One of the most popular forms of cloud computing is a software as a service (SaaS). It is one of the three major categories of cloud computing, along with infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). SaaS has become the dominant software delivery model since the concept debuted in the early 2000s.
What is Software as a Service (SaaS)?
Software as a service (SaaS) is a form of cloud computing that delivers a cloud application – and all its underlying IT infrastructure and platforms – to end-users through an internet browser. It can be an ideal solution for large enterprises, small businesses, or individuals that:
- Do not want the responsibility of buying or maintaining infrastructure, platforms, and on-premises software.
- Prefers simpler cost management through operational expenses (OPEX), rather than capital expense investments (CAPEX).
- Have challenges that require minimal customization to solve.
- Favor software subscription models.
Advantages of Software as a Service
Gain access to sophisticated applications. To provide SaaS apps to users, you don’t need to purchase, install, update, or maintain any hardware, middleware, or software. SaaS makes even sophisticated enterprise applications, such as ERP and CRM, affordable for organizations that lack the resources to buy, deploy, and manage the required infrastructure and software themselves.
Pay only for what you use. You also save money because the SaaS service automatically scales up and down according to the level of usage.
Use free client software. Users can run most SaaS apps directly from their web browser without needing to download and install any software, although some apps require plugins. This means that you don’t need to purchase and install special software for your users.
Mobilize your workforce easily. Software as a Service makes it easy to “mobilize” your workforce because users can access SaaS apps and data from any Internet-connected computer or mobile device. You don’t need to worry about developing apps to run on different types of computers and devices because the service provider has already done so. In addition, you don’t need to bring special expertise onboard to manage the security issues inherent in mobile computing. A carefully chosen service provider will ensure the security of your data, regardless of the type of device consuming it.
Access app data from anywhere. With data stored in the cloud, users can access their information from any Internet-connected computer or mobile device. And when app data is stored in the cloud, no data is lost if a user’s computer or device fails.
Disadvantages of Software as a Service
Drawbacks to the adoption of SaaS center around data security and speed of delivery. Because data is stored on external servers, companies have to be sure that it is safe and cannot be accessed by unauthorized parties.
Slow Internet connections can reduce performance, especially if the cloud servers are being accessed from far-off distances. Internal networks tend to be faster than Internet connections. Due to its remote nature, SaaS solutions also suffer from a loss of control and a lack of customization.
Who is a SaaS model right for?
As shown by the above benefits, the answer to when to use Software as a Service is when you’re looking to:
- Reduce your time to benefit
- Lower costs
- Make your software easier to use
- Expand to new markets
- Have a more stable and predictable business model
However, if you fall into one of the below situations, SaaS models may not be right for you.
What are some of the challenges of the Software as a Service?
It is important to weigh the benefits of the SaaS model with an understanding of some downsides, including the following:
Lack of control of apps and infrastructure. Hosting apps on a provider’s infrastructure requires that enterprises relinquish to the provider some control over management and security.
Security and data concerns. While many cloud providers secure their environments with greater rigor and governance than enterprises do, the Software as a Service model does create some vulnerability for data hosted on a provider’s infrastructure. The security and privacy of data are paramount.
Performance. SaaS-based applications can run slower than in-house installed apps. IT needs to manage and prioritize SaaS-based traffic to manage these latency issues.
Connectivity. SaaS-based apps require Internet service. If a connection fails, users may lose access to the application or critical data. If a provider suffers an outage, that can also affect application performance and data integrity. Enterprises should review how service-level agreements address provider outages.
SaaS models aren’t gaining popularity – to the degree that few people ask what is SaaS – because of smart marketing or because developers are forcing them on clients. They’re gaining the majority of the market share of business applications because they provide substantial benefits for both the developers and users. While switching to a SaaS model may require an overhaul of your business strategy, there is a strong likelihood that the switch will vastly increase your odds of long-term success.