Some SaaS apps are cloud averse

By Mark Everett Hall
June 30, 2009 5:15 PM EDT
Can some applications be utterly wrong to run in the cloud and yet be ideally suited for software as a service? That bad-for-cloud, right-for-SaaS idea seems contradictory. Yet, David Thompson makes a pretty good case for at least one application: e-mail.

Thompson, CEO of Genius.com Inc. in San Mateo, Calif., is specifically talking about e-mail marketing campaigns like what his company's SaaS-based marketing automation offering provides. And he's only talking about the good kind of bulk e-mail, of course. You know, those comprised of opt-in, permissions-based, and up-to-date lists of ready and willing message recipients. Still, even with those caveats, he makes a good point about the limits of deploying some apps in the cloud.

He suggests small and medium businesses think they'll be able to leverage accounts on Salesforce.com or Amazon's EC2 services for outbound marketing. Alas, he says, they will be sorely disappointed.

"Salesforce limits you to about 500 e-mails a month," he says. And he points to reputation problems marketers have had using Amazon's cloud services.

However, Thompson claims SaaS is the best approach to email campaigns, even better than having an on-premises application. That's because his customers get what he calls the "the economies of collaboration." When one customer gets a "hard bounce" of an undeliverable message to a person's e-mail address, that name can be deleted from anyone's list on the Genius.com service.

ISPs and spam watchers take notice of the number of hard bounces your e-mail generates and if you create too many of them your e-mail gets tagged as suspect. By pooling the knowledge of hard bounces fewer bad messages get sent.

Genius.com offers its customers the ability to share their hard bounces with other e-mail campaigners. Thompson says a few companies are signing up for the extra service. But some, he admits, are reluctant, thinking (stupidly) that removing a name from their mail list gives them a competitive leg up on everyone else. It's that kind of narrow-minded thinking that gives e-mail marketing a bad name.