Cloud services provide hardware for businesses on a rental basis and include technicians to maintain that hardware. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products give you the software you need plus the hardware to run it on.
As with cloud servers, SaaS includes all maintenance services, and the technician time needed to keep the software up to date and running at peak performance.
Monitoring systems need to watch over the successful operations of networks, servers, and applications. Complicating that task further is the need to monitor the performance of the software that provides the monitoring functions, plus the services that support it and the servers on which everything runs. Shifting monitoring tools out to the cloud simplifies the systems management tasks of any business.
Here is our list of the five best SaaS monitoring tools:
- Pingdom EDITOR’S CHOICE Website uptime and response time monitoring from more than 100 locations around the globe.
- SolarWinds MSP RMM (FREE TRIAL) A package of system monitoring and management tools delivered from the cloud. Suitable for MSPs and centralized IT departments.
- Atera A complete support system for managed service providers. This SaaS platform includes infrastructure monitoring and management tools plus MSP business management facilities and user support modules.
- Datadog Real User Monitoring Website performance monitoring that traces a typical user journey through a site.
- Site24x7 All-in-one Plan A bundle of system monitoring and management tools that include both infrastructure and website monitoring.
Accounting with SaaS
SaaS products have a big cost advantage over software packages that you need to buy outright. That is, you don’t need to pay the whole cost of the software upfront. The SaaS model charges by subscription. This makes accounting tasks easier. Traditionally, the cost of buying software licenses needs to be distributed over several years. As the SaaS charges also include server space, there is no upfront hardware purchase cost to amortize either.
Typically, you can expect that services and equipment rentals require a deposit or a minimum service period. These factors can complicate accounting. However, SaaS monitoring systems don’t ask for deposits or impose contracts, so those problems disappear with SaaS.
There are even SaaS accounting packages available. All of a business’s hardware and software needs can be provided through a SaaS model, which greatly simplifies the process of writing the accounts for the company.
Startups and distributed businesses
SaaS systems make life a lot easier for startups. The entrepreneur needs to raise enough money to get the business started and sustain it until it achieves profitability. The high cost of buying IT infrastructure just adds to those initial costs. However, SaaS systems reduce that bill down to almost nothing.
SaaS monitoring systems reduce the need to hire technicians. Although you will need some technical staff to check on the SaaS monitors, these systems include alert mechanisms that trigger when problems are detected. This means that technicians can assume everything is working satisfactorily because they will be notified when there is a problem. So, technician staff numbers can be reduced because many of the time-consuming performance monitoring tasks that they would normally be expected to perform are now being taken care of by the SaaS monitoring system.
Distributed companies can operate a “virtual office” without the need to rent or buy their own premises. However, if they need to run a system performance monitor, they would have to take on-premises just to house the server that runs the monitoring software. With SaaS monitoring systems, that requirement is wiped out.
SaaS monitoring of SaaS
With cloud services and SaaS systems available for just about every IT requirement of a typical company, there is no need for in-house IT infrastructure and so why would anyone need a SaaS monitor?
Unfortunately, all software systems need to be connected together, both logically through APIs and libraries of functions and through physical network connections. Virtual offices that have everyone working remotely still have security issues to monitor and still need to ensure that all the cloud-based software and services that they subscribe to are working properly. So, even a business that has no on-premises IT resources still needs system monitors and it makes sense for a SaaS-based business to use SaaS-based monitoring systems.
Categories of SaaS monitors
There are six types of monitoring systems that can all be delivered on the SaaS model:
- Network, server, and application performance monitoring
- Network traffic monitoring
- System security monitoring
- Customer activity monitoring
- Equipment usage monitoring
- Standards compliance monitoring
All of these monitoring activities can be performed just as well by SaaS monitoring systems as they can by on-premises software. In some cases, such as website performance monitoring or mobile device usage monitoring, off-site, cloud-based monitoring systems are better located to fully monitor performance and activity than on-premises software.
Setting up SaaS monitors
One problem that you might have experienced with any monitoring software is that it is difficult to set up. There is often a lot of work to put in so that the monitor actually watches the parts of your system that you bought it to supervise. The idea of having a systems monitor running in a different location in an unknown corner of the world could put you off.
SaaS monitor providers realize that businesses don’t want to waste time on setup, so they have put in place very easy-to-use consoles for their monitors that are accessible through any standard web browser from any computer. Setup processes are also simplified and managed. Usually, a new account holder just has to follow a setup wizard to get the monitor operating successfully.
As the monitor is based outside your network, it is going to need to get past your firewall. Messing about with the firewall settings to allow monitoring traffic through might be an off-putting thought. However, most SaaS monitoring systems work through an agent that is resident on your system. The agent gathers data and sends it to the SaaS server for processing. The outbound connection won’t be blocked by your firewall, so you will not have to make any changes in order to let the monitoring traffic flow.
Installing the agent program is a very easy, guided task as well. The wizard for the console will guide the process. The agent gets downloaded through a button on the dashboard and then installs itself through an automated process.
Most network and server monitors include autodiscovery routines. In the case of network monitors, the autodiscovery process locates and documents all devices connected to the network. Server monitors scan the server for all installed software and log them. These routines provide the basis for management functions, such as IT asset inventories, configuration management, and software license management. Many SaaS monitors also perform system management tasks as well.
SaaS monitor security
A big psychological barrier that many businesses put up against any cloud-based or SaaS product is a loss of control. What if one of the technicians at the SaaS business is an industrial spy? What if hackers break into the servers of the SaaS monitoring system? What if the SaaS provider is secretly selling information on its clients on the side to make more money? What if the SaaS system turns out to be subcontracting underlying infrastructure management to China, or Russia, or North Korea?
SaaS providers are better experienced in infrastructure management and technician recruitment than the manager of any typical business. As IT is the main focus of these companies, they have very highly skilled managers and know what to look for when they are hiring staff.
Although it is possible that one of their employees could become disgruntled and try to steal data, IT-focused businesses have procedures in place to prevent customer data from being accessed by employees. This is because each customer of a SaaS system has an account that is protected by user credentials. The staff of the service don’t have access to those login credentials and they can’t break into each account to access its data.
There were a few major scandals concerning big companies offering cloud services where data was stolen by foreign state-sponsored hackers – Sony and Apple experienced major data theft incidents. However, these break-ins occurred during the early days of cloud services and those events spurred cloud providers to institute very tight security measures.
Although it is not impossible that a security breach can happen on a SaaS service, there is really a much higher likelihood that a breach will happen on a business’s own private system. SaaS services live by their ability to attract customers, so keeping security stringent is one of their main survival priorities. You are more likely to get your data stolen from your own on-premises servers than from a SaaS system.
Connection reliability and security
The connection between the on-premises agent and the SaaS server is critical. Relying on SaaS monitoring systems makes your internet connection much more important. If the connection goes down, you lose your system monitors. However, a fully functioning internet connection is vital to any business function. Without your internet connection running constantly, your business will not be able to operate properly. So, a reliable internet connection should already be a priority for you.
Internet connection security both between the agent and the server and between the user’s browser and the dashboard on the SaaS server is also important. That’s why SaaS providers make sure to enforce encryption on all of their connections.
The best SaaS monitoring tools
If you are now convinced that SaaS monitoring tools have great advantages over on-premises monitoring software, it is now time to look at some good examples of cloud-delivered monitoring systems.
As SaaS is now an industry goal for all software providers, there is an ever-growing list of SaaS monitoring tools available on the market. However, some providers are ahead of the pack and have created SaaS monitoring tools that not only beat the competitors in the cloud services market but they do a better job than their on-premises rivals.
To give you a good idea of what to expect from SaaS monitoring systems, we have looked for exemplary tools that illustrate exactly how SaaS excels in the field of system monitoring.
You can read more about each of these SaaS monitoring systems in the following sections.
Pingdom is an uptime and performance monitor for websites. The Pingdom service is delivered not from one data center, but from 100. The many locations of the servers that issue availability tests on a website ensure that all of the connections between a site and any possible visitor are working.
It is very common for websites to be hosted on cache servers in strategic locations around the world through a content delivery network. This means that people in different countries really access different copies of a site. Therefore, if a faraway cache server goes down, the managers of the website would not realize it because their own tests launched from their own premises would still show that the site is available even though millions of people elsewhere no longer have access.
You can get a 14-day free trial of Pingdom.
Pingdom is our first choice. Their strategy of launching tests from many locations is a good example of how SaaS services can perform better than on-premises monitors. They also lead the way with their Synthetic and Real User Monitoring modules that give you a more commanding view of website performance.
Start 14-day Free Trial: https://www.pingdom.com/
SolarWinds MSP RMM is a package of system monitoring and management tools delivered from the cloud. The RMM is suitable for MSPs and IT departments that need to access remote sites. Thanks to this SaaS system, multi-site businesses can centralize all of their infrastructure monitoring and management in one location.
Features include fully automated IT asset inventory compilation and software discovery. The service dashboard is accessed through any standard browser and all communications between monitored sites and the SolarWinds MSP server are protected with encryption.
The RMM includes antivirus systems and a documentation management add-on. You can experience SolarWinds MSP RMM with a 30-day free trial.
Atera offers a bundle of software that provides all of the services that a Managed Service Provider (MSP) requires. This includes tools for technicians and all of the business management systems that the managers of the company need.
Technician tools include a full infrastructure monitor that incorporates network discovery. This sets up the monitoring system by tracking down every piece of equipment connected to the client’s network and compiling an IT asset inventory. The network monitor is based on the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and includes an alert mechanism. Alert thresholds are set so that any problem is predicted with enough time to allow technicians to head off disaster.
Atera is priced on a subscription per technician per month. This makes the SaaS system very attractive to small and startup MSPs. A single user gets access to all of the tools that are available to a large MSP. The pricing model of Atera is also attractive to rapidly expanding businesses. The MSP can add seats when it gains a new customer and drop technician subscriptions when business contracts. There is no deposit requirement and no minimum service period. You can access Atera on a free trial.
Datadog offers a range of system monitoring and management options that are all SaaS products delivered from the cloud. The Real User Monitoring service is aimed at the management of websites.
A real user monitoring test is useful during every stage of a website’s lifecycle. Tests can be performed on a page-by-page basis but the real value of the system lies in a full system walkthrough.
Designers of websites can look at the full user journey and examine the efficiency of services that draw a user towards becoming a buyer. Continued testing with Real User Monitoring during the service life of a site alerts the management team to any service failures, logging system errors, and performance drops.
Analytical tools in the SaaS package from Datadog offer useful insights into which pages draw more traffic and how a website can be improved. The Datadog Real User Monitoring service is changed for by subscription with a fee per 10,000 sessions paid monthly. You can get a 14-day trial of the service.
Site24x7 is a cloud-based system that offers SaaS monitoring and system management tools. The tool list of this SaaS provider includes server, application, and website monitoring. Instead of taking out a subscription to each of these services individually, you can opt for the All-in-one bundle that includes all three SaaS monitoring services. The only infrastructure monitoring service that is missing from this package is network monitoring.
The Site24x7 All-in-one plan is available in four editions. All versions include the same services but higher plans deal with greater traffic and data processing volumes and offer a larger number of service add-ons in the price. You can get a 30-day free trial of the Site24x7 All-in-one plan.