Increasingly, many businesses engaging in ecommerce are relying on cloud-based solutions such as analytics platforms, shopping carts, accounting services and an array of CRM/ERP services such as NetSuite. They use cloud-based applications because they offer reduced infrastructure and maintenance costs, they are generally faster to get online, and offer accessibility from virtually any location.
To ensure seamless operation, cloud-based solutions must be well integrated to prevent the loss of data, ensure reporting accuracy, and to save time. Therefore, it is vital that integration is considered when you are selecting cloud-based, otherwise known as SaaS (software as a service) solutions.
We’ll provide you with some useful tips that may help.
When you are evaluating a cloud-based, SaaS product, you must first find out if it will integrate with the systems you’re currently using. Integrations that are pre-built can save a lot of time. As an alternative, if the application that you are considering has an API, considering using it to integrate it with your current systems. Determine if this API will be adequate for your needs.
IF you are unable to find integration that will suit your needs or if you don’t want to use the API that is provided, contact the SaaS vendor directly and ask them if they can provide a mechanism to integrate their product with your existing platforms. Don’t neglect this step. Frequently a vendor will provide a mechanism for integration based upon your request. This is particularly true if there have been multiple requests for a similar type of integration, since the vendor will be able to use this solution with other customers.
Another option that is worth exploring is using a service that specialises in integrating cloud applications. There are numerous services that do this and your choice will depend upon the type of integration you need to facilitate. If your integration is relatively simple, like integrating a couple of apps, you may want to consider using IFTTT (if this then that). This is a service that allows you to make an assignment of triggers to actions for each application via a simple drag-and-drop type interface. When an action occurs in one program it will trigger a second app to execute an action. For instance, you can create a scenario whereby all of your attachments on Gmail are saved automatically in a Dropbox folder. You can use IFTTT free of charge and you have the ability to integrate as many as eighty apps.
There is a service that offers similar functionality as IFTTT on a bigger scale. It is called Zapier, and it supports more than 250 popular applications. There is no charge for Zapier for up to 5 integrations, and they also offer more integrations for a monthly fee that can range from $15 to $99/month.
Both Zapier and IFTTT will function well if your integration involves two applications that are cloud-based. On the other hand, if you have a combination of on-premise and cloud applications or if you have a scenario that entails data sources and apps that must interact and exchange data, you will require a more sophisticated solution.
If you need a more sophisticated solution services like SnapLogic and Dell Boomi can be helpful. These services can provide you with a relatively simple to use integration platform to connect disparate data sources. You can use a drag-and-drop type interface to connect various combinations of on-premise and cloud applications.
You should always try out your integration service and applications before proceeding. The majority of SaaS platforms will offer you a free trial. Try out their functionality and usability and observe how well the play with your existing applications.
Similar to the evaluation of any product or service you are considering using, look beyond the vendor’s website. Inquire with others that have used their services. Get references from the vendor and contact other businesses that have used their service. Ask them how well the service is working, How difficult is it to set-up? Does it integrate well with other applications? What are the data transfer times?
It’s also helpful to look for reviews and social media commentary regarding the program or service you are considering.