No matter how good your service offering is, your potential for success is likely to be hampered if your customers struggle to gain access to your app. Worse still, a poor choice in hosting provider could leave your users road-blocked by server downtime or scuppered by security concerns. Due to this, choosing the right hosting for your SaaS product should be high in your list of priorities. Below, we’ll provide some great tips on exactly how you can choose the perfect hosting solution for your needs.
SaaS Hosting 101
First of all, let’s define our terms: SaaS means ‘software as a service’. In other words, you’re providing your software as an online tool, usually charging a monthly fee for the privilege. Think about how businesses now pay for access to comms platform Slack, for instance, or tools like Canva and Photoshop.
It’s because of the rise of SaaS tools that online business has grown so vast. Countless business owners would never have got anywhere if they hadn’t been able to skirt huge development costs by creating their websites through convenient SaaS website builders. This means that there’s a huge market for fresh SaaS offerings.
But if you’re going to provide your software as an online tool, you need to store it somewhere and make it available in that way, so you need high-end hosting. Now, there are three main flavors of hosting: shared hosting, dedicated hosting, and cloud hosting.
Shared hosting allocates you space on a shared server alongside other anonymous users. It’s the cheapest by far, but it can’t offer great performance. Dedicated hosting assigns you a personal server that only you can control, but it will have specific limitations. This brings us to the increasingly-popular option of cloud hosting. Cloud hosting uses virtual servers potentially spread across multiple data centers — and customers can choose between public, private and hybrid options.
Now we’ve defined our terms, let’s get into exactly what to look out for when you’re choosing your hosting provider.
These are the features you should look for as a bare minimum. In short, if a hosting provider doesn’t have these features – run for the hills! Your provider should offer the following:
- Robust security features to ensure your data is safe
- Competitor-matching (or beating) uptime
- Comprehensive support from knowledgeable technicians
- Scalability and the ability to customise to your needs
- Analytics tools to measure key data points
It’s also important to begin with a good estimation of exactly how much traffic you expect to receive. Once you’ve totted up an accurate figure, use this to inform your choice of hosting, making sure to pick a provider based both on the factors above and their storage and bandwidth limitations.
Hone in on your individual must-haves
Once you’ve figured out whether your chosen hosting solution delivers the basic requirements above, it’s worth considering what your specific needs are. Technical details like SSL encryption, two-factor authentication and auto-healing servers are worthy of consideration. If they matter for you, ask about them at every turn.
Next, care must be taken to ensure that your chosen provider supports the platform your app is built upon (or will be built upon). For example, if your application is built through Magento or Laravel (the latter increasingly picked for open source ecommerce), pick a provider which mentions these platforms as compatible. Specialist integrations are also worth considering, for example; Cloudways is well known for its Cloudflare integration.
Can your hosting provider support your chosen plugins? Compatibility is an important factor, especially when migrating. Run through these details with a fine-tooth comb – it’ll save you a lot of time in the long run. It’s also worth figuring out whether your chosen provider is capable of managing your expected levels of growth.
If your SaaS project is received well and you’re struggling to deal with an influx of new users, you’ll want to ensure that your hosting provider is capable of scaling up to suit your needs. It’s a luxury problem to have, for sure… The last thing you need is a bottleneck when your app is finally gaining attention!
Security should be a concern, too. Consider basing your final decision on whether your provider has the following features:
- Phishing prevention
- Malware scanning
- User authorization
- Spam filters
With cyber crime on the rise, be sure to factor the security features of your chosen hosting platform into consideration.
Always read the small print
As we mentioned above, aspects like security and customer support are key when selecting your hosting provider — not just for you, but also for your users.
Any provider you’re considering should be able to present a Service Level Agreement. This is essentially a statement of intent meant to offer you a guaranteed level of service. In this documentation you’ll find details on response times for customer support and server uptime (the percentage of time your server will be functional and ready to deliver your application).
Sift through your provider’s SLA and take some time to really understand exactly what your provider is offering as standard in your chosen package. As a general rule of thumb, look for a minimum uptime of 99.9999%. Those decimal numbers are important, as over the course of a year those seconds of downtime can add up!
For reference, an uptime percentage of 99.99% (whilst impressive to the untrained eye) would still present 8 seconds of downtime daily. Hardly ideal if you’re trying to keep your users happy!
It’s also important to pay close attention to penalty or termination clauses – you may have a daily data allowance which could give rise to additional charges if not closely monitored. If you’re thinking about ending your hosting plan (or switching to a more suitable provider) this may also incur fees. Of course, these agreements work both ways — expect to receive compensation in the event that your server experiences more downtime than stated in your SLA.
In any case, make sure these boundaries are clear and easy to understand – this could save you a major headache later on down the line, should the worst happen.
We hope you found some value in our guide to SaaS hosting. Now you’re fully informed and ready to go, why not check out our 5 proven SaaS marketing strategies?