Reliability as a competitive strategy
Today, Intermedia officially updated its service level agreement to guarantee 99.999% uptime, from the 99.99% we guaranteed in our previous SLA. While this may seem like a fairly small technical change, I think that this is a great representation of Intermedia’s philosophy for future success in a market that is quickly becoming very crowded.
Mary Hayes Weier wrote a great article a few weeks ago for InformationWeek.com, titled “6 Things SaaS Needs To Do in 2009”. She makes some very strong points around what SaaS vendors need to do to remain competitive in the coming year. Her second recommendation – “Escalate from ‘Very Good’ to ‘Excellent’ Uptime Ratings” – was great validation for Intermedia on how we’ve been operating and working to improve our services.
At a time when many other hosted Exchange vendors are focusing their competitive efforts around lowering prices and increasing mailbox sizes, Intermedia has avoided these commoditization strategies, and has instead put a lot of time, money and effort into improving its operational performance. We’re pursuing what we call the ‘premium service delivery’ route by continuously improving and upgrading our infrastructure to provide the highest level of uptime, reliability and service quality to our customers possible.
Personally, I think this is an important trend – and one of the only trends that won’t further drive the commoditization of the hosted software services market. While providers can find more ways to drive down prices or (in the case of Exchange specifically) drive mailbox sizes up to irrelevantly high allocations, service, support and reliability remain the most critical success factor in retaining customers. And perhaps more importantly to this conversation, these elements of the offering are not simple marketing decisions that can be achieved with just a simple update to the Web site. They require investment in good technology, proven processes and great people.
As Hayes Weier noted, “Everyone knows that there is no such thing as 100% uptime…” Even the 99.999% uptime (the equivalent of no more than 24 seconds of downtime in the month of February) that Intermedia is guaranteeing is quite honestly a very high bar. But as COO, I take a lot of pride in the fact that our infrastructure, technology and technical and support staff are strong enough to enable us to make that promise to our customers. And I feel confident that it is this type of strategy and philosophy that will see SaaS providers in general rise to the top of their niche space in the coming months and years.