How SaaS companies can ensure their apps are fast, safe, and reliable

By Vivek Ganti, Cloudflare Product Marketing

Today, the Internet is the lifeblood of business and the primary vehicle of commerce and communication for people around the world. While it was brilliantly architected to deliver fault tolerance and connectivity, it was not designed to deliver the millisecond performance, robust security, and reliability required for businesses today.

In a world where the speed, security, and reliability of applications are foundational to their very existence, how do SaaS providers ensure these basic needs are met?

Speed matters.

Let’s address the first fundamental need of the Internet: speed. At the dawn of the millennium, the human attention span was 12 seconds long; today, it is only eight seconds1.

This has profound implications not only for marketers and advertisers but also for web
developers and SaaS providers. Today’s digital consumers demand websites, applications, and APIs that load instantaneously and are never offline.

Research shows that the speed of an application or website directly impacts user engagement, conversions, and search engine optimization (SEO) ranking.

The severity of performance problems varies widely, ranging from a few seconds of delay to the entire application being unresponsive or unavailable.

However, even small issues can have a noticeable impact on engagement and conversion rates:

  • Google found increased site latency as small as 100 – 400 milliseconds to have a measurable impact on consumer behavior
  • Just one additional second of load time can cause conversions to drop by 7%
  • About half of mobile users expect apps to respond in two seconds or less

A variety of factors can impact SaaS application performance, including the geographic distance between the application’s origin server and the end-user, the application’s design, seasonal spikes in demand, end-users’ internet connectivity, and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, where hackers bombard servers with junk requests in an attempt to overwhelm them. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are the most common ways for SaaS providers to deal with these challenges.

Global CDNs with data centers don’t just help deliver static and dynamic content faster to end-users, they also help reduce bandwidth costs. But solving for speed is only one dimension to the multi-faceted problem that faces global SaaS providers today.

Secure apps = Basic survival.

In addition to hackers seeking to intercept sensitive customer data in transit, SaaS providers are frequently targeted by DDoS attacks, credential stuffing, targeted DNS attacks, malicious bots, and other cyberattacks.

Effectively mitigating these threats requires a multi-pronged strategy combining proactive and reactive security measures. Global networks help absorb the impact of DDoS attacks by distributing traffic across multiple servers, while traffic filtering measures such as rate-limiting, whitelisting/ blacklisting IP addresses, and connection tracking block malicious requests. CDNs can also ensure that applications have fresh TLS/SSL certificates to encrypt and protect data in transit. The best defense against DNS attacks is to use a secure, managed DNS registration service that makes use of DNSSEC, a set of security protocols that verifies DNS records using cryptographic signatures. By ensuring that a site’s signature matches its record, DNS resolvers can authenticate the origin of the data being sent from the DNS server.

Redundancy and Reliability.

The third (and often overlooked) dimension is reliability. Ensuring websites and applications are online and available for users all over the world, even in times of peak demand is important. Often times, significant spikes in demand, hardware and system failures, or DDoS attacks impact the uptime of the service.

Load balancing distributes application traffic across multiple servers to maximize performance. In addition to ensuring that no one server is overloaded, if a server does go down, a load balancer redirects traffic to the remaining servers. Client requests can be distributed sequentially, routed to the server with the fewest connections or, as in the case of a CDN, geo-steered to the server that is closest to the end-user.

Performance, Security, or Reliability. Pick three.

SaaS providers are often faced with a choice. They are asked to compromise on one of the three fundamental needs of the Internet: performance, security, and reliability.
This is a false choice.

What’s needed is a global cloud platform that delivers fast performance with integrated security and robust reliability across all kinds of architectures: on-premises, hybrid, or cloud-native applications. A distributed cloud network that can deliver content close to the end-users, block threats closest to the source, and ensure availability even during peak load times is key to the survival and success of any SaaS application today.

One could say they form the modern equivalent of Maslow’s needs for the Internet today – speed, security, and reliability.

 

  1. The Human Attention Span [Infographic], Digital Information World, https://www.digitalinformationworld.com/2018/09/the-human-attention-span-infographic.html. Accessed August 6, 2019.
  2. Brutlag, Jake. “Speed Matters,” Google AI Blog, https://ai.googleblog.com/2009/06/speed-matters.html. Accessed August 6, 2019.
  3. Rodman, Tedd. “Marketing & Web Performance: How Site Speed Impacts Metrics,” Yotta, https://www. yottaa.com/marketing-web-performance-101-how-site-speed-impacts-your-metrics. Accessed August 6, 2019.
  4. Dimensional Research. “Failing to Meet Mobile App User Expectations: A Mobile App User Survey,” https://techbeacon.com/sites/default/files/gated_asset/mobile-app-user-survey-failing-meet-userexpectations.pdf. Accessed August 6, 2019.
Published on November 22, 2019

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