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What to Look for in a SaaS Provider

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cloud technologies and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications have taken most industries by storm, including those where material handling plays an important role in overall operations and the logistics supply chain. Distribution centers, warehouses, manufacturers and other sectors that receive, manage and distribute shipments are utilizing this technology for a variety of different tasks, from scheduling inbound deliveries and managing inventory, to administering human resources and accounting processes.

As more and more professionals in the material handling sector begin to explore ways of incorporating SaaS applications and cloud technology, it’s important that they do their due diligence and research prior to choosing a provider.

The following are tips decision-makers should keep in mind when they begin their search for a SaaS provider.

  • Features and functionality. Knowing what you want out of your SaaS application and the tasks you hope to utilize it for are important first steps in selecting a provider, as not all systems offer the same features and functionality. In addition to current processes you hope to utilize the application for, there may be other tasks that can be conducted through the system as well. For example, an online delivery scheduler could also give you the ability to instantly send out confirmation and reminder e-mails, a task uncommon at many facilities.
  • Security. Given the transfer and flow of information across the Web, security is an important consideration when selecting a SaaS provider. Reputable SaaS providers will ensure the safety of both their clients’ and their clients’ clients’ information by implementing the most current and proven security measures and processes. Inquire on the provider’s standard security practices, its server database, data storage and back-up procedures, and procedures related to failover and federal regulations, if applicable.
  • Cost. Just as SaaS and cloud-based applications run the full gamut in terms of services, variety and capabilities, so too does the cost to utilize the software. Most proven SaaS applications implement a “pay-as-you-go” method, without any long-term contracts and nominal monthly fees. For those instances when customized or specialty services are necessary, the provider may draft up a contract that lists scope of the project, the specific work to be done, the costs involved, and other items.
  • Support. Although the second “S” in SaaS is for service, this is an area that’s sometimes lacking in these cloud applications. The ability to quickly reach a live support technician can give the facility the peace-of-mind that their provider is reliable and attentive to their needs. Some SaaS providers offer this through phone, e-mail or chat; 24-hour support can be an option as well.
  • Dependability and credibility. As with all new technology, SaaS providers seem to pop up overnight and claim to offer the same proven functionality as the more established businesses that have been offering their products for years. The longevity of a service provider can be an important consideration, as it’s less likely to be operating one day and then out of business the next. These providers are also usually willing to provider interested with businesses and organizations with references and examples of similar operations that utilize its software.

About the Author: Eric Richard is the senior technology writer at Appointment-Plus (www.appointment-plus.com), the worldwide experts in online scheduling solutions and creators of the most flexible and feature-rich software application used by distributors, warehouses, manufacturers and other inbound material-handling facilities to manage their deliveries. The online scheduling application has booked over 80 million appointments and reservations since 2001.

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