Today, an increasing number of companies are abandoning traditional, on-premise software packages for SaaS. And why wouldn't they? Hosting your company software elsewhere enables you to rationalize investments, adapt more smoothly in a quickly evolving IT landscape, and access applications wherever you need them. In addition, software developers receive valuable user data, enabling them to update their solutions to fit their customers' needs. But with that increased flexibility come some major security challenges.
Despite an increasing awareness of security and privacy issues in online applications — hello there, NSA — there is a remarkable online scarcity of information and best practices for software developers looking to step up their security levels. There is (http://www.owasp.org), for example; an open source community dedicated to improving the security of software. As far as I know, however, only a few developers keep this treasure of information close to their chest. Odd, considering the grave consequences security breaches can have, resulting in the leak of sensitive information ranging from financial data and contacts thru' to designs and engineering models. And in every single case, the developer's reputation will be severely damaged.Striking the right balance
In many aspects, the evolution toward SaaS demands a whole new perspective on IT security, at least for the SaaS providers. First, in the traditional software development model, software updates were rather infrequent. This allowed time for thorough security audits with every new version. Today's SaaS applications, however, have a far higher release frequency — up to ten updates per day. For developers and providers, the challenge consists in finding a balance between adapting quickly to outsmart the competition and meet your clients' needs, and offering the best possible protection. On top of that, most SaaS applications are built on top of numerous (open source) building blocks offered by third parties. They too have their release schedules, security issues, etc. Just last week, the discovery of the Heartbleed OpenSSL bug forced virtually all SaaS builders to update their servers as quickly as possible.Shielding floods of data
Second, the amount of data floating around nowadays is simply staggering. Successful SaaS providers—think SalesForce, Google AdWords, and many, many others—have millions and millions of customers. Their data is often stored in the same database, increasing the risk of undesired data flows. On top of that, most applications today don't stand alone, but are part of an ecosystem where several solutions make use of each other's components. For example, consider a Twitter app combined with a social media monitoring tool and a data visualization app, or CRM software that links to your e-mail app. This interconnectivity, as well as the fact that cloud- and SaaS solutions are globally accessible, makes them particularly vulnerable to threats and attacks.
In the next episode, we'll discover how big data does more than just increase our vulnerability. When put to good use, it can also provide a solution to the challenges mentioned above. In fact, many companies are already doing that today. Keep your eyes peeled!
Growing your SaaS business means you'll need to watch your cash flow carefully. Check out these slides for more details.
Nowadays, computer programmers need to learn an increasing number of programming languages to satisfy their clients and/or employers. For newcomers in the world of software development, however, the enormous number of options can be frustrating and confusing. So what is the ideal programming language for aspiring developers to start with?
For those of you expecting an unequivocal answer to that question; let me burst that bubble right away. Asking the same question to ten seasoned developers will get you at least eleven different answers. But while every project has its own specific needs, there are some major distinctions that can be helpful when choosing. Popular languages
Everyone is looking for a programming language that is both easy and powerful. A good thing to consider in advance, however, is how sought-after certain language skills are. As far as I know, the most popular languages are .NET and Java (mainly for banks and corporations). Both languages are object-oriented and widely supported. On top of that, Java is used for Android development and .NET is the language of choice for Windows 8.Modern slang decoded
For people working on their own (online) start-up, a modern language might be a better starting-point. Having used it for five years myself, Python remains one of my favorites: it's dynamically typed, easy to learn, widely applicable—from web development to data crunching—and opens up tons of possibilities. And Google uses it too.
But don't worry; there are other options too. Here's a short overview:
Ruby is a scripting language similar to Python. The introduction of the Ruby on Rails web framework has significantly increased its popularity, making it a favorite amongst start-ups thanks to its wide support, many libraries and fast development.
PHP remains very popular for web development. While not a favorite of mine, it is a powerful scripting language that offers smooth hosting. The WordPress, Joomla and Drupal frameworks are all PHP-based.
Node.js is certainly worth looking at too. Using one language for both front-end and back-end, this software platform for scalable server-side and networking applications offers a lot of possibilities when it comes to interactivity. Node.js is used by, for example, LinkedIn, and is recommended when you're planning to build highly interactive web applications with lots of real-time updates and integrations to Twitter and Facebook. While not widely used yet in Belgium, I consider myself to be a firm believer of the platform.
At the end of the day, everything depends on what you're aiming at. So consider your options carefully and pick the one(s) that best suit(s) your particular project. A good place to start learning some of the programming languages mentioned above—free of charge—is Coursera. What are you waiting for?
Frederik Denkens – Skyscrapers: "Anyone who does their homework thoroughly and starts off with the right attitude can save a lot."
These past months we drummed up major international names in cloud computing for a series of workshops. The starting point of the sessions: Focus on your business, leave your IT infrastructure to the cloud. After meet & greets with Amazon, Rackspace, IBM and CSC, you could also hear six Belgian cloud specialists speak during our final meeting on 11 February in Brussels. They gave a bunch of valuable tips to take into account for people who want to set up a powerful cloud infrastructure. In a previous post you got a recap of Daniel Bartz' presentation, and here below you can read what Frederik Denkens had to say.
How can you select the best cloud provider to develop, build and manage your applications? There is no such thing as 'one size fits all', but Frederik Denkens does have a few tips...
Before you do business with a cloud service company, it is important to list all your needs and wishes when it comes to security, availability, synchronisation, etc.Look at your own business model: do you follow a classic 'waterfall' (with new software versions at specific intervals) or do you strive to continuously roll out new versions of your software? In the case of the latter, a cloud could be a good option.Next step: go through SLAs and research what kind of architecture providers offer: just the building blocks or does the service go further? What are the functionalities, performance, availability, backup, disaster recovery, etc., like?You are not stuck with contracts since the biggest advantage of the cloud is its enormous flexibility.Don't reinvent the wheel: look for solutions that are already successful. For example, don't build your own messaging service, but use existing and proven technology, which cloud providers often offer 'as a service'.Maybe out of the box solutions could be something for you, as they can help you get started quickly and cost you less on maintenance.What about legislation? Does your data have to remain within certain country borders? The closer you stay to your client with your infrastructure, the better ...Do your homework: compare providers, make sure that you understand their cost model; calculate and recalculate. This is how to save.Look for a good match with your current technology.Make an action plan: start small with a non-critical application and adapt your development process gradually.
An important point that Frederik makes is that many companies only order a couple of servers at a known provider such as Amazon, and then think that's enough. In fact, they just continue to work like they did before, without changing their DevOps or finding out more about the possibilities of IaaS. First and foremost IaaS requires a change of mentality, and the key is finding the right match with the right mindset.
Daniel Bartz – ComodIT: "Scrutinise the entire IT solution of an IaaS provider, not just the infrastructure."
These past months we drummed up major international names in cloud computing for a series of workshops. The starting point of the sessions: Focus on your business, leave your IT infrastructure to the cloud. After meet & greets with Amazon, Rackspace, IBM and CSC, you could also hear six Belgian cloud specialists speak during our final meeting on 11 February in Brussels. They gave a bunch of valuable tips to take into account for people who want to set up a powerful cloud infrastructure. For anyone who was not able to attend, here are a few virtual giveaways, starting with one from Daniel Bartz.
What typifies international cloud computing providers according to Daniel Bartz, besides their worldwide presence and enormous infrastructure with often more than 100,000 servers, is their focus on business strategy, security and support, flexibility, and offering advantageous standard packages as well as dedicated servers and secure clouds. Just like with local providers it is a good idea to read their SLAs thoroughly: do they only offer a 'basic' or a more extensive support (i.e. with data storage)? What do they emphasise and what technology do they use?
The comparison Daniel made with the first electric clock struck. In that example, electricity was first merely used to swing the pendulum. Only later came the idea of using electricity to drive the clock. The same can be seen with cloud computing. In the first place companies want to be able to use cloud solutions easily. However, for a cost-efficient solution it is important to go a step further and scrutinise the entire IT infrastructure, including operations and any interesting applications in the cloud.
Explore the opportunities of SaaS for growing your software business.
Do you know Davy Kestens? He founded his software company SparkCentral (formally known as TwitSpark) in 2011, raised more than 5 million dollars and has 16 people working for him, with customers like Delta Airlines, Brussels Airlines or Volkswagen. Or Woorank, the company of Jean Dereley. They are based in Brussels, founded in 2011, 18 people. These are just 2 examples of Belgian software companies that grow and scale fast thanks to SaaS. Software is eating the world, isn't it.
Contact us today!What about your software offering?
Of course, for them, it was easy, they were SaaS from day one. For most software companies in Belgium, the situation is more complicated: Your current offering is complex and requires tweaking and tuning for each customer, you face long sales cycles, your software architecture and technology was never intended to be used across the Internet by multiple customers at once. All this is preventing you from growing your business through a SaaS model. And while we are at it, all this Cloud/IaaS/PaaS/SaaS stuff is pretty overwhelming, isn't it."My Software as a SaaS?" bootcamp
Enter the "My Software as a SaaS?" bootcamps: In 3 afternoon sessions, we will bring you up to speed with the whole idea of a SaaS business and identify with you the roadblocks you might encounter on your way to a scalable SaaS offering. We'll also bring you in contact with experienced entrepreneurs that went through this journey before you. After those 3 afternoons, you'll understand how you might benefit from going SaaS.Practical details:
Target Audience: Decision makers (CEO, Founders, CTO) of software companies that are considering SaaS to grow their business but currently do not have a SaaS offering yet.
Dates: April 30th, May 15th (new date!!) and May 20th, 13:00 – 18:00
Format: 3 highly interactive afternoon workshops, with homework and coaching in between the sessions, for a limited audience, max. 8 companies.Agenda:April 30th 2014: The Big Picture
Introduction to SaaS and how it differs from a "traditional" software business, with a focus on the whole business model.What is SaaS, why SaaS, why SaaS now – definition and trendsDifferences between a "traditional" software company and a SaaS companyProduct definition, Operations, SpeedSaaS Revenue Models and financialsTop 10 things to do and not do for SaaS companies when it comes to security & privacyCase study: a Belgian SaaS entrepreneur
May 15th: Discovering a SaaS Offering
Introduction to Lean StartupDiscovering what SaaS offering works and for whomBuilding scalable channels and customer relationshipsCase study: a Belgian SaaS entrepreneur
May 20th: Product, Technology and Processes
Building blocks of a SaaS application: (IaaS, PaaS, public/private cloud)Legacy software in the CloudSaaS engineering processes: introduction to DevOpsCase study: from monthly releases to continuous deployment
All 3 sessions will take place in Ghent: Gaston Crommenlaan 8, 9050 LedebergExperts:
Nick Boucart works at Sirris as a technological advisor in software engineering and ICT. He has 10+ years of experience in software development teams large and small. Nick fills his day coaching technology startups, helping software companies make technological choices, often on the borders of business, product and technology.
Peter Verhasselt is an engineer, jurist and strategist with a large network in Belgian high tech industry. Peter has started and led the Mistral program at Sirris that guided 70+ companies in finding the right technology strategy to enable growth.
Omar Mohout is a Growth Engineer – building repeatable, scalable customer acquisition engines for technology companies.
Ulrich Seldeslachts is the CEO of LSEC – Leaders in Security, a non-profit association focussed on creating awareness for enterprise and government on Information Security, bringing together expertise on Security and electronic Identities in Europe. Ulrich has been leading the group of information security professionals in Belgium for many years. He is founding partner of the European Security Innovation Network, bringing together the experts on information security related topics from all over the world.
Frederik Denkens is co-founder at skyscrapers, cloud hosting experts who can guide you through the options of cloud computing and help you find, build and maintain the best solution for your needs at any moment.
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