Don Best, from JamCracker.com was the guest speaker for this informative seminar highlighting one of the most popular buzzwords of the entire HostingCon 2006 Conference, SaaS. SaaS, an acronym for software as a service, is basically the wave of the future for hosting providers. For many years the hosting industry and development community have taken two seperate paths, but w/ the advent of websites like jamcracker.com, the roads have converged. Many hosting companies are now going to be offering specific software applications to their clients based on individual needs and not feeling the urge to hire out custom application work to development firms for various vertical applications. For instance, a development firm like PLETH, that has a particular application that is valuable to widget manufacturers, can really benefit by posting their software into the ecosystem of applications that are available and a hosting company w/out a design department or another development firm might have a client who manufactures widgets who could benefit from this product. In a sense PLETH has already been a part of the ecosystem, providing everything from Intranet solutions to Real Estate MLS IDX to clients across the United States, but I think that since the industry has decided to follow the PLETH business model, things will only be getting better.
In a seperate lunch conversation with Don Best, we shared our business model with him and how we service our clients and he immediately understood where we were coming from. That wasn’t a common thing at HostingCon in talking with service providers from other parts of the United States, in fact I would go as far as to say that most of the ones we talked to probably do not know their clients. The hosting industry as a whole is an inpersonal type of industry that strives to obtain quantity moreso than to provide quality of service. I have to also admit that prior to PLETH I was guilty of having this mindset, but I have seen that Hosting clients that are also development clients that trust 100% of their online presence to us are willing to outsource the technical aspects of managing servers, configuring dns, managing email configurations, etc. to a firm like PLETH than they are to try to hire a full time IT department. These clients also aren’t concerned in the least that they are paying a little bit more for web hosting since it also comes with support that is fanatical and around the clock. I can see many of todays larger firms eventually getting this and transferring the management of their web presence entirely to an outside firm as opposed to an internal staff of IT professionals who clock out each day at 6pm.
A couple of suggestions that we did hear that we will likely be incorporating over the next few months were:
– Offering Hosted Microsoft Exchange as a Service
– Providing a Disaster Recovery and Offsite Backup Solution
– Offering more Services geared toward Mobile Messaging / Applications
One of the other sessions we attended was for recognizing the trends that are growing in todays marketplace and one that I was a little surprised by but shouldn’t have been was mobile messaging. In fact, I was text messaging a friend as the speaker pulled up his powerpoint slide displaying a graph that showed many business’s today are using Mobile Messaging as well as bundled Mobile Applications in tandem with their regular management software. I was impressed that we had thought of this about 6 months earlier when we added SMS to our already robust PLETHWARE Groupware / Webmail solution.