The demand for Multi Tenant SaaS (Software as a service) platforms are growing. According to a tech poll conducted by IDG (a leading data, and marketing services company), 73% of organizations are planning to move almost all of their apps to SaaS by 2020. Without any surprises, this has resulted in the emergence of numerous SaaS Startups. And in this article, we’ll discuss the know-hows and best practices of building a SaaS platform that is scalable and secure.
A multi-tenant application allows you to serve multiple customers with just one installation of the application. Each customer is called a tenant and they pay money to access your SaaS application componenets and stores their data in the SaaS system. There are multiple tenancy models like single-tenancy, multi-tenancy and hybrid tenancy. Here, the term tenency means how the tenants’ data is stored and organised in the SaaS platform. In a single tenancy system, each database stores data from only one tenant, whereas in multi-tenency system, each database stores data from multiple tenants. Hybrid tenancy is a mix of single-tenancy and multi-tenancy, bringing the best of both in one architecture.
When building a multi-tenant SaaS platform, you must carefully choose the tenancy model that best fits your business requirements because switching to a different model later could be costly. With a multi-tenant architecture, you would receive a lot of advantages. From a business owners’ point of view, the major benefits in using a multi tenant architecture are in reducing the infrastructure cost and efficient resource usage.
The Cost Factor: For a bootstrapped start-up, the running cost is a big factor. Poorly architected software can cripple the start-up before it can take off. A major benefit of the multi-tenant application is that it can lower the overall running cost. By using multi-tenant architectures, the per-user cost is lower because all resources are shared and adding new customers doesn’t cost you anything. With resource pooling, start-ups can save considerably in the infrastructure and maintenance costs.
Efficient Resource Usage: Since all of the resources are shared and simultaneously accessed, multi-tenant applications operate at maximum resource usage, which results in high efficiency. On the other hand, chances are high for a single-tenant architecture to waste the allocated resources such as database memory space or processor speed.
Easy to Scale: Scaling the business is seamless in a multi-tenant system. In a single-tenant system, scaling the business would be hard since there is a need for ‘per customer intervention’ and harder if the business has thousands of customers. Multi-tenancy doesn’t require any level of per customer intervention.
Faster Onboarding: Since the multi-tenant environment is largely the same for each customer, with some optional or additional configurations, it makes it easier for multi-tenant SaaS companies to onboard new customers with minimal efforts and to provide a seamless onboarding experience.
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While Multi-tenancy is a good choice for start-ups that want to get started with fewer hardware requirements and easier onboarding there are a few limitations. Meaning that SaaS may not be the right choice for a few segments of businesses. Since multiple tenants run their business off the same code, resources, and database, individual tenants can enjoy only limited customizations for the platform. Offering a higher degree of customizations is still possible, but it makes the work complex for the business owner. Moreover, in the event of a cyber-attack, If the data security is compromised, the impact is much higher since data of all the tenants can be lost altogether.
The functionalities of the application does not have a great dependence on the tenancy model that you choose. However, it depends on a few factors listed below:
Since single tenant environments isolates each tenant’s data, it allows for increased security for the tenant’s data and the performance of one tenant’s instance is not affected by the performance of another tenant’s instance. In single tenancy architecture, you have more control over the data backups and data recovery since the instance is backed up to one dedicated part of a SaaS server. On the other hand, in a multi-tenancy architecture, this process is a bit more complicated. For enterprises and businesses that may want to move into a self-hosted environment, the process is less complicated with a single tenancy. Single tenant architecture also offers much more customization flexibility and more control over system upgrades and updates.
The main benefit of a multi-tenancy architecture is that the per user cost is lower because all of the resources are shared and the system operate at maximum resource usage, which makes for optimum efficiency. If your businesses have high volume of customers, then multi tenancy is the right choice for you. The system updates and upgrades applies to all tenants, and the maintenance effort needed are less as compared to single tenant systems.
Measurement Single Tenency Multi Tenancy
Scalability Medium Very high
Database cost per tenant High Low
Performance monitoring and management Per-tenant only Aggregate as well as per-tenant
Development complexity Low Low
Operational complexity Low-High. Individually simple, complex at scale. Low-Medium.
Tenant isolation Very high High
The SaaS platform you intend to build is most likely to serve customers from all over the world. Hence, it is a good thought to localize the platform. Make sure the contents shown in the platform are regionalized and the pricing is in the currency of the buyer. Trends show that companies that localize the contents and pricing see more demand as compare to those who don’t. The companies that localize contents see nearly a 40% bump in growth.
Users should be able to personalize their experience to suit their personal preferences. For example, customizing the color theme to match the brand guidelines of the tenant, replace logos and such modifications can be done by the user without the help of an admin or support team. Tenants should have the ability to run decisions relating to set-up and their intended use of the app.
The application should be designed to accommodate as many apps or service integrations as possible. This is crucial because your SaaS application won’t be the only application the tenants will be using. For example, integrations with several payment gateways, management platforms, etc can help the user to bring in the required values to the application. The good news is that most of the standard APIs make it easy for the developers to design the SaaS application which can integrate with other SaaS and on-premise applications.
A multi-tenant SaaS application should be designed in such a way that its performance is scalable and always available. It should be able to serve tenants of all sizes. Apart from that one can expect tenants from all over the world to be using the SaaS application. Thus your SaaS application needs to have excellent rendering and data querying abilities. Make sure to leverage tools such as load balancer, sharding, etc to deliver the best possible performance for a given running cost.
Multi-tenant SaaS providers have the sole responsibility when it comes to the security of both the SaaS application, stored data, and the accompanying hardware. When multiple tenants are sharing the same infrastructure, you should ensure that the data is segregated and isolated for the privacy of the tenants. It should be secure and should comply with the latest security standards and regulations.
The SaaS provider must monitor the SaaS application constantly. They should be on the lookout for downtimes and get the application back up and working again if such a situation occurs. Another issue faced by SaaS providers is the performance issues that negatively impact the experience of the user. Hence they should have tools and processes to solve any issues that arise, efficiently.
Multi-tenant SaaS architecture provides many long-term benefits for both service providers as well as users in terms of maintenance, cost of investment, or development. These are some of the best practices one needs to follow while designing and providing a multi-tenant SaaS application. These best practices will help your company or start-up to design a multi-tenant SaaS application that will run efficiently and meet the expectations of your customers. Let’s talk if you need help in developing a SaaS platform or your next product.