Authored by Ian Waters, Senior Director EMEA, Cisco ThousandEyes. Cisco ThousandEyes were finalists in the Best Data Innovation In A SaaS Product and Best SaaS Newcomer categories of the 2023 SaaS Awards.

SaaS Apps May Sit Outside Your Perimeter, But You can Still Manage Them Like You Own Them

Digital transformation efforts and hybrid work have resulted in a massive shift toward cloud services, reliance on the Internet, and, of course, SaaS applications.

The current global SaaS market is huge – currently worth about $3 trillion, according to a recent McKinsey report, with estimations it could surge to $10 trillion by 2030. So, it’s unsurprising that several organizations today rely on at least several SaaS applications to perform daily work tasks.

The effective management of SaaS applications is central to employee productivity, customer support, and the overall experience of both. However, the complexity and distributed nature of these applications, plus the fact that businesses don’t own the app infrastructure or the external network and service dependencies, mean they have little visibility or control over the workflow.

Whether an organization is using SaaS apps such as Webex or Slack to collaborate together, or a sales team is using Salesforce to manage opportunities, SaaS applications have become absolutely core to perform daily tasks. An organization’s reputation, customer experience, and general efficacy depend on it.

So, when something goes wrong, as we know they do, what can organizations do to fix it? How do you get intelligence fast so you can report back to users and other stakeholders that all care about usability, brand, customer loyalty, and not to mention the bottom line? Insight is needed fast and when it comes to SaaS apps, only end-to-end visibility can truly provide the visibility required to see across the entire distributed environment both on and off premises.

Old techniques won’t help you now

Typically, SaaS apps are huge in design. They often run across multiple clouds, data centers, and even regions — and the public Internet underpins its delivery infrastructure. Add to this further interdependencies such as DNS (domain name system), CDN (content delivery network), secure edge and third-party APIs (application programming interface), that make SaaS applications more valuable but more interconnected and therefore more complicated to troubleshoot when an outage occurs. What’s more, SaaS providers can also be difficult to get hold of and may suggest a network issue is at fault, rather than their service.

Traditional network monitoring tools often don’t provide visibility outside an organization’s network boundaries. As such, these solutions do not provide adequate SaaS application visibility, nor do they combine together effectively across siloed data sets. They also fail to provide a detailed understanding of connectivity throughout the application.

To ensure always-on digital experiences for customers, employees, and other stakeholders, an effective monitoring solution in today’s IT ecosystem needs to be able to identify dependencies across a SaaS app’s entire digital supply chain.

To do this, an active monitoring approach is needed. When something goes wrong, immediate visibility is crucial to gain a visual into the infrastructure. Having that complete view of the end-to-end environment allows IT teams to quickly identify the root cause of a problem and help restore service.

“Traditional network monitoring tools often don’t provide visibility outside an organization’s network boundaries…”

Modern solutions for modern SaaS monitoring

Strategically, the speed and scale of how Internet and cloud environments shift mean it’s vital to not just react to what’s happening but to get in front of any potential weakness within an organization’s digital ecosystem. To do this, there are two key abilities that organizations need to look out for in their SaaS monitoring.

One, a solution that provides a deep level of visibility into highly dynamic environments to proactively baseline network performance. The key to this is end-to-end digital experience visibility—which will constantly monitor transactions, users, business-critical applications and any risks in the network to ensure that every click and download provides a positive digital experience for both customers and employees. With complete visibility into everything that is happening in the digital ecosystem, organizations can make sure that each interaction is reliable and fast, resulting in more satisfied users and better outcomes for the business.

Second, is the ability to trigger sophisticated scripts that navigate the user journey and compare page performance. This will enable organizations to evaluate and measure the infrastructure journey that the user is taking through the app. Not only this but it can also measure critical workflows and backend interactions between an application and external API endpoints, including availability, performance, as well as application logic.

There are solutions available on the market today, built to deliver cloud and Internet visibility for the purpose of providing organizations with independent vantage points for monitoring SaaS applications, comparing performance, allowing for readiness planning, and responding to any issues with employee and customer experience uptime, in real-time.

IT teams can then determine if performance issues originate from within the corporate network, assets the company controls, or assets beyond its control, such as the Internet itself. It’s a new Internet-centric era and with it, SaaS apps have become the new app stack. Fortunately, new innovations are emerging to help manage new needs as they arise in today’s hyper-connected and hybrid world – so it becomes possible for businesses to manage SaaS apps as if they own them.

While you might not own SaaS, you still own the digital experience and delivering always-on performance has become the differentiator that sets businesses apart.