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How Not to Do Software-as-a-Service

Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, is one of the biggest trends in business today. The notion of simply subscribing to a business application rather than purchasing and maintaining software and hardware is a compelling one. Companies like and Google have built very successful businesses around the SaaS model, and today there are literally hundreds–perhaps thousands–of SaaS vendors.

Intuit, best known for Quicken and Quickbooks software, has a couple of SaaS offerings, including Homesites, a quick and easy way to launch and maintain Websites, and Quickbooks Online, a SaaS version of their well-known accounting software.

I have been running my business using Quickbooks Online for the past several months, and by and large have been very pleased with it. Granted, my needs are simple, mostly related to accounts payable and accounts receivable, but nonetheless I have become very dependent on the service to run my business on a day-to-day basis.

Intuit suffered an outage beginning around 7pm on Tuesday June 15th that continued for around 24 hours that affected the online versions of Quickbooks, Turbotax and Quicken software. Users, which by and large are small businesses, could not process credit cards, send checks, issue invoices, and do payroll. This outage had enormous impact on their customers.

The only notification users received was a sticky note on the Quickbooks website that said something to the effect of “We’ll be back soon…”  After the service was restored, Intuit put an apology up on the website, along with a lame explanation of what happened:

“Our preliminary investigation indicates the outage occurred during a routine maintenance procedure Tuesday night. An accidental power failure during that procedure affected both our primary and backup systems, taking a number of Intuit websites and services offline. While power was quickly restored, we’re working diligently to validate our systems and bring them back into full operation.”

This, in my opinion as a seasoned technology professional, is completely unacceptable. If a company is going to provide business-critical applications via the SaaS model, it had better be 110% sure that problems like this cannot affect all primary and backup systems at the same time. While details as to the exact mechanics of the failure may never come to light, I for one am seriously considering taking my business elsewhere–and recommending that others do the same. Intuit is obviously not ready for SaaS prime time!

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