An Introduction to Software as a Service (SaaS)

Computing

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Software as a Service, or SaaS is an innovative software deployment model that involves the ‘online’ delivery of software assets and applications. Developers or vendors host the software centrally, allowing customers to access different applications via the Internet. A stark difference from the traditional method of software deployment (software assets delivered physically in the form of CDs or DVDs) where customers own the software, SaaS models allow only for subscription-based use.

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Thus, as a customer, you sign up to gain access to the centrally hosted software. You are only leasing the software asset or application. It is owned by your vendor, who also handles the licensing, availability, security and performance remotely. This makes delivering-software an ongoing service for the vendor and hence the name, software as a service.

Why is SaaS used?

SaaS is typically considered a superior method of software licensing and delivery, when compared to the physical fulfillment methods. At the forefront of this consideration is the cost and time benefits the model provides. As a client, you only pay for what you use, and you pay as you go. You don’t have to invest in any hardware or on-premise infrastructure to install the software. This reduces your initial costs and offers low-barrier entry into new markets.

The application is pre-installed and configured so that you can get to work as soon as your subscription is done. The vendor also handles all other management tasks such as installing updates or making bug fixes. This reduces your operating costs as well, since you don’t need heavy IT resources for your software now.

Since applications are centrally hosted, you can access them on the move, via mobile devices and just about anywhere (where an internet connection is available), anytime you wish to. Most vendors also allow seamless integration with existing systems and numerous customization capabilities to tailor the applications even further.

Considerations in choosing a SaaS vendor

Perhaps the biggest concern in SaaS adoption is security. Look for SAS70 compliance and find out about other security guidelines and audits the vendor follows. Your vendor must be able to satisfy you with regards to connectivity, firewall, access management, and other security features. Look into the disaster management and recovery principles of the vendor as well.

You also want to check into the infrastructure used by the SaaS vendor, to ensure scalability and flexibility as you need it. Find out who is the vendor’s infrastructure provider and check their credibility. Check for system integration and data exchange models as well.

And lastly, evaluate the service level agreement (SLA) to check if the vendor meets your needs. For more information, go through the additional resources listed below to help you in making an informed decision.

Additional learning resources:

While SaaS is unarguably a better option for both vendors and customers, it may be a good idea to use also negative words or phrases while researching on the Internet. Perhaps looking for “SaaS adoption success stories”, “SaaS adoption failures”, “SaaS best-practices” and the like helps in finding comprehensive information on this innovative software delivery model.

Also go through the following resources:

A comprehensive guide on enterprise SaaS by Microsoft

An interesting podcast that overviews SaaS by Microsoft

The key considerations for businesses that want to adopt SaaS by Search IT Channel

The top factors to consider when choosing a SaaS vendor by Virtusa Blog

A helpful FAQ section about SaaS by Sales Force