By Kate O’Neal
Software as a Service, or SaaS, is a popular term that appears in a multitude of business contexts. Many people are unsure exactly what it means and whether it’s something that could benefit their business, so let’s explore just what the concept covers.
In the broadest terms, SaaS includes every type of cloud-based application that allows users to access a service via the internet, whether for business or recreation. The social networking sites Facebook and Twitter are both SaaS platforms, as are many of the business tools your company probably uses for communication, accounting, billing, banking, tracking sales and monitoring performance.
With SaaS services, individuals who access the programs can do so from any computer or other internet-enabled device instead of having to rely on a single installation of software on a particular machine.
In a sense, SaaS involves renting as opposed to buying. Rather than purchasing and downloading software licensed to install on one PC or Mac, you sign up for a subscription that lets you use the program from any computer. You don’t own a hard copy of the program but you can use it anywhere for as long as you have the subscription.
This method of providing access to software applications reduces illegal use, which is one reason developers are moving toward more SaaS-focused distribution paradigms. However, consumers are also driving the trend as they increasingly find that the advantages of the SaaS model make it the superior choice. Some of these advantages include:
- Better access. With SaaS applications users can complete their work from any internet-connected device, meaning they’re no longer tied to a specific location and computer.
- Easier setup. Setting up purchased programs on a computer may involve additional time and expense. Most SaaS applications are ready to use as soon as users download the program, if necessary, and sign in.
- Unlimited scalability. When your team expands, you can simply add new users to your existing subscription or pay a nominal fee to include another user on the account. SaaS applications make it much easier for businesses to experience rapid growth without having to invest in major software and hardware upgrades.
- Increased customization. More complex programs are often customizable to a great degree – a benefit that off-the-shelf purchased software usually cannot deliver. From licensing for a specified number of users to configuring reports and how the software works for your individual needs, this added ability to customize creates more valuable data and adds efficiency to your business processes.
- Automatic updates. Unlike purchased software, updates to SaaS programs are free and easy to download or handled automatically by the provider. With traditional licensing, if you bought the license, you would have to purchase another license to obtain the new version. With SaaS licensing, you can upgrade when the new version is available for no extra cost. This keeps SaaS applications from slipping quickly into obsolescence the way purchased software often does.
- Universal compatibility. Using SaaS applications allows users to move between desktops, laptops, tablets and sometimes even phones. The programs will work on all devices that use compatible operating systems.
- Pay as you go. Instead of investing heavily in software that may be replaced soon, users can enjoy all the benefits of their SaaS applications for flexible time periods. Some software packages require an annual contract, and other applications can be canceled at any point. In either case, it’s relatively easy to move on to other options once you’ve decided the program isn’t meeting your needs. Along with lower per-user, setup and hardware expenses, this feature typically results in a lower overall cost than purchasing software.
More software companies are offering SaaS licensing, and some are moving to a SaaS-only model. Whatever programs and applications you depend on to make your business run, they’re probably available on a subscription basis. The next time you need to add a user or look into a new business application, it’s a good idea to explore your options for accessing it via SaaS.
With multiple years’ experience working with clients in many industries, Kate brings her skills and positive attitude to Network 1’s team, clients and partners. She strives to provide the best service and solutions to her clients so they can achieve greatness through Worry-Free IT.
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Network 1 Consulting is an 18-year-old IT Support company in Atlanta, GA. We become – or augment – the IT department for law firms and medical practices. Our IT experts can fix computers, but what our clients value most highly are the industry-specific best practices we bring to their firms. This is especially important with technology, along with its associated regulations and cyber threats, changing so rapidly. We take a proactive approach to helping our clients use technology to gain and keep their competitive advantage.