By Debbie Stephenson
Software as a Service (SaaS) is a distribution model in which applications are hosted by a third party vendor over a network – typically online – and delivered “as a service” to end users. Web-based email is an everyday example of SaaS. Instead of uploading software to an individual computer or tablet, it’s hosted on the Internet, largely insulating the user from the underlying technology.
With SaaS, the vendor takes care of everything; the daily technical operation, maintenance and support. This reduces the burden on internal IT departments and the lengthy delays that can result for business users.
Today there are many different SaaS-based business apps available, delivering not just traditional email and calendaring solutions, but which also target key industry verticals and specific business processes. SaaS applications can be integrated quickly, creating a more efficient internal process that drives productivity.
SaaS translates directly into business value by delivering:
• Broad network access: Services are accessible from a wide range of devices (PCs, smartphones, tablets) and from any location where there is Internet access
• Resource pooling: Computing resources are pooled to serve multiple customers, which creates significant efficiencies and economies of scale. Resources are deployed based on demand, and customers generally don’t know (and don’t need to know) where those resources are physically located
• Rapid elasticity: The capabilities of cloud computing are essentially unlimited and can be quickly scaled up or down in response to an organization’s changing needs
• On-demand self-service: New services and capacity can be updated quickly and easily, often without vendor employee involvement
• Measured service: Businesses pay only for the cloud services and resources they actually use
Technical advantages of SaaS:
• Rapid implementation: Less set-up time is required for SaaS-based solutions
• Cost predictability: A simple pay-as-you-go model, which includes the cost of system upgrades, makes it easier to forecast IT costs
• Balanced ROI: SaaS delivers a faster return on IT investments, thanks to accelerated implementation and reduced infrastructure costs
• Agility: Companies can quickly develop and deploy new IT capabilities and business processes to stay ahead of the competition and keep pace with changes in the marketplace
• Scalability: SaaS provides a flexible platform that can grow or shrink as needed, enabling businesses to explore new markets, pursue new innovations and serve new customer segments
Is SaaS Better than the Alternatives?
SaaS applications are well tested in an optimized production environment. Unlike customized Sharepoint platforms or a client/server project, there is less risk of encountering custom code bugs or self-hosting issues and downtime.
Some SaaS providers offer pilot agreements, which allow the customer to test the product before investing any significant time or money, reducing the potential for the software to become shelfware and a writeoff.
Most importantly, “best of breed” SaaS solutions are often easier to use than clunky self-hosted platforms, so the user adoption rate can be rapid, or at the very least, evaluated prior to making large financial commitments.