Industry analysts project that global software-as-a-service (SaaS) spending will continue to grow, from $49 billion in 2015 to $67 billion in 2018. IDC research supports this, suggesting that SaaS revenues are growing nearly five times faster than traditional software products. With this in mind, cloud really is now a reality for businesses today. And, as more companies come to trust and rely upon the cloud, many are increasingly focusing their attention on requirements such as service availability and performance.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Trust helps inspire customer satisfaction, which is the critical metric for success in the #cloud world”]

After all, modern enterprises rely on the cloud for their most critical business systems, so it’s absolutely imperative that these applications are available and can be scaled up or down as needed. This reliability builds trust, and with that trust comes a relationship between vendor and customer that can develop into a long-term engagement. Equally important, from a vendor perspective, is that trust helps inspire customer satisfaction, which is the critical metric for success in the cloud world.

As more business applications move to a multi-tenant cloud deployment model, software vendors are being challenged to satisfy their entire customer base with a single service-level agreement (SLA). Consumers have become accustomed to the user experience provided by companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—services that rarely have any downtime longer than a browser refresh. Although some service interruptions are necessary and even mandatory—such as for major version updates—the expectation exists that they should be brief and unobtrusive.

As well as having seamless availability, customers also want their applications to stay up-to-date and historically this meant systems had to be shut down by vendors during updates. The headaches associated with major upgrades of on-premise systems can leave customers months out-of-date in terms of maintenance updates, and with some vendors, there is a patchwork of service packs and bolt-on products to ensure users have the latest features. Extended downtime and an almost perpetual state of running yesterday’s version isn’t a recipe for keeping customers happy.

It’s at this junction of availability, reliability, and running the latest system that the journey to zero downtime really becomes important. Service availability in today’s connected, always-on world is a whole different ball game to the legacy client/server world. In the cloud computing era, the responsibility for uptime and availability falls on the supplier’s shoulders.

So what should a best practice approach look like? A single, workable SLA is highly desirable, and that approach should mesh with the way companies think about the design and delivery of the product – with an ultimate aim of achieving one code line, one version, and one customer community. Customers should have the opportunity to preview new releases before they go live, so they benefit from testing and planning that takes place in this period. This brave new world is very different to the on-premise ERP upgrade experience, which normally requires months of planning and weeks of post-rollout fixes.

As more businesses shift to the cloud, questions are also being asked about the transparency of SLAs. Do you know the specifics of your SLA? Are there any clauses in your contract that allow unscheduled downtime and still allow the vendor to meet the agreed-upon SLA? Any lack of transparency around SLAs is something customers should avoid.

That said, customers shouldn’t be thinking solely about the SLA promise when they look at the cloud, but more their chosen vendor’s past performance and, consequently, how successful they will be as a future partner to the business.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Vendors must continually earn customer trust if they want to extend the relationship long-term” hashtags=”Cloud”]

In the cloud world, vendors must continually earn the customer’s trust if they want to extend the relationship long-term, because with a subscription model, the customer truly is in control. For this reason, it really is performance rather than promises that matters for businesses moving to the cloud today.

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Chano Fernandez, President EMEA & APJ, Workday Chano Fernandez is President EMEA & APJ at Workday, where he is responsible for leading the company’s EMEA business including sales, operations, and services. Chano brings to Workday more than 20 years of sales and operational leadership. Prior to joining Workday, Chano served for seven years as senior vice president and head of innovation sales at SAP EMEA. Before that, he was vice president of EMEA sales at Infor, responsible for global and large accounts. Chano also served as a founding partner and general manager at Blue C, and as a senior consultant for McKinsey & Company. Chano holds a holds a master’s degree in business administration from Instituto de Empresa and a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Salamanca.