How to scale your SaaS product without breaking the bank

Posted 2021-06-22  in Developer Relations
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These days, if you are in the business of software, chances are you are delivering or plan to deliver your services using a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. A combination of internet-based delivery, subscription-based pricing, and low-friction product experiences have made SaaS solutions valuable tools for their users, and an excellent vehicle for software builders looking to distribute their products.

These factors have made SaaS solutions ubiquitous; SaaS is the largest segment in the public cloud market, and is used to provide functionality ranging from personal finance apps for consumers, to productivity software for businesses, and even tools and services for software developers themselves to compose their applications and simplify their workflows. It is also not uncommon to find micro-SaaS applications being built for specific industries such as retail, job functions such as accounting or marketing, or tasks such as event management.

The best thing about this SaaS wave has been that it has allowed a new generation of software builders to build and monetize applications and participate in the digital economy. Previously, you had to be a big company with lots of resources, name recognition and distribution networks to successfully sell software products. Now, irrespective of whether you are a single person working on a passion project, a small team of developers in a startup, or a small and medium-sized business (SMB), the SaaS model enables you to express your ideas in the form of software and deliver them to customers anywhere in the world.

The unique challenges of building SaaS solutions

Despite the opportunities that come with the widespread adoption of SaaS products, software builders still have to answer key questions in their journey to building successful SaaS products. Understanding what customers to target, features to prioritize, how to price your product, and how to acquire customers are all critical questions to figure out while you are also doing the important job of actually building and operating the product.

Writing the code, testing, deployment, monitoring the usage in production, and ensuring that your apps are able to handle the additional demand when customer base and usage grows are all essential and time-consuming tasks.

Additionally, being able to test multiple ideas, pivot, and double down on the ideas that actually work is critical in early stages of SaaS development. Once growth comes, it is equally important to scale up without compromising on performance or reliability. Needless to say, all of this needs to be economically viable as well, since not everyone has the resources of large SaaS providers like Salesforce or Adobe.

Cloud Computing enables builders but also poses challenges

Fortunately, for the act of building and operating your apps, cloud computing can help take some load off your shoulders. Unless you have the scale and resources of Facebook, chances are you are not going to set up your own data centers to host the computing infrastructure that powers your SaaS company. Public cloud infrastructure providers can bring great value to SaaS builders by providing on-demand computing services with usage-based pricing. However, just like how the legacy software companies weren't built for the SaaS model, the early (and big) cloud computing services were not optimized for the unique needs of small SaaS building teams.

Smaller SaaS teams face challenges with large cloud computing providers, including:

Too many technology options

There are just too many options for tech stacks on which to build your SaaS - programming languages, application development frameworks, libraries, runtime environments, architectural patterns, and deployment models - and the list is growing by the day.

Complexity of cloud computing services

Even when you have decided on a technology stack, there is a lot of cloud vendor-specific terminology you need to learn and heavy lifting you need to do to build on the cloud, not all of which contributes to making your SaaS applications successful.

Unpredictable costs

The experimentation necessary in early stages of SaaS development, as well as the scaling of applications required during the growth phase, call for affordable and predictable pricing from your cloud provider. The last thing SaaS teams want is surprising and indecipherable bills from your cloud provider. Unfortunately, smaller businesses often experience unpredictable costs with cloud providers who are busy serving only the large enterprises.

DigitalOcean provides a simple, cost effective solution for SaaS builders

Fortunately, at DigitalOcean we have a laser focus on small software development teams, who are trying to build the next generation of applications. Today, DigitalOcean customers are already building SaaS applications which serve all kinds of customers.

We believe SaaS builders should focus on building apps that power their business, and not spend their valuable time on managing infrastructure. That is exactly what we have been able to enable through our intuitive products that are built for scale and reliability.

  • Vidazoo is an advertising technology company specializing in video streaming and serving. It serves video ads to thousands of websites and handles close to 10 billion requests per day.

    “We are as much a data company as an adtech company. Our business relies on speedy and accurate data processing at massive scale. DigitalOcean provides us the perfect set of tools to operate our SaaS business profitably, while not making us feel the need to become full time system administrators. We plan to move a lot of our apps to DigitalOcean App Platform and other fully managed products.” - Roman Svichar, CTO of Vidazoo

We believe in meeting customers where they are. If they already have an understanding of cloud infrastructure technologies, they should be able to leverage that knowledge and get started with our products without any further ramp up.

  • Whatfix is an enterprise SaaS provider that offers a digital adoption platform to businesses. The company helps enterprises gain the full value of their investments in enterprise applications by providing real-time, interactive, and contextual guidance to users of those applications.

    “What we really love about the DigitalOcean platform is the ease of use. We feel like we know infrastructure and can handle most of the configuration and management. What we needed from a cloud was not bells and whistles but efficiency and reliability. DigitalOcean provides us a platform to build our apps and then gets out of the way. Just how we like it.” - Achyuth Krishna, Director of Engineering of Whatfix

We understand that scaling while maintaining reliability of applications and profitability of business is important, so we provide robust solutions which minimize downtime.

  • Centra is a SaaS-based e-commerce platform for global direct-to-consumer and wholesale e-commerce brands. Centra provides a powerful e-commerce backend that lets brands build pixel-perfect, custom designed, online flagship stores.

    “How do we enable our customers to create differentiated online experiences? How do we ensure their e-commerce apps stay up and running at all times? How do we scale on-demand when traffic grows or new customers come in? These are the questions that we ask ourselves every day. Thankfully, we have a partner in DigitalOcean that provides just the platform to answer those questions enabling us to guarantee 99.9% uptime for our clients.” - Martin Jensen, CEO of Centra

These are just a few examples of SaaS businesses finding success on DigitalOcean. We are constantly amazed by the creativity and innovation that software builders are utilizing our platform for. If you are interested in learning more about product updates, technical deep-dives and best practices for building SaaS products and businesses, please contact us to learn how we can help you get started.

Come build with DigitalOcean!

Looking to migrate your SaaS to DigitalOcean? Leverage free infrastructure credits, robust training, and technical support to ensure a worry-free migration.

Raman Sharma

Vice President, Product & Programs Marketing