It was not that long ago that small businesses had little choice when purchasing software. In the old days, executives negotiated rates with software vendors, teams of IT professionals installed that software on desktop computers and cubicle dwellers used it to support the business.

The world of work looks a lot different today. The monopoly once held by desktop computers and terminals has given way to many devices, from compact smartphones to personally-owned laptops and tablets.

That shift has created an opening for software as a service, or SaaS, a unique approach to productivity that treats productivity suites, spreadsheet programs, and more as services instead of products. It was once the pursuit of big business, but the growing availability of SaaS has put it within reach for smaller firms too.

However, before implementing SaaS for your own small business, there are some things to consider before completing the implementation.

1. Think About User Access

One of the most touted benefits of SaaS is its versatility. SaaS vendors quickly point out that busy salespeople can use their products on their iPhones, cubicle dwellers in their offices, and home-based workers in their kitchens.

That versatility is a benefit, but it is far from a given. Before you implement any SaaS solution for your small business, you will want to create a list of requirements, including which browsers you want to support and whether you plan to use plug-ins like Java, Flash, or others.

You do not want to implement a SaaS solution only to find that it does not work on popular browsers like Safari, Chrome, or Firefox. If your business is far-flung and people are working from home, a pre-implementation poll about browsers and operating systems could save you much trouble later.

2. Will You Need an App-Based Solution?

The growing prevalence of mobile devices in business means that an app-based solution may be necessary. Before you implement SaaS for your small business, take a look at your current use of mobile devices and project those requirements into the future.

Many experts predict that mobile devices will become a dominant force in the near future. It is essential to plan for future growth when implementing any software solution, including one as monumental as the shift from desktop-based programs to SaaS.

If you decide that an app-based solution is needed, you will have several other decisions to make. Do you need a mobile solution only for devices like tablets and smartphones, or do you want to expand the access to desktop and laptop users as well? Will you support a wide range of mobile platforms, or will you restrict your app development to Apple and Android devices alone? The answers to these questions matter, so think carefully before you proceed.

3. Which Platforms Will Be Supported?

Last but certainly not least, you will need to decide which platforms will be supported by the SaaS solution. The answer to this question will depend on many factors, including what types of devices are currently in use, whether or not you allow employees to bring their own devices, and your future growth plans.

Once again, it may be helpful to take a poll of your current workforce, especially if you have people working from home. Even if you do not have a formal bring your own device (BYOD) in place, there is a good chance that some employees are using their personal laptops, tablets, and smartphones to check email, send updates and conduct other business.

Given the importance of a successful SaaS implementation, it is crucial to think carefully about the platforms you plan to support. Will you restrict support for the SaaS implementation to the Windows environment you are using at the office, or will you extend support to users of Mac OS X and possibly Linux as well?

It pays to think about the robustness of the platforms you are using and several other factors before going forward with the SaaS implementation. You can work with the vendor to determine the level of upgrade you may need and which platforms are supported by default, and which ones may need to be added down the line.

SaaS can be a powerful solution for small business owners, allowing them to stay mobile in an ever-changing world, scale up and down as headcounts change, and give them a more predictable set of costs. Still, there is a lot to think about when embarking on a SaaS solution, and this is one business decision you do not want to get wrong.

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