Running a SaaS? Here are some services you’ll find useful

by Thomas Fuchs

index

This December, our Time Tracking app Freckle will turn five. I’ve learned a lot about running a SaaS over these years, from making the right business decisions to choosing the technology to go with them.

The single most important thing you have to do as a business is make money. You need to pay your bills and put food on the table. At the same time you don’t want to compromise what you’ve set out for, in our case building the best time tracking tool there is and making it fun and awesome.

It follows that you need to have the most time available to actually talk to customers, refine the product and add awesome features—without losing the focus on what you’ve set out for.

In other words, you want to minimize time spend on things that other people probably know more about, including obvious things like taxes and accounting, but also keeping a SaaS up and running.

Here’s some tools we happily pay money for to keep some of the work of our backs:

  • Travis Pro for continuous integration. We used to run our own CI server, no more. One more thing we don’t have to keep running
  • NewRelic, which monitors not only the performance of our code and servers, but also external web services. This enables us to watch for performance issues with new releases as well as pro-actively act before something starts to slow down Freckle.
  • Postmark sends our transactional email. No need for us to run our own mail server plus we know we can rely on deliverability. A must if your app sends mail.
  • Honeybadger for error monitoring & tracking
  • DocRaptor, a hosted version of PrinceXML, for converting HTML to PDFs. We literally implemented PDF downloads for invoices in one hour of coding with it (that includes writing tests and all).
  • logentries.com keeps a tab on our logfiles, and provides instant search in case we encounter an issue. Much faster to quickly locate logs as you can view logs of the same time period across servers combined into one view.
  • Dome9 provides a SaaS firewall solution so we don’t have to mess with iptables or other weird things manually. They have an iPhone app to on-demand open up ports we need to administrate our servers.
  • Webmon and Pingdom allows us to monitor world-wide service availability and response time, as well as see if our DNS resolves globally. Pingdom also provides our status website without further configuration necessary (it took 5 minutes to set up).
  • Dead Man’s Snitch emails you when periodical tasks (cronjobs) aren’t running.
  • PagerDuty collects alerts from various services and gives us a central place from where to distribute alerts by text message and emails. This saves time by not having to configure all monitoring services separately.
  • Tinfoil and Trustwave do security scans of our infrastructure, and tell us when it’s time to install security updates.
  • KISSmetrics for metrics and event tracking and Customer.io for sending out on-boarding emails, as well as emails about features.

If there’s someone that can do it for you (probably better than you can) for a price that makes sense, then you’d be stupid to build it yourself (and by the way, this list is not exhaustive, there’s even more services we use).

There’s a thriving ecosystem of apps and services that help you running your SaaS—make good use of it!

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