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SaaS in a High Security Industry

by | May 6, 2014

At Snowbound Software, we have embraced SaaS for years. We use SalesForce for our customer relationship needs (CRM), which we then integrate with our SaaS marketing system, Marketo. The benefits have been worth it. We are able to tap into a sophisticated, but flexible, system that is hosted by a company with large enough resources to serve customers often bigger than ourselves, giving us adequate resources, backup and 24×7 operation. The downsides of having another company responsible for guarding some of our most valuable resources – our customer information – and being greatly dependent on this vendor with limited portability ability were something we accepted after weighing the pros and cons.

I have met many entrepreneurs and investors who are very excited about the possibilities of SaaS because the entry cost is low for a very sophisticated system and the worries of maintenance, building necessary facilities, and 24×7 operation are eliminated.

Our customers have recently started asking about SaaS for document management, both from us and our competitors. We even have a competitor who is part of a large SaaS document repository company. So is this the future for enterprise document management?

Well, there are at least two concerns you should consider:

  1. You don’t always get what you pay for. SalesForce doesn’t guarantee 99.999% uptime. Come the end of the quarter, they don’t even guarantee adequate response. Sure, we use them successfully because they provide a very useful product, but we still make accommodations and stay vigilant. We back up our data, we don’t store critical information on their servers, and we prepare for the occasional slowdowns or maintenance shut-downs.
  2. The single most common new requirement from our Fortune 2000 customers is information security to the nth degree. They want all of their vendors to brace for crippling consequences if they were to divulge any of their confidential data. One of our customers has even gone to the extreme of stating that every communication we get from them must be considered confidential, whether it’s a “good morning” text or a document with an SSN#. That alone gives you the answer. SalesForce and many other SaaS applications won’t guarantee that. And besides, would you trust them if they did? We’re talking about putting your entire company on the line. At a minimum, finance and banking, insurance, health records, government, and DOD all have to opt out of a SaaS scenario. Every company’s HR and Finance departments also have to opt out. None can afford the security risk inherent in SaaS.

Yes, SaaS is here and a lot of people are excited about the convenience and affordability. Just make sure it fits your critical needs, as well as your customers’.

-Simon