In my last blog BAAS and SMEs: New Opportunities I explained what Blockchain-as-a-Service is, where it could be used for and what the benefits are for SMEs. But another question is: how should SMEs select BAAS providers and their offerings. What are the various issues they should look at to get the most out of it. In other words: how should SMEs deal with this?
Why many SMEs move to BAAS?
But first, why this growing interest by SMEs for Blockchain-as-a-Service (BAAS)? There are various reasons for that. Such a the promised benefits in terms of efficiency, simplicity, transparency, speed, costs etc.
BAAS has some interesting use cases ranging from smart contracts, document origin tracking, resource sharing, single window, contract execution and spend rationalisation.
And BAAS could be used in various business activities like food safety tracking, international transactions, retailer industry, supply chain management, and trading.
What issues for SMEs to consider?
But before a company decides to start integrating BAAS services in their existing infrastructure it is important for them to consider a number of key issues. They should ask themselves a number of key questions.
Such as, does the company really need BAAS (or blockchain)? If so, for what purposes? And what are the specific (basic) requirements to look for at the “ideal” BAAS provider? What other factors to be considered? And finally, which BAAS provider offers the right and best type of solutions for the company?
Do you need BAAS or Not?
One of the first questions a company should ask themselves is do they really need BAAS. Whether or not BAAS matters to a company will depend on a number of issues.
Does the company already works efficiently from a cost and processing point of view? There may be hurdles in the company in the form of managing varied database, browsers, firewalls, application servers, and hardware, that could make it very difficult to integrate BAAS offerings into the legacy network of the company.
And does the company have the team skills that are comfortable and confident (or not) in using BAAS? Do they already use (one or more) cloud providers? And if so, do they have enough experience with these. This question is especially relevant because BAAS offerings are evolving quickly.
Other questions that may determine all or not choosing BAAS will be the tools available, choice of operating systems, ease of use, and pricing, thus costs.
So many things to think about, investigate and discuss.
Some broad guidelines for Selecting a BAAS Partner
Given the lack of readily available guidelines and best practices a lot of discussions and evaluations are needed into the process of selecting a BAAS provider or solution. Here are some broad guidelines a company should consider.
BAAS provider experience
First of all the company should ask themselves has the BAAS provider prior experience in setting up blockchain infrastructure? A company should ensure that the BAAS provider has proven experience in developing and deploying Blockchain technology. Companies should be ensured that the implementer department of the BAAS provider has professional staff that could easily attain the complex solutions for the enterprises. Companies should also ensure that the BAAS provider disposes of a good developer community, thereby guaranteeing “excellent output”.
BAAS provider’s commitment
There is also the question of BAAS provider’s commitment? Delivering quality is of great importance when choosing the right BAAS provider. A company should therefore probe their commitment to quality, process and standards of BAAS offerings.
Another critical issue that a company should investigate is can the BAAS provider deliver security assurance? In the first place they hey should ensure that – for privacy and security reasons – BAAS offerings are built on permissioned blockchains. Given the variety of security issues ranging from application level to server level, it is important to look for potential gaps in security assurance in the proposed BAAS implementation plan.
A company should also look if the BAAS provider has enough experience in deploying. A company should evaluate the BAAS provider’s experience in deploying cloud-based solutions for operating systems similar to that of their organization. SMEs should thereby look for BAAS providers that offer quick and economic deployment, testing, staging, and good production line. Companies also need to ensure that the new Blockchain infrastructure integrates seamlessly with their legacy systems.
A company should make sure that the proposed BAAS systems and processes are user-friendly and easily to adopt. After all, they look for a system that their employees do not find difficult to use or navigate.
SMEs should also ask how innovative BAAS providers are. As BAAS solutions may vary from provider to provider, innovations might be a real trigger in case of any blockchain deployment. Innovations in the BAAS marketplace can create a more different type of BAAS architecture for a company’s organization.
But also in terms of costing control the company should be aware of the real costs. Can a company be assured that they just pay for the value proposition delivered by the BAAS provider? Companies should therefore carefully analyse the pricing options and post-deployment support options and modalities. They should investigate if there are hidden costs linked to the BAAS contract.
Other features of BAAS offerings to look at
But next to these issues there are other basic features of BAAS offerings a company should look for. These include, amongst others, things such as offering good backend or backup solutions, quickly add up new additions to the platform, offer technical support in case of self-deployment etc.
Need for backend services
One key issue that should be investigated thoroughly by SMEs is how BAAS could deliver a company’s unique need for backend services such as integration of popular features and mainstream technologies. A BAAS provider should at least provide some key deliveries including data security, process control, costing control and integration. These backend services should support a wide range of applications without changing the legacy network, often characterised by multiple layers of the data sources, processes and workflows.
Companies should also know the ins and outs of the blockchain platform in order to avoid risks. This asks for adopting proper monitoring and managing tools to manage the BAAS solution network effectively. For security reasons it should be made sure that the application data and user data “should stay within the boundaries of the platform” .
There are also a number of process control requirements for the application. SMEs should be guaranteed that the new BAAS environment needs to keep maintaining the original performance all the time. Some performance checking tools could let companies know how much capable their blockchain solution really is. It also needs to have protection mechanism from hackers, controlling data flow, computer resources, active monitoring tools etc.
Smart contract offering
When considering BAAS a company should make sure that the BAAS provider offers the smart contract integration with the deployment. As you have read in my former blog smart contracts are an important part of any BAAS solution. These allow the companies to electronically measure and encode all terms of the contract so there can be no dispute. Though they are not (yet) legal contracts, they allow the enforcement of an agreement between parties under pre-agreed rules, but also enforces the penalties in case of any rule breaking situation.
And there is the issue of who and who may not have access to certain information within the organisation. Companies should look for identity based consensus solutions as all the enterprise will operate with known identities. Not everyone in the company should have access to internal securitised information.
It is therefore also important to look for secure Identity and Access framework integration with the BAAS solution. It will enable companies to control the user access from critical information in the organisation, helping the administrator to regulate and control access all over the network.
And there is the issue of flexibility in deploying BAAS solutions. BAAS providers should offer versatility when it comes to BAAS frameworks. This asks for the availability of a variety of toolsets for companies. Companies need to have a choice in case of choosing the perfect framework. They should choose a BAAS operator that offers optimal support.
What else to consider?
A final, and may be the best way to select a BAAS architecture is the existing customer ecosystem. In many cases BAAS companies that can offer the most advanced and trouble-free BAAS have a large customer base. So, a BAAS provider with good and positive customer base could be a sign of good quality services.
After having answered all these many questions a company may (or may not) be able to select their favourite BAAS provider. On Google you may find various oversight lists of BAAS providers with many ins and outs.
Enjoy your BAAS journey!
Economist and researcher