SaaS software development: benefits, challenges, and best practices
N-iX
2021-04-27T15:01:11+00:00

Long gone are the days when we had to install and update software on our computers ourselves. Now the majority of services and updates are managed in the cloud. Thus users do not have to worry about the maintenance of the services they use.  Software as a service or SaaS played an ...

SaaS software development: benefits, challenges, and best practices

Long gone are the days when we had to install and update software on our computers ourselves. Now the majority of services and updates are managed in the cloud. Thus users do not have to worry about the maintenance of the services they use. 

Software as a service or SaaS played an essential role in that change, and the pandemic has accelerated the usage of SaaS even more. For instance, Zoom increased its sales by 330% in 2020

As a result, more businesses consider SaaS development to scale easily. It is, however, quite a challenge if you do not have the required expertise and resources. Outsourcing SaaS software development is a way to mitigate the risks.

But how to choose a trusted SaaS development company, what expertise is needed for SaaS application development, and how to address risks of SaaS development? Let’s find out.

In the article, you will discover:

  1. Benefits of SaaS applications;
  2. Best practices of SaaS software development;
  3. How to choose a SaaS development company;
  4. Success stories of companies that benefit from SaaS.

Let’s start with the definition of SaaS and how it is different from the traditional model. 

What is SaaS software development?

Unlike the traditional model, where users have to install and update software versions themselves, SaaS is already installed and configured. SaaS applications are hosted in the SaaS provider's data center or cloud, and they are paid for on a subscription basis by its clients or used internally as enterprise software. SaaS applications are usually available on the web, although some offline models exist. 

Software as a service brings a number of benefits as well as challenges to businesses. Let’s view these advantages and disadvantages in more detail. 

Benefits of Software as a Service

  1. Lower costs 

SaaS provides cost savings, as it is usually hosted in a shared or multi-tenant environment. The hardware and software license costs are low in such an environment (compared to the traditional model). 

Thus, SaaS allows businesses to use software that they would not use otherwise because of the high licensing cost. Maintenance costs are also lower for users because the price is split among all the users of the service. The maintenance itself is done by a SaaS provider.

  1. Ease of distribution

Distribution is much easier in case of SaaS. Let’s view Jira as an example. Within the traditional model, users have to install it as well as update the software themselves. At the same time, SaaS allows buying the subscription and using the service online, without even installing it. SaaS provides an opportunity to buy a subscription and access the service, not the product itself. 

  1. Accessibility

Software as a service application is easily accessible. Users need just a computer and a stable internet connection to access and use the cloud-hosted software. Thus, the application can be available on any device (e.g., remote desktops, mobile phones, etc.) and used at any time from anywhere.

  1. Effortless scalability

Whenever your business grows and needs to add new users, you do not have to buy additional software licenses or server space. You just upgrade your existing subscription plan for the SaaS application to accommodate the new users. This will also help you understand if your business has solid off-seasonal trends, allowing you to cut down on subscription costs.

  1. Easier updates 

The traditional model presupposes many stages that the service provider cannot control. It concerns not only how the users install your software but also how they update it. 

For instance, here are the stages of a mobile application update: 

  1. new version development;
  2. AppStore/PlayMarket, etc. verification;
  3. the version gets available to users;
  4. users update the app. 

As a result, the update takes time, so the developers cannot come up with new versions too often. When it comes to SaaS, the updates can be deployed even every hour (if proper CI/CD is configured).

SaaS development: key benefits

Now let’s view challenges that may arise in SaaS software development. 

Сhallenges of SaaS software development and how to overcome them

  1. Security

Secure access to SaaS is of prime importance to SaaS development. To overcome security issues, developers have to pay close attention to data encryption, prevent phishing attacks on their users, and comply with international security standards. 

Learn more about secure software development

If your SaaS solution is hosted in the cloud, security gets even more critical. Cloud security is all about people that use the technology. It is crucial to make sure that the right technology is in the right hands. So the educated workforce is of prime importance.

You should invest in cloud security tools like Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB), Cloud Workload Protection (CWP), and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) that help protect data, storage, and workloads from exposure or attack across SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS.

  1. Third-party payment integration

Payment functionality is usually achieved through system integration with a third-party payment service. Two ways of payment integration exist: the easy way and the more demanding one. The easier option is a payment service with excellent support for the integration. Within the demanding one, the developers should examine the technical aspects and challenges behind payment integration. They do so to create application parts (services and facades) to seamlessly integrate the external payment service. So, the developers need to create a set of automated and manual tests to ensure that the payment integration works properly.

  1. Zero-downtime deployment

Availability of the system is also of high priority. The system might not be fully accessible to users when a new system version is released. A development team can go for a zero-downtime deployment strategy. This means that the service is fully responsive during the deployment process and stays that way the entire time. Cloud providers already have a set of tools that can help to configure blue/green or zero-downtime deployment, but it can cost some additional money.

Now let’s view best practices that will help overcome these and other challenges of SaaS development. 

Best practices of SaaS software development

  1. Work on the suitable architecture of SaaS

Some experts believe that monolithic architecture is the best solution for SaaS software development. Monolithic architecture, however, has a significant drawback. It has one large codebase, which all developers access to update or change something. As a result, they have to make changes in the whole stack at once. So, if your SaaS has monolithic architecture, layered architecture is a must. This means that the monolith consists of layers, thus can be changed easily.

Meanwhile, other experts are convinced that microservices architecture is a better option for SaaS applications. Microservices architecture is a collection of smaller independent units. Microservices carry out every application process as a separate service. As a result, all the services have their own logic and database, and each performs a specific function.

Microservices are a better fit for more complex solutions, as they help development teams to work independently on different features of the same solution. Although microservices architecture is challenging to manage, it provides many advantages and scales easily. 

Your SaaS development team needs a strong solution architect to make informed decisions on what architecture is better for your particular case

  1. Hire a compliance expert to conduct the security audit

Security compliances are of utmost importance when it comes to SaaS development. In fact, your SaaS can even be banned in some countries if it does not comply with required security regulations.

The problem is - different countries have different regulations. So, you should hire a compliance expert that will conduct an audit of the market and tell you what compliances you need and how to get them. For example, GDPR is a must when it comes to the European market. If your SaaS does not have this compliance, you will not be able to operate in the region. 

  1. Integration of all features on the early development stages (CI/CD)

With the help of CI/CD, developers can unite development and operation activities to enforce automation in building, testing, and deploying applications. Modern DevOps practices comprise continuous development, continuous testing, continuous integration, continuous deployment, and continuous monitoring of software throughout its development life cycle. Thus, the CI/CD pipeline is the backbone of DevOps operations.

  1. Using content delivery networks (CDN)

Latency is a pressing problem when it comes to SaaS application development. Some SaaS product development companies, including N-iX, use content delivery networks (CDN) to address this challenge

If you want your SaaS to operate worldwide, using CDN is a must. Let’s take CloudFront from Amazon as an example of a CDN. 

Let’s say the website of your US-based service has videos on it. Your server is located in the US, and users from the US have no trouble watching the videos. However, you decide to scale your business and expand your service to other countries, for instance, Germany. Without CloudFront, your German customers have to request to watch the video from your server in the US, which results in latency. Meanwhile, CloudFront acts as a server in Germany, where the video caches, so new German users of your service can easily watch the video with no latency. 

Thus, with a content delivery network, your SaaS works efficiently in different regions. 

AWS also provides a service called Lambda@Edge which is frequently used with CloudFront. Basically, this service runs the code of your SaaS on the nearest server, thus reducing latency. 

Using these best practices makes SaaS development much easier. But how to choose a reliable SaaS development company that will help you build a secure and efficient solution? 

How to choose a SaaS development company?

Here are the key criteria for choosing a trusted SaaS development partner:

  1. Robust tech expertise of your SaaS development company

SaaS application development is a challenging tech task, so your SaaS product development company needs robust expertise in different domains to perform it well. 

Your SaaS project needs a strong team of:

  • Solution architects that will make informed decisions concerning architecture;
  • DevOps experts to work on the integration of all components of your solution as well as work with servers;
  • Software developers to work on code itself;
  • A delivery manager that acts as a mediator between a client and a development team;
  • Project manager;
  • Testers.

SaaS development: team composition

Also, your SaaS development company should have strong cloud expertise to host your SaaS effectively. 

  1. Streamlined agile processes of your SaaS development company

Agile software development brings benefits that are critical in the time of the lockdown. Here are some of them:

  • Accelerated product delivery;
  • Enhanced ability to manage changing priorities;
  • Improved quality;
  • Reduced costs;
  • Better cost and time predictability.

All these aspects are of prime importance for SaaS software development, so you should look for a SaaS product development company that has streamlined Agile processes

  1. Experience with all the needed tools 

Today’s technology offers a great variety of SaaS development tools to build a product. SaaS software obtains the complex architecture delivered using different frameworks, libraries, and SaaS developer tools. Here are the most used ones:

Server-side technologies:

Those technologies do not differ from the common server-side web development ones. You can choose among NodeJS, .NET, Java, PHP, etc. The point is - the technologies should be easy to use, customize, and have available documentation.

Front-end technologies:

JavaScript frameworks have successfully gained their leading positions at the market share. Angular, React, and others are used primarily to deliver excellent UI/UX designs.

Cloud platforms for hosting and maintenance:

The majority of SaaS companies use third-party providers for the hosting of their products. Cloud platforms like Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS offer a wide choice in terms of hardware, supporting software, and DevOps tools. 

SaaS development: tools

Businesses that benefited from cooperation with the SaaS development company

  1. Global manufacturer (under NDA)

Our client is a Global Fortune 100 multinational engineering and technology company based in Germany. To improve the logistics between its 400+ warehouses in over 60 countries, the client introduced an internal logistics platform that was not scalable and inefficient due to its monolithic architecture. 

So, they partnered with N-iX to make the platform more efficient. Therefore, our Solution Architect designed a new cloud-native infrastructure of the platform based on Azure Kubernetes, the suggested tech stack, and the roadmap of the project's implementation. 

Our experts migrated the solution to microservices that allow smooth adding of new SaaS services. They are, for instance, anomaly detection, delivery prediction, route recommendations, object detection in logistics, OCR (optical character recognition) of labels on boxes, Natural Language Processing for document verification, data mining, and sensor data processing.

DevOps expertise was critical for our client. Therefore, we are building the DevOps pipeline from scratch, setting up the environment for development and QA in Azure, and introducing CI/CD processes that allow us to assemble and deploy microservices to the environment easily.

  1. Code Worldwide

Our client is a digital transformation business that helps its customers invent a new future for their marketing through technology and data. They provide adZU OS - SaaS web solution for marketing automation. Over 10,000 businesses use it in 113 countries. It helps other companies automate the creation of their essential marketing communications, advertising materials, and brand experiences. 

Code Worldwide teamed up with N-iX to:

  • support of a large number of tenants (including tenant onboarding and setup, issue fixing, deployment, AWS infrastructure support);
  • improve time to market via CI/CD process enhancements;
  • drive quality first approach via release flow ownership (our teams are release owners for the whole product of 10 teams);
  • use SAFe approach integration into the development pipeline.

The client engaged the N-iX to support the system, set up effective communication between services, and ensure their stability.

Our team is using DDD and CQRS approaches. Currently, there are over 200 microservices created in .NET 4.7 and around ten microservices in .NET Core. Together with the client, the N-iX team developed an API with ASP.NET WebAPI. We use a set of tools (like Swagger) to follow the Open API 3.0 specifications.

  1. Fluke

Fluke Corporation is a company based in the US that manufactures, distributes, and services electronic test tools and software for measuring and condition monitoring. 

Our client needed to get better visibility into asset conditions and ensure high performance, customization, and scalability of their solutions and solutions’ seamless integration with CMMSs such as SAP, Emaint X4/X5, and IBM Maximo.

The N-iX team provided maintenance teams with critical asset information in real-time and tools to process it to enhance asset maintenance effectively. Together with us, our client achieved an increase in equipment uptime, reduced maintenance costs, and better performance, customization, and scalability of Fluke products.

Also, our engineers have ensured high-security standards for Fluke SaaS applications. Through data, encryption data is protected both in transit and at rest. N-iX team also applies security architecture best practices to SaaS applications.

What’s more, N-iX software engineers are also engaged in improving the system’s usability by incorporating the best UX/UI practices. Our engineers have also provided the DevOps expertise and helped enhance software development processes with CI/CD and the Git flow branching model.

WRAP-UP

SaaS development brings a wide array of benefits, including accessibility, lowering costs, easy distribution, and more. However, your successful project delivery depends heavily on the professionalism of your SaaS development company. So, you should pay close attention to choosing a trusted partner. 

SaaS development: how to choose a partner

Why choose N-iX as your SaaS development company?

  1. N-iX cloud experts can help you with a smooth transition to Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) business models;
  2. N-iX has strong expertise in microservices, DevOps, as well as Agile software development.
  3. N-iX boasts an internal talent pool of over 1,400 professionals that can help you boost your project delivery;
  4. The company offers different engagement models, including a dedicated development team, T&M, and fixed price. 
N-iX Staff
Anton Vasylenko
Solution Architect

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About N-iX

N-iX is an Eastern European provider of software development services with 1000+ expert software engineers onboard that power innovative technology businesses. Since 2002 we have formed strategic partnerships with a variety of global industry leaders including OpenText, Novell, Lebara, Currencycloud and over 50 other medium and large-scale businesses. With delivery centers in Ukraine, Poland, Bulgaria, and Belarus, we deliver excellence in software engineering and deep expertise in a range of verticals including finance, healthcare, hospitality, telecom, energy and enterprise content management helping our clients to innovate and implement technology transformations.

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