Top 5 features to look out for when picking a SaaS hosting provider.

If you have an application or software in the works for your business, one of the best ways to deploy it in the current business landscape is as a SaaS. The evolution of cloud servers and storage options has made it possible and even ideal for businesses and software developers to delegate the hosting of their software applications to third-party providers. This way, you can focus on the front-end capabilities of the application and delegate the back end to the third-party hosting provider. So how exactly does SaaS hosting work?

What is SaaS hosting?

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) is a software delivery model where users access the software online via a web browser or a dedicated local client built for the purpose. Access to the software is controlled through payment models such as pay-as-you-go or subscription models. Therefore, SaaS hosting is a form of web hosting that allows you to host your software files and applications on a third-party server, and your users access the software through the internet. The rise of SaaS necessitated dedicated hosting providers that focused exclusively on catering to the SaaS industry.

SaaS hosting offers multiple benefits to both you as a software developer and your end-users. Users can:

  • Eschew the traditional software acquisition method that requires purchasing or downloading the software, licensing it, and installing it on their computers. 
  • Access the software through the internet without having a copy on their computers. This means they do not require a lot storage space on their devices to access your software.
  • Since updates and patches are applied at the server level, your users do not have to make additional purchases or downloads to access the latest software version.

As a developer, self-hosting your software requires a lot of IT infrastructure and backend capabilities like:

  • Databases
  • APIs and
  • Servers

By hosting your software with a third-party provider, you get to:

  • Use their already built infrastructure to host your software for a subscription fee, reducing the upfront cost of launching your software significantly.
  • Add features and functionalities to your software without a significant increase in hosting cost. The hosting provider handles all the backend configurations required for the update, patch, or addition to take hold.

This has really bridged the gap between small and big businesses in the software industry. Even the smallest companies can now afford to host their software via hosting providers without investing in server and storage infrastructure. 

Let’s take a look at the different types of SaaS hosting options you can choose to explore depending on your business requirements.

Types of SaaS Hosting

Depending on your organization’s requirements, there are four main types of hosting you can choose from currently:

  1. Dedicated hosting: Using a dedicated hosting option from a provider means you get your own server(s) exclusively for your use. 
  • Pros: You do not share traffic or resources with other users

     The extent of your application is limited only by the capacity of your server.
Lot of options in the way of security and customization. 

  • Cons: Costly
  1. Shared hosting: In shared hosting, you share server space with other users. 
  • Pros: Cheap.
  • Cons: Fewer options and significant security risks. Multiple users mean that there is a higher surface area for attacks.

Also, if one of your “neighbors” starts getting more traffic than usual, that could reduce the volume of shared resources getting to you.

  1. Managed hosting: Managed hosting is less about hosting resources and more about the hosting provider’s role in the contract between them and a user. Managed hosting means the provider takes on all the maintenance and technical support, hardware replacements and updates, etc. Think of it like renting a house complete with a maid, a chef, a gardener, and even a plumber. Most of the hosting services online these days are managed.
  • Pros: Extremely efficient.

         Reduces your IT overhead

  • Cons: Costly

          You are completely reliant on the competence of the provider.

  1. Cloud hosting: Cloud computing is a very hot keyword in the software industry right now. Cloud hosting aggregates resources from many different computers, using the combined computing power to create a hosting service that is accessed via a network. Cloud hosting makes the computing power and processing capabilities of physical servers available over the internet, making it possible to combine computing resources from several different servers from across the world. The ability of cloud infrastructure to add computing power over the internet makes cloud hosting almost infinitely scalable. There is only so much hardware you can add at a physical server location, but you can’t run out of space when you are transferring computing power over the internet. There are four main types of hosting clouds:
  • Public clouds: Public clouds, such as the ones offered by Google and Amazon, are shared by multiple users. One major characteristic of public clouds is that they usually have massive amounts of space available, which corresponds to easy scalability for users. The cloud resources in a public cloud are owned and hosted at the vendor’s managed data centers. Public clouds typically employ the “pay-as-you-go” payment model and the vendor is completely responsible for the management and maintenance of the infrastructure.
  • Private clouds: Private clouds are made for and used by a single organization. This type of cloud usually resides behind a firewall, with access to it completely controlled by the organization using it. Traditionally, private clouds used to be hosted on-premises in the company’s own data centers. However, companies are contracting third-party vendors to host a private cloud for them using the vendor’s infrastructure. Every other aspect of the private cloud remains the same, except the company does not own the resources hosting their cloud. The main advantage of private clouds over public clouds is that they offer a lot more in the way of security, privacy and customization.
  • Hybrid clouds: Like the name suggests, a hybrid cloud combines the elements of both private clouds and public clouds to create a comprehensive cloud hosting solution connected over a secure private internet connection or a dedicated channel. 
  • Multi-clouds: A multi-cloud combines a private cloud infrastructure with multiple public cloud services. This type of cloud is usually employed when an organization requires more varied cloud capabilities than their private network can offer. Multi-clouds give you the versatility to explore the different capabilities of different cloud services to pick the one that fits the task you have at hand best.

Despite the clearly defined differences between the types of SaaS hosting we have listed above, there are no specific types that suit a specific business. It all depends on your needs and requirements and herein lies one of the major issues with adopting a SaaS hosting provider. How do you pick a hosting provider that will fit not only your current needs but also those you might have in the future? Let’s look at some of the top features to identify a good hosting provider.

Top 5 features of a good hosting provider:

  • Security: Security is one of the most important considerations when selecting a hosting provider for your SaaS. While you are not likely to get a 100% secured service, especially if you choose to use a shared hosting or public cloud, you should ensure that all but the most insidious of security deficiencies are accounted for. According to a study by Accenture, the cost of cyber-crime went up by 72% between 2014 and 2019. This tells you all you need to know about just how important security is for your SaaS hosting. When picking a provider, look out for security measures like:
    • Firewalls
    • Spam filters
    • Certifications (SSL, HIPAA, TLS)
    • User authorization
    • SFTP
    • Malware scanning, etc.
  • Uptime guarantee: Your software is only as reliable as its availability when users need it. When picking a hosting provider, go for the provider that offers the highest level of uptime (99.999%). Server failure from your hosting provider can make your users lose access to critical data or work progress, which leads to loss of reputation and probably more severe consequences for you.
  • Customer support: It is one thing for you as the business owner or developer to have an instinctive understanding of how your software works, it’s another thing to try to make it just as easy for your users. Making sure your hosting provider provides constant user support, proper documentation, feedback channels, etc. make your app a lot better in the opinion of your users.
  • Customization and Scalability: Like we said earlier, picking a hosting provider is not limited to your current needs or business scale alone. You have to anticipate and consider future spikes and increases in traffic and usage of your software. Therefore, one of the most important considerations in picking a hosting provider is scalability. How easily can you expand the scope of your software without having to migrate to a completely new provider or pay for a whole lot of infrastructure? Also, you should consider picking a SaaS hosting provider that offers you the highest freedom to tailor their resources to fit your needs.
  • Analytics: Your SaaS hosting provider should also be able to assist you in gathering analytical data on the behaviour of your users within their hosting environment. Collecting data like most used features of the software, most popular geographical location of users, frequency of access by specific subsets of users, etc. will go a long way in helping you improve your software and optimize it. Also, you need analytical reports on the efficiency of your software itself. Seeing as you will probably not own the hosting infrastructure on which your software will reside, you need to choose a competent provider that offers comprehensive reports on metrics like:
  • Volume of server requests
  • Application response time
  • Application uptimes and downtimes
  • Bot attacks

Making sure your provider can offer you all these will go a long way in helping you develop the best version of your software.

These are some of the top basic features to consider when choosing a SaaS hosting provider. Yo can also take it one step further and consider advanced features like:

  • Efficiency of the content delivery network (CDN).
  • VPN
  • Backup capabilities
  • Ease of migration,etc.

Top 10 hosting providers in 2021

These are 10 of the top SaaS hosting providers currently in the market.

  1. AWS

Features: Highly secure

    24/7 live chat and support

    Global cloud infrastructure

  1. Google Cloud:

Features: Highly advanced security 

    Smart analytics

    Supports multiple types of cloud infrastructure (public, private, etc.)

  1. Microsoft Azure:

Features: Supports multiple types of cloud infrastructure

    24/7 support (no extra fees)

    Limitless scaling with Azure Kubernetes

  1. Cloudflare:

Features: Content delivery network

    SSL for SaaS

    Easy to use

    Programmable edge

  1. Digital Ocean

Features: Scalable storage options

    Customizable products

    99.99% uptime

  1. Acquia: 

Features: 24/7 phone and ticket support

    Horizontal scalability

  1. InMotion Hosting: 

Features: 24/7 live support

    High-level performance and security features

  1. Parallels: 

Features: Intuitive interface

    24/7 phone support

    Good security features

  1. IBM RedHat:

Features: Hybrid cloud

    Open source

    Highly secure

  1. Pantheon:

Features: 24/7 live chat support (only on premium plans)

    Automated backups

    Managed site migrations

Should you consider private SaaS hosting?

Some of the major considerations driving the increasing adoption of private SaaS hosting by companies are security, privacy and customization. When starting out, using a public cloud hosting is the best option for you as public vendors provide all the assistance you need to set up without investing too heavily in infrastructure. As you expand, however, you might find yourself increasingly wanting to take better control of the hosting resources for your software applications. 

Private SaaS hosting allows you to create your own customized cloud that is tailored to fit your business needs. Also, it offers you a lot more security than public clouds. This is especially important if your business is in a sector where you handle a lot of sensitive data, like banking or healthcare. According to the most recent report from Cloud Security Alliance, 58% of IT and network professionals cited network security as the top concern when adopting public cloud solutions. While public cloud vendors do their absolute best to provide adequate security for their users, the multiple users character of public clouds increases the surface area for possible attacks, unlike a private cloud where you are the only user.

Using a private cloud also affords you a lot more privacy than public clouds. Depending on how your business is structured, you might have mission-critical business processes that are better left unexposed to any third-party, including a hosting provider. Private hosting allows you to keep all your business processes in-house and even restrict access to it based on employee qualifications.

Last but not least, private clouds allow you to customize your cloud resources. Public clouds are designed to cater to several different users, therefore, they employ a lot of standardized elements and features. While these are not essentially bad, you can obtain a lot more benefit from a cloud that you can tailor from the ground-up to your exact specifications.

Final Words/Conclusion

Picking the right hosting provider is one the most important steps in deploying your SaaS application. A downtime at the wrong time or a security breach can damage your application’s reputation for a long time. So you should take your time to select the option that covers all the basic requirements and some.

FAQ Section

  1. What is a third party hosting provider?

A third-party hosting provider is a company that provides software hosting infrastructure for you to rent in order to deploy your software applications over the internet. The entire concept of SaaS revolves around deploying software applications over the internet. However, the infrastructure required to make this happen is extensive and costly, therefore, there are companies that specialize in providing this infrastructure for companies that want to deploy a software as a SaaS. These providers are what we call third-party hosting providers.

  1. Do I need to deploy my software application as SaaS?

According to SkyHigh Networks, nearly one-third of all enterprise software by the end of this year, will be deployed as a SaaS. Traditional software delivery methods are fading fast. So, while it will be nostalgic to deploy your software in the traditional form, it definitely won’t be profitable.

  1. What do I do if I cannot afford to pay for a hosting provider?

There are open-source hosting platforms where you can deploy your software for free, like WordPress.org and IBM RedHat. However, you require high-level coding knowledge to use these platforms.

  1. What is the most secure type of hosting?

While no form of hosting is 100%, private/dedicated hosting is the closest you will get to being truly secure. The lack of multiple users on the servers reduces the possible points of attack by hackers or other people with nefarious intents to a very low percentage.

  1. What are the cheapest hosting options?

Shared hosting is the cheapest form of hosting you can invest in. But it also comes with security concerns and struggles for adequate resources.

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