Your Checklist for Selecting a SaaS Publishing System

January 20, 2014

For many publishers, this year is the right time to update and upgrade their website and underlying publishing systems as part of an overall plan to spend less and make more money. But, where to begin?  Here's a checklist to help you make the right decisions.

Before you request a demo or a proposal, it's helpful to make sure you ask the right questions and take the right steps, to maximize the potential and eventual results of your new website.  Last week, we discussed 8 best practices for selecting the right Software as a Service vendor for you.

Now, let's cover the questions you'll want answered to select the best solution and to generate the greatest ROI for your business.

What is SaaS?

By now, you probably have an idea what a SaaS EPS is, but let’s review:

Software-as-a-Service publishing systems are cloud-based software and services that deliver software when and where you need it, tailored to your needs.  The key term, service, means that you are entitled to regular, tested updates to keep your site and processes current and ahead of your competition.  SaaS updates future-proof your investment; no more installed software that is out of date by the time it's deployed.  

Equally important as ongoing updates, SaaS publishing systems (Enterprise Publishing Systems, or EPS ) remove silos for publishers, by bringing multiple functions together that allow you to manage your editorial workflow, media, audience data, social sharing and eCommerce.  No more piecing together a CMS with multiple ancillary systems from multiple vendors.

With a SaaS EPS, you aren’t wrangling installations, hardware, additional personnel, complicated software and a complicated and aging infrastructure. You also aren’t dealing with hidden costs. In the past, homegrown or traditionally installed software or open source tools adapted for each feature or function were adequate for simply delivering content.  In today's competitive environment, however, online publishing is constantly evolving, requiring new capabilities to bring together disparate sytems such to processing payments, integrating social media, and tailoring content and offers to individual audience preferences. 

There are plenty of costs associated with deploying multiple systems and keeping them all working together and updated. You are paying for development, design, ongoing maintenance, upgrades and multiple specialized personnel, to name a few.  Then, what if you want to add new features and functionality?  You know that’s inevitable in today’s market, with the speed in which it evolves and the required ongoing regulatory compliance. You’ve got to meet that demand. With a SaaS EPS, you minimize hidden costs, increase efficiency and decrease the risks and limitations that occur with installed or hosted software.

Your SaaS EPS Checklist:

Before you approach a prospective provider, take a look at the checklist and decide which of these features are most important to you. If you find that you value most of them, it’s a good indication that a unified SaaS system is the way to go. If you can prioritize them, the checklist will provide a solid framework for vetting your candidates and help you formulate questions specific to your needs.

1. Reliability and Uptime: Do you need your website(s) to always be up and running? Probably. Think of the speed at which most of your readers operate on the Internet. You have an average of four seconds to catch their attention; if that time is spent opening your site, you’ve already lost them. You need fast, responsive and secure.  Cloud-based SaaS architecture is designed for economy and speed of scale, while providing scalable capacity to handle multiple sites and traffic spikes.

2. Redundancy and Security: Do you know the ins and outs of security compliance for your website? Do you find it difficult and intimidating to keep track of it?  Do you have staff members whose sole function is to watch over this requirement for your site?  Your SaaS provider should offer an infrastructure across multiple data centers that support multiple clients—focusing on performance and data security, every day. Ask if they are reviewed annually for procedures and key compliance standards like PCI, and SAS-70.  If you are considering these required certifications and audits for your website to ensure transaction and data security, you may have a good idea of how cost prohibitive they can be, but because SaaS supports multiple clients, these costs are included as part of your software and service—and cost much less than if you were paying for it on your own.

3. Baseline Affordability: Have you had to purchase and install software, every time you want to add a feature or function?  What about servers? Hardware? Specialized systems personnel? Does this take more time, money and energy than is sustainable, or is it an obstacle to innovation?  With SaaS, you get scalability on demand. You also don’t need to hire a whole team of personnel to run your site. A good SaaS provider will fill the roles of developer, designer, architect, system engineer, database administrator, project manager, quality assurance and crisis response, to name a few.

Let’s take a break and think about these three features of a SaaS publsishing system and compare them to what you have now. We’ll continue in our next post.