What is Software as a Service (SaaS)?

Software as a Service, or SaaS, is a software solution at its core, but is also the most overarching pillar within cloud computing. An SaaS model combines all of the benefits of IaaS and PaaS into a broader clouding computing service over the Internet. SaaS providers offer a software solution for everything from email, sales management, and customer relationship management to billing, collaboration, and human resource management. Many of the major business processes a company needs can be delivered through SaaS applications managed by a service provider. All the company needs is a web browser to access the software solutions available.

Why Use Software as a Service?

The Software as a Service platform emerged in the early days of the Internet as the ideal solution for enterprise business customers to improve access to company resources for all employees without worrying about increased storage needs. This included both software hosted on enterprise storage hardware as well as web offerings that employees accessed via the cloud. Apps and SaaS software became available to help with every role from management CRM to customer relationship management CRM. Companies even moved entire email services to cloud computing solutions.

Most companies, from the enterprise business operating internationally to the small business with a regional footprint, took advantage of the benefits of software delivery through SaaS offerings. These companies no longer needed to worry about constant software updates and could spend less time focused on upgrading hardware requirements on individual PCs. There was also no need to worry about storage limitations on individual computers. Because the software was accessed via cloud computing on servers managed by in the data center of the SaaS provider, software solutions were easier to deploy and maintain.

What is an SaaS Model?

As more companies move business processes to cloud computing, adoption rates for IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS continue to grow. While infrastructure platform solutions remain the least adopted among the three, SaaS applications have grown. However, it is easy for an enterprise business to not readily recognize SaaS models. There are many examples of popular SaaS models available on the Internet right now, including Google Apps, DropBox, DocuSign, and Slack. Each one of these software solutions provides employees at companies large and small access to software platforms that are critical to daily operations without worrying about the costs associated with software licensing, infrastructure, and hardware management.

What Does it Mean to be an SaaS Provider?

An SaaS provider is a third-party entity that handles software delivery for a variety of customers. Whether it is access to automated email delivery campaigns, data analytics software, or simply word-processing software, an SaaS service provider handles software licensing requirement, data security, and manages the infrastructure required to support the performance of software platforms via the cloud.

What Do SaaS Providers Do?

SaaS providers purchase, manage, and maintain the hardware required to run software platforms over the Internet and the storage capacity to manage associated data. The SaaS applications offered by the provider are made available through a monthly-fee structure that allows enterprise business customers and small businesses alike to access those solutions via any device with a web browser, from smartphones and tablets to laptops and PCs. When it comes to updated software licenses from the original vendor, it is the responsibility of the SaaS provider to ensure those licenses are up to date and access to viable software applications is constant for end users.

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What is the Difference Between SaaS and Cloud Computing?

SaaS and cloud computing are similar concepts, but not the same. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, it is important to see through the confusion to better understand what sets them apart from one another. Software as a Service is available to the end-user from a separate cloud environment and is delivered over the web. SaaS is merely a software solution. While the provider has other platforms, like infrastructure, data centers, and its own data security, those exist to support their SaaS applications.

Cloud computing, on the other hand, offers additional services that go well beyond Software as a Service applications. Cloud computing can include Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions that allow a company to use a provider’s servers, data centers, and security to operate central business processes. Cloud computing also provides PaaS solutions for application developers to access when creating and managing software. One important differentiation to remember revolves around data.

With Software as a Service, the provider manages the data. Any data an enterprise business enters into its SaaS applications is stored on the servers in the data center of the provider and not controlled directly by the end-user. With cloud computing, the end-user can still access and manage data.

Do You Need a SaaS Product or Cloud Computing?

Before any business takes the leap to get involved with SaaS solutions, it is important to consider what business needs must be met. SaaS is the best option for companies that just need a software solution, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of constantly updating software and staying on top of application patches as they’re released by the software vendors. Cloud computing, on the other hand, is a more robust solution that includes broader options such as PaaS platforms, infrastructure support, and even private cloud solutions.

What to Consider When Selecting SaaS Applications?

When selecting SaaS applications and vendors, it is important to keep a variety of factors in mind that can impact the overall value of this relationship. First and foremost, you need to know the disaster recovery plan of the SaaS provider. Remember, a power outage or natural disaster at the provider’s site impacts the end-users ability to access the programs used for everyday business processes. Because all of the software resides on the infrastructure of the provider, access is at the mercy of their performance.

Security is another factor to keep in mind and should be stated directly in the service level agreement between provider and user. Make sure that SaaS applications are delivered by companies that are SAS70 compliant and that have enterprise-grade infrastructure systems capable of safely deploying SaaS. For example, what type of firewall ensures the data security of information held by the SaaS provider?

Finally, don’t forget to think about the flexibility and quality of service from the provider. If an SaaS solution is delivered over an inferior infrastructure on the provider’s end that can limit the capabilities of the user in successfully deploying those solutions. This is especially true for enterprise businesses that operate globally and may have a mixture of legacy systems to integrate with.

How to Connect SaaS Applications with Each Other

One of the hurdles that end users can encounter is one software solution not integrating easily with other applications or with legacy infrastructure within the company. This has led to the rise of solutions like integration PaaS solutions, or Integration Platform as a Service options. This enables users to connect SaaS application to a singular platform one time and then instantly integrate other SaaS applications through the integration PaaS.

What is the Digital Workplace?

The Digital Workplace is a growing concept that businesses should adopt digital transformation to better align enterprise technology with employees and business processes. The result is improved operational efficiency and a greater ability to meet organizational goals with ease. The Digital Workplace is a broad term, but in general, it refers to any particular device, software, or platform that employees use in the execution of their daily job responsibilities.

How to Connect SaaS Applications with Each Other

One of the hurdles that end users can encounter is one software solution not integrating easily with other applications or with legacy infrastructure within the company. This has led to the rise of solutions like integration PaaS solutions, or Integration Platform as a Service options. This enables users to connect SaaS application to a singular platform one time and then instantly integrate other SaaS applications through the integration PaaS.

What is Web Server Hosting?

Web server hosting is one of the most basic tenets of cloud computing. As the name suggests, it is a server platform dedicated to hosting websites. Web servers handle HTTP requests from end-users seeking out web pages by quickly acquiring files to pull up a site as quickly as possible.

What are the Benefits of SaaS?

As alluded to at points earlier on, SaaS delivers a number of advantages for businesses. First and foremost, companies no longer have to worry about installing and running applications on their own computers in their own data centers. As such, hardware acquisition, provisioning, and maintenance costs are mitigated for the end-user in the process. Additionally, as innovation continues and new software comes up, companies can more easily and affordably upgrade to new software solutions that take advantage of innovation within the industry to deliver the best performance possible.

Similar to IaaS infrastructure platforms, SaaS is a scalable solution for most businesses that enables them to access greater resources quickly when there is an uptick in demand, and likewise, scale down the number of applications in use when demand subsides.

More importantly for modern businesses, SaaS enables them to mobilize their workforce. Because SaaS is deployed over the web, employees can access the programs from any device regardless of location around the globe. All they need is an Internet connection and they can be online instantly fulfilling their daily obligations. There’s no need for developers to come up with apps to run on a different device or computer. SaaS apps are built for just such a scenario. Not only that, but SaaS allows users to access data within apps from anywhere as well because that information is stored in the cloud.

What are the Challenges of SaaS?

Speaking of app data, one of the primary downsides of SaaS for some business is a lack of direct control over data and the associated security issues that brings with it. SaaS providers store software application data on their servers in their data centers. While that does offer the flexibility to access data from any device, anywhere, and any time, it can also pose a security risk to the company. For enterprise business, data security could present a major disadvantage for SaaS.

There are a number of performance issues that businesses may find troublesome with SaaS solutions as well. First of all, there can be issues for some with software versions. There are instances in which some businesses may prefer to stay on an older version of a software program, which is not possible with SaaS as it is constantly updating versions to ensure all users accessing the program have the latest version.

Additionally, some SaaS solutions may run slower depending on the speed of the Internet connection used to access the programs. As such, the software runs slower than it would if it was on a local hard drive. Finally, there are concerns with a lack of integration. Some SaaS applications are more difficult to integrate with other software programs employed by the company than traditional hardware installed locally.

What if Your SaaS Vendor Goes Out of Business?

The SaaS industry is very profitable and in high demand, but that doesn’t mean all vendors are immune to the negative side effects of competition. Some vendors can and do go out of business, which can leave end users without access to or control over their own data and critical software applications. Before signing on with any SaaS vendor, give a close read to the service level agreement. Specifically, look through the text for language that addresses recovery point objectives and recovery time objectives. A good SaaS provider has a guarantee of business continuity included in the SLA.

What are Examples of SaaS?

There are plenty of good examples of SaaS available online today. The vast majority take the form of PDF readers, word-processing programs, and email delivery systems that are offered over the web and require only a web browser and Internet connection to use.

How is Billing Typically Handled?

SaaS can be offered on a fixed pricing model or a pay-as-you-go model. The former is more common than the latter. Fixed-pricing models give end users a stable price each month that makes budgeting for software solutions easier and it includes the costs of maintenance, compliance, and security services handled by the provider. Pay-as-you-go models are less common, but do offer the flexibility to add and subtract software programs as needed to meet upticks in demand or even downsizing within a company.

What Businesses Typically use SaaS?

There is no one type of business that is particularly well-suited for the deployment of SaaS solutions. There is a case to be made for both an enterprise business and small business, with each experiencing its own immediate advantages to such a solution. For example, an enterprise business with a global footprint could save significant capital in supporting its employee base around the world without having to install, manage, and pay for software licenses on each individual mobile device or desktop in locations around the world. This increases productivity and access for its widespread employee base. Likewise, SaaS solutions can benefit a small business by providing it with access to software programs that it might otherwise not be able to afford with limited capital.

Remember, Software as a Service is one of the primary pillars of cloud computing, but it shouldn’t be thought of as an all-encompassing solution. Software as a Solution streamlines access to and maintenance of common software critical to businesses processes without having to install and manage the program on countless different devices. However, unlike IaaS, it doesn’t offer a replacement for internal infrastructure that a company would still need to maintain other legacy programs and ensure hardware connectivity across a company. SaaS should be viewed as a solution to connectivity issues and continuity for employees using critical software applications across multiple sites or within a company that can’t afford the software license agreements and management costs of owning software directly.

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