…Accessing a new piece of computer software would historically involve purchasing the software, installing it onto your computer and running it from there. Similarly – in business environments – network-based software (which needs to be accessed simultaneously by a greater number of people), would be installed to a central network server (computer) owned, operated and housed by your company.
“Software as a Service” – abbreviated to “SaaS” for short, is a new way of using software which dispenses with this old methodology. Instead of buying a physical copy of the software, installing and running it on your own computer hardware, SaaS allows you to rent access to – and use of – the software you need. SaaS allows you to rent access to – and use of – the software…
SaaS allows you to rent access to – and use of – the software…
Today, more and more software developers are offering or enabling their software to be delivered to customers via the SaaS method, so strong are its benefits for both business and residential software consumers.
So which software applications don’t fit so well in the SaaS model? At the time of writing it’s graphics intensive and latency (input / output delay) sensitive applications that don’t work so well as SaaS, however that is less and less the case as Internet bandwidth and quality increases and more powerful graphics processing is done in the cloud.
Advantages of SaaS
There are some compelling advantages for both software users and software suppliers, who adopt the SaaS model of accessing and running software. These advantages are just as compelling for business consumers of software.
The traditional method of using software involves a large initial payment for purchasing the software and your rights (license) to use it. It is then up to you to provide the necessary computer hardware resources to run that software. You’ll also have the take responsibility for administering and managing that software, which may require specialist expertise or certainly a lot of time, effort and ultimately – expense.
The traditional method of installing software to your PC or network server relies on the stability of that computer. If that computer stops working, then you can’t use that software – and (subject to your backup policy) you’re likely to lose a significant proportion of your data. The traditional method of using software therefore carries a high risk service interruption and data loss.
Moving to the latest version of particular software would traditionally require further capital expenditure and the arduous task of administering the upgrade on your computer or network server.
The traditional way of using software may – or may not – come with support contract obligations. Either way, you are buying use of the software up-front or financing its procurement over a fixed inflexible period.
With SaaS, you’re renting access to the software – and since it is hosted by the SaaS supplier its comparatively easy to switch-on and switch-off users. What this means is that SaaS lends itself ideally to the “on-demand” model of consumption. Many SaaS suppliers will offer very flexible usage contracts – even month by month, day by day or in some cases minute by minute!
Traditionally, adding new users of software would require procurement of new licenses, new pieces of software, and designation of technical staff to help your new user “get set up”. This can be costly and time-consuming.
With a traditional software installation, your software resides on your computer or network server. The chances are that it won’t be with you when you’re travelling, at home or generally away from the office.
Disadvantages or things to watch our for
As with all new technologies, there are things to keep in mind and take into consideration. Here are a couple of the main things to consider when looking at SaaS as a solution to your software usage.
SaaS is delivered over the Internet, or perhaps in some cases over your wide area network connection. In either case you need to ensure that your connection to the service is sufficiently stable, reliable and offers sufficient bandwidth for your business users to operate. If Internet access isn’t reliable or is constrained in the amount of bandwidth you have access to – then SaaS may not be the right solution for you. However in many cases SaaS can easily cost justify an upgrade to your network connections.
SaaS resides at the provider’s datacentre facilities, so by default your data will also reside there in whole or in part. If you business is governed by compliance and regulations then it may be important to check exactly when your provider’s computing facilities, file storage and backup facilities are. It’s the same as outsourcing any service – you need to do your due diligence on your supplier such that they comply with your business policies.
Since SaaS is delivered over the Internet and from an off-site location, the distance between the user and the software can in some cases affect the usability of the software program. Typically this is only really a factor with graphics programs or multimedia programs which rely on high resolution images or moving images. If unsure, it’s worth contacting your software developer to check, or run a trial.
Whilst some software developers will offer their own SaaS, the majority will make their software available for a wide range of intermediary value-add resellers (VARs) to provide as SaaS. There are a number of advantages of using a SaaS VAR, not least because they will offer the full suite of software required by your business, but they’ll also design and build a complete solution for you. They should also help you with a suitable migration path, and ensure you are appropriately supported throughout any IT transition. No two businesses are the same and this is as true for SaaS providers as it is for companies in your industry. As such costs between providers will vary, technical capabilities will vary, software performance will vary, support levels will vary …
….Therefore, it’s extremely important to select the right SaaS provider for your business needs.
Where to go from here?
At ComparetheCloud.net, we’re here to help you get started and to help you identify suitable SaaS providers to evaluate and work with. Take a few minutes to tell us about your company in our Cloud Comparison Tool, and we’ll present you with some informed options – and help you take full advantage of what software as a service (SaaS) can offer.