Software as a Service (SaaS) projects face many unique challenges during development. Teams working on SaaS products need to focus on scalability, to make sure new modules and functionalities can be built easily as the platform develops and customers present special requirements. They need to be able to test their code easily and deliver a high-quality experience to enterprise clients. Thankfully, Ruby on Rails is a technology that helps SaaS companies solve many of these issues.

External APIs

Thanks to Ruby on Rails, it’s easy to make a platform’s API available externally. This helps to extend the platform with other services or products. Let’s take a loot at Shopify, a SaaS platform that provides full infrastructures for ecommerce, including an online marketplace, social media sharing buttons, payments, and the shop’s own domain - all for a monthly fee based on a subscription plan. Thanks to Shopify’s policy for their API, external teams can provide new modules and sell them on the Shopify App Store.

This means many ready-made solutions that can extend the functionality of e-commerce platforms. It makes Shopify an extremely flexible tool, and it was a master move by the company - external teams provide them with extra income at no extra cost! As for e-commerce businesses, it’s often easier and faster to implement external services than to build custom ones. And it can be much cheaper, especially if you count the time spent on testing and fine-tuning a custom-built solution.

Scaling

The ability to build new modules easily and quickly can be a huge advantage for SaaS platforms. Customers often have individual needs and it’s important to meet them as quickly as possible. We’ve had this experience with several clients. One, a SaaS recruitment platform, needed a custom module for one of their customers, which we managed to create without delay. Thanks to Rails’ flexibility, it was also easy to later implement the same functionality for all other customers who expressed interest in the new features.

Bug-free solutions

Delivering a high quality solution to customers is a challenge, but a worthwhile one. Faultless, bug-free software helps retain valuable customers and build good relationships with them. Testing goes a long way in helping make sure all hidden bugs have been found and fixed. Ruby on Rails presents developers with options for easier, more flexible testing that produces fewer bugs, and requires fewer resources to make an app presentable.

Performance

Thanks to Rails gems (the name used for Ruby libraries) focused on optimization, it’s easy to find issues which would otherwise remain unknown. One example is communication with the database. Let’s say we have a SaaS platform in which a user can see their list of purchases. For each record, user data would normally be downloaded from the database. This might seem like a small thing for a single user, but on a SaaS platform with thousands of customers, a simple issue like this can have a huge impact on overall performance.

In a similar case when working on a client’s project, we discovered this issue thanks to a Ruby gem created for the purpose of boosting app performance. The result? We managed to achieve the same functionality without fetching all of the data from the database each time, and increased the product’s performance.

Individual approach

Configuration for an individual customer doesn’t have to be difficult or costly thanks to Rails’ flexibility. Let’s say a customer wants their shop’s product images to be hosted on Amazon. The team developing the ecommerce platform can integrate it with the customer’s Amazon account to achieve this. This means using an existing account rather than the default solution provided by the SaaS platform. It might not sound like much of a benefit (maybe you want customers to use hosting solutions provided by you), but in the long-term, it means catering to individual customers’ needs. With the amount of competition in the SaaS market, a business strategy that allows for a more individual approach to key accounts can make all the difference.

You can configure many kinds of existing services with a SaaS platform built with Ruby on Rails. Amazon’s and Google’s storage solutions can be very convenient for customers who don’t want to import many gigabytes of images to display them on their Shopify store. By integrating Shopify with these storage options, the problem is solved. Thanks to Rails, developers can use Ruby gems to take care of this without a hassle.

Conclusions

Ruby on Rails is a fantastic tool for building SaaS platforms. It can work for startups, and it can bring a huge advantage to large-scale projects. Because the technology is so flexible and scalable, and offers so many useful resources, it’s always worth considering when you choose the tech stack for your web app.

Developing a SaaS platform can be challenging, but choosing the right technology might save you a lot of trouble and help you deliver a better product. iRonin’s team has experience building SaaS apps from scratch and improving existing ones. We can help you leverage RoR’s benefits to help your business.