SaaS - software as a service
Software as a service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as "on-demand software", and was formerly referred to as "software plus services" by Microsoft.
SaaS services is typically accessed by users using a thin client, e.g. via a web browser. SaaS software solutions has become a common delivery model for many business applications, including office software, messaging software, payroll processing software, DBMS software, management software, CAD software, development software, gamification, virtualization, accounting, collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), Management Information Systems (MIS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), invoicing, human resource management (HRM), talent acquisition, learning management systems, content management (CM), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and service desk management. SaaS has been incorporated into the strategy of nearly all leading enterprise software companies.
SaaS applications are also known as Web-based software, on-demand software and hosted software.
The term "Software as a Service" (SaaS) is considered to be part of the nomenclature of cloud computing, along with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Desktop as a Service (DaaS),managed software as a service (MSaaS), mobile backend as a service (MBaaS), and information technology management as a service (ITMaaS).
Because SaaS is based on cloud computing it saves organizations from installing and running applications on their own systems. That eliminates or at least reduces the associated costs of hardware purchases and maintenance and of software and support. The initial setup cost for a SaaS application is also generally lower than it for equivalent enterprise software purchased via a site license.
Sometimes, the use of SaaS cloud software can also reduce the long-term costs of software licensing, though that depends on the pricing model for the individual SaaS offering and the enterprise’s usage patterns. In fact, it’s possible for SaaS to cost more than traditional software licenses. This is an area IT organizations should explore carefully.
SaaS also provides enterprises the flexibility inherent with cloud services: they can subscribe to a SaaS offering as needed rather than having to buy software licenses and install the software on a variety of computers. The savings can be substantial in the case of applications that require new hardware purchases to support the software.
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Who uses SaaS?
Industry analyst Forrester Research notes that SaaS adoption has so far been concentrated mostly in human resource management (HRM), customer relationship management (CRM), collaboration software (e.g., email), and procurement solutions, but is poised to widen. Today it’s possible to have a data warehouse in the cloud that you can access with business intelligence software running as a service and connect to your cloud-based ERP like NetSuite or Microsoft Dynamics.The dollar savings can run into the millions. And SaaS installations are often installed and working in a fraction of the time of on-premises deployments—some can be ready in hours.
Sales and marketing people are likely familiar with Salesforce.com, the leading SaaS CRM software, with millions of users across more than 100,000 customers. Sales is going SaaS too, with apps available to support sales in order management, compensation, quote production and configure, price, quoting, electronic signatures, contract management and more.
Why SaaS? Benefits of software as a service
- Lower cost of entry. With SaaS solution, you pay for what you need, without having to buy hardware to host your new applications. Instead of provisioning internal resources to install the software, the vendor provides APIs and performs much of the work to get their software working for you. The time to a working solution can drop from months in the traditional model to weeks, days or hours with the SaaS model. In some businesses, IT wants nothing to do with installing and running a sales app. In the case of funding software and its implementation, this can be a make-or-break issue for the sales and marketing budget, so the lower cost really makes the difference.
- Reduced time to benefit/rapid prototyping. In the SaaS model, the software application is already installed and configured. Users can provision the server for the cloud and quickly have the application ready for use. This cuts the time to benefit and allows for rapid demonstrations and prototyping. With many SaaS companies offering free trials, this means a painless proof of concept and discovery phase to prove the benefit to the organization.
- Pay as you go. SaaS business software gives you the benefit of predictable costs both for the subscription and to some extent, the administration. Even as you scale, you can have a clear idea of what your costs will be. This allows for much more accurate budgeting, especially as compared to the costs of internal IT to manage upgrades and address issues for an owned instance.
- The SaaS vendor is responsible for upgrades, uptime and security. Under the SaaS model, since the software is hosted by the vendor, they take on the responsibility for maintaining the software and upgrading it, ensuring that it is reliable and meeting agreed-upon service level agreements, and keeping the application and its data secure. While some IT people worry about Software as a Service security outside of the enterprise walls, the likely truth is that the vendor has a much higher level of security than the enterprise itself would provide. Many will have redundant instances in very secure data centers in multiple geographies. Also, the data is being automatically backed up by the vendor, providing additional security and peace of mind. Because of the data center hosting, you’re getting the added benefit of at least some disaster recovery. Lastly, the vendor manages these issues as part of their core competencies—let them.
- Integration and scalability. Most SaaS apps are designed to support some amount of customization for the way you do business. SaaS vendors create APIs to allow connections not only to internal applications like ERPs or CRMs but also to other SaaS providers. One of the terrific aspects of integration is that orders written in the field can be automatically sent to the ERP. Now a salesperson in the field can check inventory through the catalog, write the order in front of the customer for approval, send it and receive confirmation, all in minutes. And as you scale with a SaaS vendor, there’s no need to invest in server capacity and software licenses.
- Work anywhere. Since the software is hosted in the cloud and accessible over the internet, users can access it via mobile devices wherever they are connected. This includes checking customer order histories prior to a sales call, as well as having access to real time data and real time order taking with the customer.