Software as a service (or SaaS), compared to software as a product (the traditional model of software distribution), is a way of delivering applications over the Internet as a service. It is a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and is made available to customers over a network.
With SaaS, instead of installing and maintaining software, users simply access it via the Internet, freeing themselves from complex software and hardware management. SaaS applications are also known as web-based software, on-demand software, or hosted software. SaaS applications run on the servers of a SaaS provider. The provider manages access to the application, including security, availability, and performance. It essentially takes on the role of a bank, providing reliable and secure service to its customers on a massive scale while protecting their personal information from unauthorized access.
Potential benefits of SaaS to an organization include:
Users get automatic updates provided by the SaaS vendor. It is relatively easy to acquire, test, as well as install multiple patches to an administered computer system (patch management). Users need not buy software licenses or extra infrastructure equipment, and typically only pay monthly subscription fees for using the software. Because the software is hosted remotely, users also need not invest in additional hardware merely for the new software. It spares an organization the need to handle the installation, daily upkeep and maintenance, and therefore removes a significant workload from any in-house IT department.
Compatibility, easier collaboration and resilience
Given the same version of software, users find SaaS highly compatible with various computer systems installed in an organization. Users also collaborate more easily as a team using cloud computing, accessing the same information with ease via the Internet. Should anything tragic happen to the premises, an organization can easily get back up and running from any location with any computer connected to the Internet.
To access a SaaS application only requires a browser and an Internet connection, which is made widely available on a range of desktop and mobile devices. If an organization needs to add more users, rather than purchasing more in-house server capacity and software licenses, it can adjust its monthly SaaS subscription as required.
Potential problems of SaaS to an organization include:
Performance and Outages
Some tasks are better performed on a local machine or over the company LAN (local area network) than a browser-based application accessed via an Internet connection. There are still concerns and worries in this department at least until Internet connection speed and stability are no longer an issue. In addition, when outages happen despite best laid-out plans, be they caused by acts of God or human error, a lengthy outage of a mission-critical application could prove disastrous.
Security and hidden costs
The all-time concern for organizations considering SaaS is often security: if a third-party service provider is entrusted for sensitive internal data and business processes, then issues such as identity and access management—particularly from mobile devices—need to be addressed. Customization costs can add up quickly, which lead to unanticipated development and maintenance costs. Inevitable integration of SaaS programs with in-house applications, data storage and other SaaS programs that must be built, managed and maintained is another source of hidden costs.
SaaS is going to be mainstream for its state-of-the-art technologies such as easy customization and better access. It is meant for users to easily customize applications that are unique to each individual or organization to fit a particular business process. Besides, it offers improved access to data from any networked device, anytime and anywhere, making it easier to share data monitor data use and manage privileges. It is expected to expand in as many fields as possible.
This article was written by Mildred D. Li, a writer for dusk magazine.