For SaaS start-ups, tasks like scaling web applications must compete with a long list of other priorities. But not having a performance and scalability strategy in place can spell ruin and quickly grind your business to a halt. In a competitive and challenging business environment, understanding your core business and preparing to scale early is crucial to your success.
So where do you begin?
#1: Plan for Success
At the end of the day, planning for success should be a basic business strategy. You must have a plan in place for immediate and future growth. And being prepared to scale your application early must be a key component.
In order to properly forecast financial and material requirements, you need to ask yourself a few of these questions: in the best case, how many people will realistically use the application in the next six to twelve months? What kind of data do you plan on creating or storing on their behalf? How long can all your customers “fit” on one server? What can you do when you have more customers or more data than that? Answering these will help to design your application and the infrastructure needed to operate it.
Plan realistically and remember, don’t assume that the cloud will just scale by itself. Have an action plan ready for when the times comes.
#2: Understand your data
Once you have created an expansion plan, the next step is to analyse what data you have and pinpoint which parts are the most important to your customers. There are so many ways to provide access to data, and many companies are not quite sure how to weed through it all.
However, the key is to pay close attention to how users are actually accessing the data. For the majority, there is probably a much smaller data set to care about, and understanding the most likely use cases for your application makes it easier to create and optimize a data handling strategy that will allow you scale.
#3: Keep it simple
Every few months you’ll hear about some new type of database or application framework that promises to magically shorten your development time or increase your scalability. Don’t get distracted the technology fad of the week. The best technologies are the ones you already know!
While many of these new tools offer great speed and functionality, they often lack experience with some of the more “boring” aspects of data handling such as redundancy, replication or failover, for instance. By doing more with less and using technologies that you know, it becomes easier to respond to changes in the business and new demands on the application.
#4: Be Fast
A huge benefit to simple, lightweight applications is speed. Fast service delivery and reaction times are key to maintaining continuous deployment and keeping your business moving smoothly. Applications that are fast are much cheaper to run as they allow for fewer servers and therefore lower overhead costs.
Another part of keeping your business up to speed is having a mobile strategy. More and more people are accessing websites and applications via the mobile web, and in order to ensure that customers have fast service, optimizing for mobile is paramount. While you don’t have to reinvent the wheel by building a new site, your mobile version should differ slightly and emphasize the key aspects of your business or service only.
#5: There’s a service for that
As a new company, it can be a bit overwhelming to manage every aspect of your business, from billing to organization, payroll, inventory, etc., Often times, the biggest task is prioritizing your energy, time, and money. Instead of trying to handle everything, explore what services are out there to help run your business so that you and your team can focus on your core app.
Today, there are multiple, inexpensive and easy to use vendors and tools available to help manage each and every periphery aspect like WordPress, zendesk, Data.com, BrowserMob, and so on. With some of these in your arsenal, you can spend your time working towards success instead of being bogged down by additional responsibilities.