Introduction to SaaS1 Jul, 2014 By: Rick Braddy, SoftNAS
WHAT IS SAAS?
The Software as a Service (SaaS) model is so ubiquitous now that it’s almost a household term. SaaS is a distribution model in which services are made available by a vendor or service provider to customers over a network. The applications are hosted on the SaaS provider's servers, freeing customers from having to manage software or hardware themselves. But what are the benefits and risks of using SaaS applications and how can businesses use this model to flourish?
BENEFITS OF SAAS
There are many benefits of Software as a Service, one of them being that there are usually no set up costs involved with SaaS. The traditional software model requires purchasing software upfront and then installing it on your computer. The software licenses that often come with traditional products may also limit how many users can access the product and through what devices. With a SaaS model, users pay for the service on a monthly subscription basis, or “rent” it. Thus, Software as a Service is sometimes referred to as on-demand software. This ability to “rent” a service also means that companies aren't tied down to one provider for a specific period of time and can change providers more freely.
Another major selling point for adopting SaaS is that it allows customers to save time and money by outsourcing hardware and software maintenance and support to a SaaS vendor. Because the software is hosted on the provider's server, customers not only save money, but are also able to rely on a provider's support team to address any issues.
Since the application is located on the vendor's own servers, it operates on one infrastructure and base code even though it's being used by different companies. This factor not only makes providing support an easier process, but it also allows software vendors to innovate quickly and efficiently. Therefore, SaaS vendors are able to streamline updates and make uniform adjustments instead of having to deal with various versions hosted on personal servers. Updates occur automatically and across the board with little to no difficulty.
Compatibility and accessibility are other benefits of the SaaS model. Because of the automatic updates, all users have the same up-to-date software and don't have to worry about their hardware or software compatibility. For the same reason, the product, or service, is also globally accessible from any device with an internet connection instead of just the device the service is licensed to in a traditional software model. The SaaS model also allows for customization that is unique to each company without affecting the common infrastructure.
SAAS OPPORTUNITIES AND PROVIDERS
Currently Software as a Service products are most commonly cloud services used for business applications that can cover any aspect of a company: customer relationship management (CRM), office and messaging software, and data and storage, to name a few.
SaaS works well in applications and services that multiple departments and teams in a company can use or that address key functions in company operations. A provider of free SaaS applications that most people are already familiar with is Google. Google's top SaaS applications are Youtube and Google Drive, which is a prime example of SaaS that allows for great collaboration. In Google Drive, a user can store a document or presentation, share it with anyone with an internet connection, and get a feed of edits and changes to the document – all on Google's remote server.
In addition to collaboration tools, the most popular form of SaaS is customer relationship management (CRM). CRM SaaS has the selling point of being able to address the sales, marketing and customer service departments. One of the top CRM SaaS companies is Salesforce, which offers company and department specific services such as with Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and ExactTarget Marking Cloud.
Another key SaaS sector is data and storage. While data isn't usually at the forefront of a company's operations, it's usually one of the most important. Limited storage space or loss of data can result in severe company downtime. SaaS storage providers allow companies to store and manage large amounts of data in the cloud without having to worry about supplying hardware and personnel to manage it. SoftNAS Cloud is a SaaS that offers enterprise level storage in the cloud and on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Marketplace, where it's currently the best-selling Network Attached Storage (NAS) application. One of the many unique things about SoftNAS is that it makes managing CIFS and NFS on AWS an easy process.
FUTURE OF SAAS
There are still reservations about outsourcing and moving operations to the cloud because cloud SaaS applications are still relatively new. Cloud SaaS applications raise concerns over dependability and Internet access issues A company's ability to access operations hosted in the cloud and avoid downtime is primarily dependent on its connection to the cloud. To address the issue, some companies have developed “offline” or “offsite” functionality that allows users to continue working and then sync back up to the system once a solid internet connection is established again.
Another major concern with SaaS is security: How can providers protect their customers' data from corruption and loss? To protect company data, some companies have set up backup and recovery systems. For example, SoftNAS Cloud has scheduled storage snapshots of data that are instantaneous and don't consume additional disk space. A snapshot isn't deleted until the previous snapshot of that data expires.
In 2011, Gartner predicted that Software as a Service would “receive a healthy growth through 2015, when worldwide revenue is projected to reach $21.3 billion.” CRM is currently the largest market for SaaS, but more services are moving to the cloud as companies outsource key business applications to Software as a Service providers. SaaS is still a growing market in the height of the cloud computing era and providers are coming up with new innovative ways to meet the demands and challenges of the move to the cloud.
Rick Braddy is Co-Founder & CEO of SoftNAS. Company information for SoftNAS: https://www.softnas.com/. Reference Links: 2011 Gartner report: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1739214&M=6e0e6b7e-2439-4289-b697-863578323245 / Salesforce: http://www.salesforce.com/