This issue of “buyer-beware” has been around for decades. Saas and Cloud Computing are new buzzwords for outsourcing, albeit using some of today’s newer technologies and some variance in methodology. If the Saas world doesn’t learn from the mistakes of the outsourcing world, it will not fail, but it will have a rougher time than it needs to. “Escape clauses”, especially the “for convenience” variety were not seen in the early days of outsourcing, but eventually came onto the scene. The ability to ramp up (or down) is highly desirable, especially in the current economic situation. But the vendors usually have a tough time controlling their costs in a way that allows a high degree of variability. Kristen’s opening premise is right on – buyer beware. Do some contract modeling using various economic and company conditions.
I believe their is another element that needs to be on the table – liability. It is also one that has caused some rough spots for outsourcing. With things like HIPAA and more recent privacy laws (especially when you look globally), how are Saas and Cloud vendors going to address this issue. I think this will gain visibility as the new emphasis on Health Information Exchange gains momentum.