness, the pricing options available, and the necessary features to help operate your business.

Do your research before settling on a SaaS offering. The right one can help you more productively execute a variety of critical tasks at a relatively small cost.

Learn more about technology tools to boost your business.

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