Businesses in Britain are “underwhelmed” with software as a service, according to Gartner.

On a ‘satisfaction scale’ of zero to seven, British businesses rated SaaS at 4.34, lower than US businesses at 4.94. Gartner called the British reaction “little more than lukewarm”.

SaaS users in the UK said they felt it took longer than they expected to move to the technology. They were also frustrated that costs were unpredictable and ongoing support was poor.

But this came at a time when SaaS was in mainstream use more “than ever before”, Gartner said. Its research, among 333 UK and US organisations, found SaaS to be commonplace in business IT strategy, and that businesses found most suppliers reliable.

Nearly six in 10 companies will maintain their current levels of SaaS in the next two years, it said. Some 32 per cent will extend SaaS usage and only five per cent will decrease levels.

Nevertheless, satisfaction remained low. “Our research findings did not exactly provide a ringing endorsement of SaaS, in fact I would go as far as to say that satisfaction levels among SaaS users are little more than lukewarm,” said Ben Pring, research VP at Gartner.

Businesses wanted more assurance over technical requirements, security, privacy and ease of integration, the survey showed, and these factors were hindering its adoption. Gartner said this contradicted “the general impression that SaaS could help alleviate costs and that it does not require much integration”.

Soeren von Varchmin, VP SaaS at virtual machine supplier Parallels, said vendors needed to automate billing and provision to cut costs. “Without automation SaaS is not only unprofitable for vendors but unattractive for end users as it’s difficult to realise the cost benefits,” he said.

Open standards, he added, would also enable users to integrate systems more easily.

Rob Lovell, chief executive at hosted software provider ThinkGrid, said many SaaS vendors didn’t offer customer service to match that of the established on-premise providers. “For SaaS to succeed, vendors must implement tried and tested practices such as 99.99 SLAs and 24/7 telephone support from the outset,” he said.

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