Giva Blog Categories : Insights For Customer Service Leaders

Cloud Software Hosting Alternatives

According to Microsoft, cloud architectures generally can be classified as belonging to one of four "maturity levels," whose key attributes are configurability, multi-tenant efficiency, and scalability. Each level is distinguished from the previous one by the addition of one of those three attributes:
  • Level 1 - Ad-Hoc/Custom: At the first level of maturity, each customer has its own customized version of the hosted application and runs its own instance of the application on the host's servers. Migrating a traditional non-networked or client-server application to this level of SaaS typically requires the least development effort and reduces operating costs by consolidating server hardware and administration.
  • Level 2 - Configurable: The second maturity level provides greater program flexibility through configurable metadata, so that many customers can use separate instances of the same application code. This allows the vendor to meet the different needs of each customer through detailed configuration options, while simplifying maintenance and updating of a common code base.
  • Level 3 - Configurable, Multi-Tenant-Efficient: The third maturity level adds multi-tenancy to the second level, so that a single program instance serves all customers. This approach enables more efficient use of server resources without any apparent difference to the end user, but ultimately is limited in its scalability.
  • Level 4 - Scalable, Configurable, Multi-Tenant-Efficient: At the fourth and final SaaS maturity level, scalability is added through a multitier architecture supporting a load-balanced farm of identical application instances, running on a variable number of servers. The system's capacity can be increased or decreased to match demand by adding or removing servers, without the need for any further alteration of application software architecture.

Virtualization also may be used in SaaS architectures, either in addition to multi-tenancy, or in place of it. One of the principal benefits of virtualization is that it can increase the system's capacity without additional programming. On the other hand, a considerable amount of programming may be required to construct a more efficient, multi-tenant application. Combining multi-tenancy and virtualization provides still greater flexibility to tune the system for optimal performance. In addition to full operating system-level virtualization, other virtualization techniques applied to SaaS include application virtualization and virtual appliances.

Various types of software components and frameworks may be employed in the development of SaaS applications. These tools can reduce the time to market and cost of converting a traditional on-premise software product or building and deploying a new SaaS solution. Examples include components for subscription management, grid computing software, web application frameworks, and complete SaaS platform products.

Cloud Software Key Characteristics

The key characteristics of cloud software, according to IDC, include:
  • network-based access to, and management of, commercially available software
  • activities that are managed from central locations rather than at each customer's site, enabling customers to access applications remotely via the Web
  • application delivery that typically is closer to a one-to-many model (single instance, multi-tenant architecture) than to a one-to-one model, including architecture, pricing, partnering, and management characteristics
  • centralized feature updating, which obviates the need for downloadable patches and upgrades.
  • Cloud is often used in a larger network of communicating software - either as part of a mashup or as a plugin to a platform as a service. Service oriented architecture is naturally more complex than traditional models of software deployment.

Cloud applications are generally priced on a per-user basis, sometimes with a relatively small minimum number of users and often with additional fees for extra bandwidth and storage. Cloud revenue streams to the vendor are therefore lower initially than traditional software license fees, but are also recurring, and therefore viewed as more predictable, much like maintenance fees for licensed software.

In addition to the characteristics mentioned above, Cloud software turns the tragedy of the commons on its head and frequently has these additional benefits:

  • More feature requests from users since there is frequently no marginal cost for requesting new features;
  • Faster releases of new features since the entire community of users benefits from new functionality; and
  • The embodiment of recognized best practices since the community of users drives the software publisher to support the best practice.

What is the History of Cloud Software?

History

The concept of "software as a service" started to circulate prior to 1999 and was considered to be "gaining acceptance in the marketplace" in Bennett et al., 1999 paper on "Service Based Software".

Whilst the term "software as a service" was in common use, the CamelCase acronym "SaaS" was allegedly not coined until several years later in a white paper called "Strategic Backgrounder: Software as a Service" by the Software & Information Industry's eBusiness Division published in Feb. 2001, but written in fall of 2000 according to internal Association records.

Philosophy

As a term, SaaS is generally associated with business software and is typically thought of as a low-cost way for businesses to obtain the same benefits of commercially licensed, internally operated software without the associated complexity and high initial cost. Many types of software are well suited to the SaaS model, where customers may have little interest or capability in software deployment, but do have substantial computing needs. Application areas such as Customer relationship management (CRM), video conferencing, human resources, IT service management, accounting, IT security, web analytics, web content management and e-mail are some of the initial markets showing SaaS success. The distinction between SaaS and earlier applications delivered over the Internet is that SaaS solutions were developed specifically to leverage web technologies such as the browser, thereby making them web-native. The data design and architecture of SaaS applications are specifically built with a 'multi-tenant' backend, thus enabling multiple customers or users to access a shared data model. This further differentiates SaaS from client/server or 'ASP' (Application Service Provider) solutions in that SaaS providers are leveraging enormous economies of scale in the deployment, management, support and through the Software Development Lifecycle.

What is Cloud or SaaS Software?

Software as a Service (SaaS, typically pronounced 'sass') is a model of software deployment where an application is hosted as a service provided to customers across the Internet. By eliminating the need to install and run the application on the customer's own computer, SaaS alleviates the customer's burden of software maintenance, ongoing operation, and support. Conversely, customers relinquish control over software versions or changing requirements; moreover, costs to use the service become a continuous expense, rather than a single expense at time of purchase. Using SaaS also can conceivably reduce that up-front expense of software purchases, through less costly, on-demand pricing. SaaS lets software vendors control and limit use, prohibits copies and distribution, and control all derivative versions of their software. This centralized control often allows the vendor to establish an ongoing revenue stream. The SaaS software vendor may host the application on its own web server, or this function may be handled by a third-party application service provider (ASP). This way, end users may reduce their investment on server hardware too.

Save Money with Cloud or Hosted Platforms

Most SaaS platforms intend to provide the following:

Tenancy – The ability to distinguish one user from another in the data and execution aspects of a hosted application is a major tenet of SaaS. Generally, the concept of tenancy is void in traditional on-premise installs and can complicate architectures beyond what was traditionally accepted.

Scalability – The idea that a successful application will buckle under its own popularity is never good. Being able to accommodate your aggregated customer base is a must, and planning for success is a requirement.

Reliability – What good is a SaaS application that isn’t up?

Hardware Infrastructure – As a vendor, one of the operational headaches of SaaS applications is dealing with an enterprise-grade hardware infrastructure.

Value Added Services – A good platform should endow the application it hosts with value beyond what was developed by the vendor. The value should benefit the end user.

Ecosystem – As the number of vendors that host their applications on a given platform increases, and as the number of users using those applications increases, an ecosystem begins to develop. Ideally, this ecosystem allows all parties the ability to investigate and exercise their right to connections between ecosystem members, deriving value beyond that offered by any single SaaS offering.

Here is a good white paper on Saving Money with SaaS

https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/Save-Money-with-Software-as-a-Service-SaaS.htm

IT Help Desk and Customer Service Metrics and Reports

Here are some metrics to measure your help desk and customer service operation by:

What kind of help desk or customer support organization are you running? As you can see the cost per call is significantly different. This will impact the Return on Investment (ROI) of your help desk or customer support organization. Of course, the strategic stage help desk has the highest customer service and the highest first call resolution rate.  Customers also call the help desk or customer service organization less often as the strategic organization has taken many proactive steps to reduce call volume by addressing the root cause of calls to the help desk or customer service organization.

 

help-desk-bar

Reprinted from CIO Magazine

Here are two great White Papers on the topic:

https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/customer-service-best-practices.htm

https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/help-desk-best-practices.htm

IT Help Desk and Customer Service Software (ROI)

Giva may be able to significantly increase the Return-On-Investment (ROI) of your current Help Desk or Customer Service call tracking and reporting system.  In order to help you determine this, Giva hired an independent 3rd party to build a Best Practices ROI Model that will enable you to compare your current help desk or customer service software system to Giva. We need some inputs from you so that we can run them through our ROI calculation model.

After you provide some inputs, Giva will perform an ROI analysis and our professional services organization will summarize the results for you in a custom report. We know that you will find this ROI Analysis Report very helpful to justify whether Giva will generate a higher ROI than your current system.

Please take a few moments to read Steps 1, 2 and 3 and quickly review the entire Excel and let me know if you have any questions before you go off and start the exercise.

Open up a request and ask us for the Return-On-Investment (ROI) Excel tool at https://www.givainc.com/sales.htm

Cloud/SaaS/Hosted or Traditional Software Licenses?

Here is a great white paper with a comprehensive look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis any decision maker should complete before making a choice between a SaaS or a traditional software deployment.

The key cost drivers for any software implementation are the cost of the software application, the hardware required to run the application and the people services required to design, deploy, manage, maintain and support the application.

> Traditional software pricing is limited to the cost of the software application, in most cases an upfront fee in exchange for a perpetual user license. It is up to the customer to determine the cost of the hardware and the people services.

> SaaS applications are charged on a subscription basis. The subscription fee includes the cost of the software application, the hardware and the people services.

This difference in pricing models can make an apples-to-apples TCO comparison “tricky”.

Software and hardware costs are well understood but the people resources associated with traditional software applications are often underestimated or omitted in a TCO analysis. As a result, the usage driven subscription cost of SaaS applications can seem to be the more expensive solution over a multi-year period. However, when these people resources are correctly associated, deploying a SaaS application becomes – in many cases – the more cost effective option.

This white paper helps in better understanding all the different cost factors and includes a TCO calculation for you that will help influencers and decision makers to better estimate the true TCO of a SaaS versus a traditional software deployment. The ultimate goal of this paper is to educate the reader that in some cases traditional software applications remain the right choice, but in other cases deploying SaaS applications provide a better business case.

Please see https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/Save-Money-with-Software-as-a-Service-SaaS.htm

How to Buy Help Desk Cloud Software

Help desk and customer service software empowers businesses to take a more proactive approach to addressing customer issues. Companies can eliminate the inefficient, manual procedures that cause lags in response times, and solve customer problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. But, selecting the right help desk or customer service software solution can be complex and confusing. How can you make the process easier?

Outline Your Needs

Build a list of your key requirements before you begin calling in vendors.

Start by talking to key stakeholders and end users to determine what their goals and challenges are, and what kinds of tools they need to achieve or overcome them. This will help you identify the help desk or customer service software features you can't live without.

Select a Vendor

Once you know what kind of help desk or customer service software you're looking for, you can begin evaluating providers.

Talk with your colleagues about what products they are using to achieve success. Review the Web for customer case studies to find the best-matched vendors. Sometimes the perspectives of industry analysts can be helpful, but remember that they do not use the products that they discuss with you. Wouldn't it be smarter if you found very happy customers who you have needs in common. Conduct an in-depth assessment of each product, and compare it to your  list of requirements. The best way to accomplish this is to have a very clearly detailed Needs Assessment that asks insightful questions about features and functionality that your stakeholders need. Once you've identified those vendors who can meet all or most of your needs, review their histories, support track record, financial statuses, and speak with their customers.

Request Demos and Trials

Product demonstrations are a standard part of the sales process, but make sure you see more than just a canned or pre-recorded one. Request a customized demo that highlights those features on your checklist, and simulates processes within your current help desk or customer service environment.

But remember, a demonstration - no matter how in-depth - will only provide you with an overview of a help desk or customer service software package's capabilities. If you want to really see how the solution will work, you'll need to trial the software for 30 days before you commit to buying it. Will the vendor provide unlimited support during the trial without cost to make sure that you are well taken care of? If not, you need to ask yourself, "what will happen once I become a customer if they do not want to support me now while I am still a prospect"?

Here is a great Excel Tool that will help you document your needs and requirements. See https://www.givainc.com/free-needs-assessment/index.htm

Reduce IT Help Desk Costs with Cloud/SaaS

Given the state of the worldwide economy, it is timely to now to review how much money your company can saved with Software-as-a-Service.  Why is Software as a Service (SaaS) so popular?  Is your company making budget reductions, but want to keep providing exceptional levels of customer service and support?  SaaS can help you reduce costs while giving your team a product that is generally easier to learn and use with minimal training and not require any IT resources to support. Every time you go to your IT department to ask for assistance, they probably say they have too many project that will directly impact revenue so they cannot help your with customer service software selection, deployment and ongoing maintenance. With Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), you do not need resources from the IT department to get your project started and keep going.

It's the economics stupid!

Look at the Total Cost of of ownership for required hardware and software for a typical midsized Customer Service department, Call Center or IT help desk.  These costs do not consider the cost of the actual customer service, call center or IT help desk software.

It's Green and Cheap!

Also, do you really need to have more servers in your company data center burning up power for server operation and cooling. It's an inefficient use of energy. Ask a SaaS vendor if they use a multitenant architecture. Many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are architected from the start as pure web applications and have multiple customers sharing the same underlying server infrastructure.  This saves power and cooling resources by leveraging and sharing computing infrastructure. Smart CIOs and VPs of Customer Service are planning for this today.

Take a look at these numbers. Are you surprised?

GARTNER GROUP ESTIMATES- 3 YEAR INFRASTRUCTURE & ADMINISTRATION COSTS OF OWNING 2 SERVERS

SUMMARY:

3 Year Infrastructure & Administration Costs of Owning Servers $259,100

  •      Server Support & Maintenance $208,500
  •      Server Hardware & Software $50,600

DETAILS:

1. Database Server required
One server at minimum is required to run applications. DB server cost estimate is $10,000 for hardware. Plus annual maintenance contract and power 40% of cost per year. Use $10,000 x 40% x 3 years = $12,000
$22,000

2. Database Licenses Required
Microsoft SQL @ $5,500 processor license x 2 processors is $11,000. Plus annual software maintenance is 20%..$11,000 x 20% x 3 years =$6,600
$17,600

3. Web Server required
A web server is required for best performance. Total Web Server cost estimate is $5,000 for hardware. Plus annual maintenance contract and power cost is 40% of cost per year. Use $5,000 x 40% x 3 years = $6,000
$11,000

4. General Server Administration (O/S, Patches, Virus, BIOS, HD...)
Servers and O/S require continuous maintenance. Gartner Group estimates 65 hrs/year @ $150/hr. per server is $9,750 x 2 servers x 3 years is $58,500.
$58,500

5. Daily Incremental and Full Weekly Back-up
Your IT department either performs or must automate data backup. Back-up media storage process and costs associated with off-site storage. Gartner Group estimates $10,000/yr. per server x 2 servers x 3 years is $60,000.
$60,000

6. Required Application & Database Administration
Database and application requires continuous monitoring for performance and storage. Gartner Group estimates 50 hrs/year per installation @ $200/hr. is $10,000 x 2 servers x 3 years is $60,000.
$60,000

7. Man-hours required for upgrades
How many total IT man-hours are required to implement an upgrade (Backup, install)? Gartner Group estimates average upgrade requires 80 hrs @ $125/hr is $10,000 x 1 time/yr. x 3 years =$30,000. This does not included user training.
$30,000

Other costs to consider if you want to own Customer Service, Call Center and IT Help Desk software:

8. Up-front configuration required
Configuration requires outside consulting, significant time and input from your organization. As your needs change, this is an ongoing cost.

9. Frequency of incremental upgrades (Months)
How often does the vendor distribute upgrades? What is your required process to deploy an upgrade?

10. User Training
How much additional administrator and user training is required to gain proficiency with a complex client server application deployed locally vs. an externally hosted application? Do you need to maintain programmers and Crystal Reports experts on staff?

Here is a great White Paper on the topic.

The title is "Saving Money with Software-as-a-Service". See  https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/Save-Money-with-Software-as-a-Service-SaaS.htm

 

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Client Success

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  • 50% reduction in time to deploy Giva's change, incident, problem, asset management and knowledgebase modules
  • 60% reduction in the 5 year Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
  • Saved at least 1 FTE due to lower ongoing administration
  • Saved 1 week per month due to easy to use reports
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  • Increased to 90% achievement in meeting service level agreements
  • 70% reduction in generating reports and admin; eliminated 35 hours/month
  • 50% faster to create/assign a service request
  • 60% increase in information captured during the initial phone call
  • 50% increase in the number of service requests created due to intuitive design
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  • 80% increase in productivity by using Giva's dashboards and reports
  • 60% increase in meeting service level agreements
  • 50% increase in productivity by using Giva's integrated custom forms
  • 45% increase in the number of the calls logged due to Giva's intuitiveness and ease of use