SaaS

Skills needed to build and scale cloud based SaaS apps

It’s hard to imagine a world without software. On a daily basis we interact with numerous software applications either on our phone, tablet or a computer. These applications often span a wide variety of areas such as video streaming, e-learning, banking, e-commerce etc. There are many factors behind this proliferation of software applications, but the one that stands out the most is SaaS (Software as a Service). 

SaaS represents a model in which software applications are delivered via the Internet. It eliminates the need for users to download, install and maintain applications and makes it easier to distribute them globally. SaaS apps typically have usage-based or pay-as-you-go pricing which reduces the barrier to entry and makes them more accessible. Due to the ubiquity of SaaS, it’s quite likely that if developers are building or planning to build a software application, it most likely will use a SaaS model. 

Those looking to start a SaaS-based business need a wide variety of skills in order to build successful SaaS products. For example, you need employees who are adept at determining what customers to target, and what features to prioritize. You also need employees who are experts in pricing and marketing operations. However, one of the most important skills required for running a successful SaaS business center around infrastructure. Developing expertise in the compute, storage, databases, networking, and security products needed to build, run and scale your apps is a critical part of building a SaaS business, and one every SaaS builder will need to consider when starting out. 

In the past few years, cloud computing has become the de facto standard for running SaaS apps, especially among entrepreneurs, startups and small and medium businesses (SMBs). SaaS builders no longer have to spend exorbitant amounts of money to buy and maintain your servers and data centers but can instead rely on cloud solutions. Cloud computing enables you to spin up virtual machines, Kubernetes clusters, and fully managed databases for a fraction of the cost of maintaining on-premises servers. This empowers you to test your ideas quickly and find your product market fit more economically. 

While today’s cloud solutions are built to enable even a single developer to quickly create and manage virtual servers, those looking to build SaaS apps will still need to develop certain skills to manage their cloud services. With so many cloud providers in the market, the knowledge needed to work with one cloud provider may vary dramatically from the skills needed to utilize a different provider, and so SaaS professionals should carefully consider which provider to use when building their applications. 

Many prominent cloud providers cater to enterprises and have built comprehensive cloud platforms that suit the IT needs of big businesses with equally large budgets. They typically provide many features, each with its own settings which may require new and different skills to configure and lead to a complex setup. To avoid the need to learn more skills than necessary to get started with a cloud infrastructure provider, you may choose to use a cloud solution that prioritizes simplicity in products and user experience. 

Another skill when developing a SaaS solution is understanding pricing of the various services you will use to support your SaaS. Cloud providers and other vendors can have unclear pricing, which may go up unexpectedly. Taking the time to learn the pricing model of your vendors and selecting providers which promise transparent pricing is another skill SaaS professionals should develop over time. 

Finally, when looking to become a SaaS professional or start your own Software as a Service solution, consider the technology stack and programs that you will use and seek out education on those programs. There are many free and in-depth tutorials on programs including Python, Node.js, Go, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and more available online that enable you to ramp up your programming skills and resolve problems quickly when they arise. Seeking out services that provide high-quality documentation and tutorials in case you run into issues can ensure a smooth path when developing a SaaS. 

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the world and has shown how powerful the Internet can be – whether buying necessities, conducting business, providing education, connecting with loved ones, getting entertained, or even saving lives. The consumption of SaaS products has skyrocketed, and it is likely that this trend is here to stay.  All this provides a strong motivation to acquire new skills and hone your existing ones for building, running and scaling SaaS apps in the cloud. 

The article has been written by Shantanu Kedar, Senior Manager, Product Marketing at DigitalOcean

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