Software as a service (SaaS) has reached mainstream status and will continue to grow as businesses of all sizes increasingly rely upon it to deliver apps and IT services. However, the challenge for these services is that their growth is accompanied by a rise in expectations for high levels of availability and performance. Meeting soaring customer demand is complicated by how SaaS providers must monitor and manage end user experience with remotely hosted and delivered SaaS applications.

Whenever they engage with any digital service, people now expect the relevant web content and apps to load within seconds on all their devices and to provide them with a fast and reliable experience throughout. Our latest survey on e-commerce performance and online consumer shopping behaviour showed that consumers can get easily frustrated with slow-loading websites and therefore abandon the page without finalising their purchase. For 60% of all respondents, poor technical performance means that they will avoid making purchases from that website or mobile app again.

High-performance is equally as important for SaaS companies as it is for e-commerce businesses. So, if SaaS providers want to be successful and continue to grow, they need to adopt a similar laser focus on the high-performing, super-reliable end-user experience like e-commerce brands are realising they must provide.

Meeting these performance demands hasn’t been easy, so what are the challenges SaaS businesses need to overcome in order to meet their customers’ high expectations? It turns out that there are four key elements that could affect SaaS digital experience performance: global SaaS user growth, infrastructure add-ons, the capricious nature of the Internet and the use of out-of-date experience management tools.

1: Global SaaS User Growth

Believe it or not one of the main reasons for heightening performance challenges is the extensive growth of SaaS end users on a global scale. The reason for this is because application performance tends to deteriorate depending on how distant it is from the SaaS provider’s data centre. Therefore, the further end users are served from the origin data centre, the more variables such as networks, IPS and browsers, there would be between them, which can be the cause of poor performance.

2: Infrastructure Add-Ons

As many SaaS providers expand into new geographic regions to support more businesses of enterprise level, they tend to add infrastructure as well as divide up more existing systems to help share the load. However, additional infrastructure build-outs inadvertently add greater complexity. The end result that the SaaS provider gets can be decreased visibility into infrastructure health and end-user application performance.

The most recent example of a major SaaS outage is the Amazon S3 (AWS) Click to Tweet

3: The Capricious Nature of the Internet

Full SaaS outages are rarity; however, when they do happen, they can have a disastrous effect on the end-user. The most recent example of a major SaaS outage is the Amazon S3 (AWS) outage that happened this February. Because of the outage popular and diverse online services – from high profile websites and apps to IoT devices, were inaccessible for several hours.

The AWS outage clarifies the fact that 100% availability is unrealistic even when your web services depend on an impressive infrastructure like the one of Amazon.

4: Use of Out-of-Date Experience Management Tools

To be able to get ahead of potential performance issues before their end-users, SaaS providers need to shift from traditional application performance management (APM) to digital experience management (DEM). So, how does DEM operate? It treats the end-user experience as the ultimate metric and identifies how the myriad of underlying services, systems and components influence it. So, the same way you use monitoring to track the performance and availability of your internal applications, you need to put a process and the right tooling in place to monitor your SaaS applications.

SaaS providers may find themselves drowning in data due to the increase in variables that impact performance. In order to make sense of this data and identify the cause of performance issues, they need insight form advanced analytics. When analysed efficiently, the data is useful for issues that are both within their infrastructure, like when a geographical region or data centre requires more capacity, and outside it, like a slow ISP for the final mile to the customer or the performance of the content delivery networks being used.

It is important that business users of SaaS services get involved with the performance management process by consistently measuring the response levels of their SaaS providers and real-time monitoring the end-user performance at the closest points of geographic proximity. This information can not only help SaaS users uphold provider SLAs, but also identify performance issues in advance and quickly deal with them.

Today businesses are depending more than ever before on SaaS applications and as users import more mission-critical applications to the cloud, SaaS providers will continue to struggle with the growing demand of their services. As end-users demand higher than ever levels of performance and productivity, SaaS providers cannot disappoint with poor performance.

SaaS providers should deal with the rise in expectations for availability and performance through new approaches that evolve APM to DEM. The involvement of businesses in the monitoring process ultimately translate to more proactive and productive performance management and accurate issue resolution.

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Robert Castley is a Senior Performance Engineer for EMEA at Catchpoint Systems. He has over 26 years of experience in the IT industry with over 9 years in Web and Mobile Performance and Monitoring. He has a vast technical knowledge spreading from performance monitoring and customer experience to web design, usability and HTML5. Robert has been with Catchpoint for a little more than 3 years now, where he’s responsible for all pre-sales activities in EMEA, helping with growing the customer base in the region.