Software as a service (SaaS) is a category of cloud computing. It allows software developers to host their application in the cloud and make them available to the public via the internet. Most SaaS applications work around a subscription model, so many developers charge clients on a monthly or annual basis, as well as on how much of the application they use and how many users are accessing the application.

Line-of-business leaders everywhere are bypassing IT departments to get [SaaS] and paying for them like they would a magazine subscription. And when the service is no longer required, they can cancel that subscription with no equipment left unused in the corner.

—Daryl Plummer, Gartner

The popularity of software as a service (SaaS) is only increasing. With very few downsides and innumerable upsides, companies everywhere are feeling the benefits of relying on SaaS for all of their software needs. However, there are still many businesses that are missing out, not because SaaS would not work for them, but rather because SaaS can be a complicated topic and they have not been shown how it could fit into their business operations. The following provides a breakdown of what exactly SaaS is and what the upsides and downsides of it are.

What Is SaaS

While, because SaaS is a part of the cloud, this may seem like a new idea — the idea of centrally hosting business applications—saw its beginnings in the 60s. Companies like IBM would open up their data centers around the world to big businesses for both storage and computing power purposes. It was only in the 90s, however, that this idea spread and became available to smaller businesses and for a wider variety of business application uses. The number of businesses relying on SaaS, as well as the variety of applications now available, is growing rapidly.

What Are The Benefits Of SaaS

  1. Accessible: One of the main benefits of SaaS is how accessible it is. This means that, because it is available over the internet, users can access it all the time. They do not have to be in their office, on their work computer to do the work they need to do. For companies with a mobile workforce, this is not only a convenience but actually a necessity. It is also favorable as device turnover is becoming shorter and shorter. Better and faster computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones are being released more and more often. As employees upgrade to these new devices, it can create a bottleneck for the IT department to have to install software all of the time. SaaS enables individuals to have simple access as soon as they switch on their brand new device.
  2. Updates: Software updates can be a major hassle. First, if it is the responsibility of the IT department to manage and oversee software updates on devices, it is simply another time-waster and burden that falls on them when they could be achieving much more essential tasks, such as digital security and necessary technological maintenance to keep the business running smoothly. Second, if the responsibility of updating software falls on the workforce, this is simply a hassle and has the potential to cause major problems. If it is forgotten or put off for too long, an out-of-date software application can be glitchy or just refuse to work at all. Even if the workforce is timely in updating their software, it is time that could be better used on other tasks. With SaaS, software updates are all automatically taken care of by the provider, behind the scenes, allowing the workforce to continue with their jobs uninterrupted.
  3. Scaling: The challenge that many businesses face with traditional software is its lack of scalability. Many businesses grow, and they do so at different rates. It can be difficult to tell how big they will be in a year. Then there are businesses that have fluctuations in business. Due to seasonal changes, they have much slower times of the year and much faster. The traditional software package mandates that businesses purchase the application for a set number of users, customers, or business size. This creates waste. SaaS solves this issue. When a business grows, they can just move up to the next subscription level. When a company moves into its slow season, they can move down a few subscription levels. This allows businesses to never waste money on being forced into buying an entirely new software package or waste money on having a package that is far too big for their needs.
  4. Cost: Yes, SaaS tends to cost businesses less because they can go up and down in subscription levels as they need. Additionally, if an application is no longer needed or even just temporarily not needed by the business, they can simply cancel their subscription until the application is necessary for business processes again. Finally, there is just a lower cost to entry with SaaS. No additional hardware is needed in order to get the program running and no extra storage space needs to be bought to store the software in. The IT team generally will not even have to waste time installing software on devices because the vendor uses APIs to remotely configure the program for clients. Then there is also the benefit of not having to pay licensing fees and other high costs that come with on-premises software.
  5. Security: One of the dangers that is plaguing businesses around the world is security. Hackers and other cyber crimes are snaking their way into every sector and every size business. SaaS providers are aware of this. Many of them have the ability to provide the highest level of security for their clients, as well as the information that they input into the software and then upload to the cloud. They have extremely secure data centers around the world with redundant instances. Vendors also automatically back up the data, which can provide significant peace of mind in case of a disaster.

What Are The Drawbacks Of SaaS

While there is a long list of benefits that comes with SaaS-use, there are also a few drawbacks that companies should be wary of.

  1. Outage – First, SaaS providers can have outages, whether they are due to natural disasters or human error—they happen. When there is an outage, the application that is hosted in the cloud is unusable. Depending on how mission-critical the application is, the outage can range anywhere from an inconvenience to disastrous.
  2. Compliance – A second potential downside to SaaS is compliance. Different sectors have different government regulated data-protection rules. Some vendors will be compliant, some will not. Certain businesses may not be able to use specific applications if they are too relaxed when it comes to their data-protection guidelines.
  3. Data Mobility – The third, and final, potential downfall that comes with the use of SaaS is data mobility. Many software developers are new. They are startups. Some of these startups fail. Or maybe there is the possibility that, at some point in time, a company decides that another SaaS vendor is a better fit for them. Some SaaS vendors make it difficult to migrate data from their system to another.

All of these drawbacks are simply considerations. For the most part, SaaS is the future and it is where most businesses should plan to migrate in the near future. The key to success with SaaS, however, is being vigilant and completing due diligence on any potential vendor and the software that they offer.

Skills required for SaaS Application Development:

Check out this interesting discussion on Quora.

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