Among the primary customers that we serve at Section are SaaS (Software as a Service) companies that license and deliver software on a subscription basis from a central hosting platform. SaaS has become a popular delivery model for many business segments - from payroll processing to HR management, along with all types of other enterprise applications. The Section platform is a very compatible solution for SaaS companies for three key reasons.
1. Free SSL Certificates and Flexibility to Upload Custom Certifications
Typically, traditional CDNs (even those who offer free monthly services such as Cloudflare) will require you to pay for their most advanced plans, which are the ones that you need in order to benefit from unlimited SSL features. Such enterprise plans typically cost in the region of several thousands of dollars per month. For a small SaaS company getting up and running, or even for a larger SaaS company, this can be an expensive piece of the monthly pie.
So why do you need an SSL certificate? SaaS companies frequently act as placeholders for other clients white labeling their software. That client will typically want to use their own custom domain or a subdomain of the system they are using, and for each domain, they will need a separate SSL certificate in order to create a secure link between a website and a user’s browser. The SSL certificate authenticates a website’s identity and encrypts information sent to the server using SSL technology. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, which is the protocol that provides the encryption.
For example, Status Page is a SaaS business that offers customer relationship management software to update and inform its customers of digital problems. Section happens to be one of those customers; in fact, we white label Status Page’s software. In SSL terms, this means that they have to provide us with an SSL certificate so that when a user goes to our Status Page subdomain, the information is encrypted over the Internet.
Contrary to other CDNs, Section provides free SSL certificates for every single domain that you require; this is included in our base price of $500. When you sign up with Section, you can benefit from unlimited free SSL certificates, which for many SaaS companies is a significant boon. This feature also plays into the second key benefit of using Section.
2. Unlimited Number of Domains per Account
Many CDNs charge per domain and will limit the number of domains you can get on their free plans. Once you start paying for a larger number of domains, it can quickly get very expensive. With Section’s highly reasonable base rate price, you get an unlimited number of domains and SSL certificates; you only pay more on a per-traffic basis. If you have lots of traffic, you will pay extra, but you will nonetheless greatly benefit from avoiding a base rate of around $3-4K/month, which is what other CDNs will charge for their plans that include unlimited domains.
How is section.io able to do this you may ask? Well, we use Let’s Encrypt, which is a free, automated and open source of SSL certificates. It allows us to charge you just for the administrational overhead. If you use Let’s Encrypt directly, you have to manually manage the auto renewing of the SSL certificates that they provide. These expire every three months; thus in order to lessen your operational task list, our platform provisions a certificate for you whenever you need one and handles those time-burdensome renewals. This is how we are able to provide the service and hand on those cost-saving benefits to you.
3. RESTful API
The third reason that we tend to work very well for the needs of SaaS customers is that we use a RESTful API that automates the process of provisioning SSL certificates and adding domains to the Section platform. Other CDNs have limitations on automating internal processes. The Section API, however, allows SaaS companies (and indeed any other company) to bake the SSL certification process directly into your application’s logic, allowing you to automate that management process. Once you code it into your application, you will never have to touch it again.
Other examples of how the API works, in addition to provisioning SSL certificates and adding domains automatically, include managing your cache remotely (e.g. automatically deleting cache based on a certain trigger event from a user); or using it to poll (or ping) Section in order to grab certain metrics that you might want to bring into your own platform to display directly to your customers. All these examples serve to reduce operational overhead, allowing you to automate tasks that would otherwise take up the valuable time of your operations teams and letting them focus instead on other things, such as building and running awesome applications.
SaaS Customer Leveraging the Section Platform for SSL White Labeling and Beyond
We’ve helped multiple SaaS companies automate functionality into their applications that previously was either cumbersome or too expensive with other solutions. One such example is ScreenSteps, which provides an easy to use knowledge base for a business’ employees and customer base. They offer a feature for each business to add a custom domain and provide a free SSL certificate, all of which is automated through the Section API. ScreenSteps was able to test the API in a staging environment and eventually deploy to production giving them peace of mind before making critical changes in production. In this particular implementation, the custom UI is built directly into the ScreenSteps application, making Section completely invisible to their user base. By choosing Section for this functionality they were also able to offer their customers a globally distributed caching layer with Varnish Cache to improve performance, visibility into HTTP traffic via ElasticSearch and Kibana, and the ability to add additional modules to their proxy stack when the need arises.