SaaS Application Development – Best Practices

Today, SaaS Application Development is a hotly discussed topic across the internet. This is because most organizations across industries are planning to either grow or maintain their investment in SaaS.

Industry experts have realized that SaaS requires minimal or no infrastructure at all. Furthermore, it is quick to deploy and easy to maintain. The increasing demand has led to rapid innovation in SaaS platforms, SaaS applications, SaaS integration tools, and many more.

SaaS Application Development – Best Practices 

Today, even the best SaaS solution vendors are challenged by complex enterprise integration requirements. But solutions providers with good experience in this technology can succeed if they follow SaaS application development – best practices. Also, highlighting emerging integration technologies helps ease the burden of integrating SaaS applications. Cloud computing enables developers to build scalable and fault-tolerant applications within a short time and then deploy these very applications at lower costs based on pay as you use. While developing SaaS application, the development team has to consider some factors to ensure quality products for a viable business. These factors are discussed below.

Automation/ Self service and Personalization

An important aspect for consideration is that SaaS applications need to be self-serviced; anybody wishing to use the service should be able to register and use the application without any assistance from the administration or technical personnel. Furthermore, details regarding setup and usage of the application need to be availed to the user on the app itself. In addition, the application should have high level of personalization so that the customer can be able to make some changes as per their requirements, especially the look and feel of the application. End-users for a particular tenant need to be able to update some aspects of the app’s look and feel.

Multi-Tenancy

This architecture can be able to serve multiple customers using a single instance of a software app. Multi-tenant architecture enables developers to leverage common infrastructure and application code base to expand their services for easy and economical maintenance of the application.

Integration

A SaaS application has to be capable of integrating with other applications. A standard set of APIs should be availed to integrate with other SaaS apps and/or on premise apps.

Operational Performance

A good application is highly scalable and able to serve various tenants of any size. Since the application will be accessed over the internet, good performance is mandatory for rendering, transacting and querying of database.

Data Security and Compliance

For a SaaS application, the developer is responsible for the security of the application and hardware. By ensuring that the data of multiple tenants sharing the infrastructure is virtually segregated and can only be accessed by those meant to access it, the developer can solve major security concerns. In fact, most organizations will be reluctant to adopt SaaS applications if they feel the issue of security is not adequately addressed. Design and architectural considerations should be handled with security in mind.

Multi-tenancy

Ideally, subscription for an application over the internet only qualifies it to be called SaaS. However, this does not necessarily differentiate it from a typical ASP application. Therefore, a SaaS application has to be a multi-tenant application for it to be differentiated as such. Any developer knows that for a SaaS application to be successful, it must be multi-tenant. This is because multi-tenancy helps leverage the efficiencies of both the underlying infrastructure and application code when it shares it across multiple customers. By sharing resources, it promotes efficiency and reduces cost of operations.

Application Design considerations

In SaaS application development – best practices, each tenant has to have a unique identification to segregate multiple tenants (in a multi-tenant environment). Unique tenant ids for each tenant have to be defined at both the application layer and the database layer, based on the level of multi-tenancy. The user accessing the application is identified using the tenant ids as well as user ids. They also restrict users, allowing them to access only the data they are authorized to access. As a developer for shared tenancy, either you can choose to design the app to have separate schema for each tenant, or all the tenants can have the same schema.

Security Considerations for SaaS Application Development

As earlier states, data security is perhaps the biggest concern for consumers and often discourages many organizations from moving to SaaS. Therefore, a SaaS developer needs to make the security of the application, including the data that resides inside it, his highest priority. Some data patterns to keep in mind include access control lists, trusted database connections, tenant data encryption, and restricted APIs.

Application Scalability

This can be achieved by either moving to a larger, more powerful server, or adding similar servers that can handle the load. Designing stateless application ensures the client doesn’t lose data during migration to new server or failure of existing servers because the session data is stored on the client’s side.

Database Scalability

What is for certain is that an internet scale SaaS application database size will continue expanding with increasing transactions and addition of new users. Increase in data affects database performance as higher querying and transaction times may result in poor user experience. To ensure optimal database performance, developers do data partitioning. This is because partitioning the data into sizeable segregated chunks improves data querying and transactional efficiencies. Keeping read only copies and redirecting the reporting and query requests to the read only databases helps ease the load on transactional databases.

Monitoring

While consumers are used to monitoring or assigning the work to their internal IT team on their own premises, SaaS applications leave the responsibility of monitoring and maintenance to developers. They monitor the application for downtime as well as performance issues.

Conclusion

SaaS applications present a world of opportunities from a unique angle. However, proper care must be taken to ensure the application is carefully architected and designed for safety, security, scalability, and ease of use, utilizing the economies of scale. If observed, SaaS application development can lead to a win-win situation for both the consumer, as well as the developer.

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Omri Erel
Omri is the Head of Demand Generation, as well as the Lead Author & Editor of the SaaSAddict Blog. Omri established the SaaSAddict blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to SaaS and cloud migration.
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