Is that Cloud Computing or is it SaaS?

No question that Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud Computing are hot topics and major trends in the business solutions market.  SaaS vendors and solutions continue to grow new customer subscriptions and revenues while traditional on-premises vendors and solutions experience declining new customer license revenues.

But vendors are causing confusion for prospective buyers by referring to SaaS and Cloud Computing interchangeably in their marketing materials.  As with most new technologies, prospective buyers largely depend on the vendors to provide information and educational content as part of their marketing outreach.  We’re at the early stages of a major long-term trend on how business solutions and computing capabilities are delivered to customers.  Using standard and consistent terminology and definitions avoids customer confusion and disinterest in what may appear to be more tech jargon.

While most of the terminology is established, the definition or interpretation of the terminology is still inconsistent and a source of confusion for prospective buyers.  In the interest of resolving this situation, I hope to instigate a broader discussion by proffering the following definitions and interpretations of the common, currently used terminology:

Software as a Service (SaaS) – customers subscribe to the use of a functional solution as an on-demand service delivered by the vendor or authorized partner in a multi-tenant deployment online environment.
Cloud Computing – provides customers with a complete, secure, private and scalable on-demand computing environment from a utility-computing provider on a subscription basis.

The important and confusing distinction is that while a SaaS vendor may use cloud computing to deliver a CRM solution for example, the SaaS customer is only subscribing to the CRM application service.  If they do not have access to the underlying cloud computing environment for other purposes, it should be referenced as SaaS, not cloud computing.

On the other hand, a cloud computing customer subscribes to a computing environment for all their computing needs and deployment of multiple solutions as an alternative to their own data center.  The solutions could be sourced from multiple vendors and/or self-developed.  They may choose to deploy one or more SaaS solutions in their private cloud computing environment.

This leads to more terminology and definitions to more fully describe all the available possibilities.  The cloud computing environment is currently comprised of three layers of services:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – this is the computing foundation and infrastructure for cloud computing consisting of the computing services, storage, networking, security, backup, recovery, operations management and other requisite capabilities.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – this is all the application enabling technologies for developing, deploying and servicing functional SaaS solutions in a cloud computing environment.  PaaS also enables customers and authorized partners to develop and deploy their own applications using the tools and services provided by the PaaS vendor.  PaaS runs on the underlying IaaS.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – these are specific functional applications such as CRM, Expense Management, HR Benefit Management, etc. licensed and delivered by solution vendors in an on-demand online or cloud computing environment.  SaaS runs on the underlying PaaS and IaaS.
Hopefully this article will help prompt a larger discussion for industry analysts and vendors to agree on standard and consistent definitions and interpretations of the terminology for evolving SaaS and Cloud Computing technologies.

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

Why Many Businesses Still Fear Social Media

Social media has come a long way over the past couple of years.  Some businesses have successfully embraced social media for marketing, growth, new opportunities and interactive engagement with customers and buyers.  But a number of studies published in recent months indicate that many businesses still have fears and concerns about widespread use of social media as shown by this sampling of findings from various studies:

  • Research from Russell Herder / Ethos Business Law:
    • 51% of senior management, marketing and human resources executives fear social media could negatively impact employee productivity
    • 49% of this group claim that social media could damage company reputation
    • 40% of companies surveyed block online access to social media for any purpose.
  • Results from a poll of system administrators by IT security and control firm Sophos:
    • 63% worry that workers share too much information on social networking websites
    • 66% are concerned that employee social networking could endanger company security
    • Approximately 50% block or restrict access to social networking sites
    • Productivity, data leakage and malware are primary reasons for blocking or controlling access.
  • A study commissioned by Robert Half Technology:
    • 54% of U.S. companies ban workers from using social networking sites
    • Only 10% of 1,400 CIOs interviewed said that their companies allow employees full access to social networks during work hours.
  • A global survey by Avenade and Coleman Parkes Research identified key barriers to adoption of social media technologies as:
    • 76% are concerned about security
    • Senior management apathy at 57% of companies
    • 58% fear using unproven technologies
    • 50% fear a negative impact on productivity.
  • A Nucleus Research survey revealed:
    • Employee productivity drops 1.5% at companies that allow full access to Facebook in the workplace
    • 87% of those who use Facebook at work had no clear business reason for doing it.

In spite of these fears and concerns, many business executives do understand the potential value of social media.  For example, in the same Russell Herder / Ethos Business Law research, senior management, marketing and human resources executives perceive the following potential value of social media for their businesses:
  • 81% believe social media can enhance relationships with customers
  • 81% see social media value for building a company’s brand
  • 69% think it’s a viable recruitment tool
  • 64% think it can be a customer service tool
  • 46% believe that social media can enhance employee morale.

This is an interesting dilemma for marketers.  Most of us know and understand the huge potential of social media and social networking for marketing.  Many of us have successfully used social media and social networking for marketing activities and plan to do more.  If everyone in a company has some role or contribution to marketing and sales as they should, then how do we deal with these fears, concerns and apathy that will impede progress for making social media and social networking an integral part of a business?

Something else to consider is the impact of these fears, concerns and apathy at customer or prospective buyer companies.  If over half of companies are blocking or restricting access to social media, it means the social media-based marketing programs won’t reach at least half of the intended target audience.  Good reason to continue using traditional marketing channels as the social media channel matures and hopefully overcomes the current fears, concerns and apathy.

Have you faced these issues in your marketing work and how have you handled it?  Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.