The phrase “head in the clouds” used to have a negative connotation. Today, the cloud is exactly where our technology belongs. The amount of information available on the internet is growing at an exponential rate. Experts have found that ninety percent of the information on the internet today has been created in the last two years. This growth means that cloud data is more significant than ever. Even software development companies that typically sell standard software, the kind that lives on your computer, are moving to cloud-based services. Companies like Microsoft and Adobe are moving away from selling individual licenses for their products and moving towards subscription-based models. New SaaS providers are popping up every day. It’s a whole different world than it used to be. This move towards software as a service (SaaS) ultimately makes current technology more accessible.
What is Software as a Service (SaaS)?
SaaS can best be defined as software that is hosted by a service provider and accessed by customers via the internet. This is a newer way to distribute software. In previous generations, the software was distributed on a CD or downloaded straight to your device. The software or product lived on your computer. If the product development team wanted to introduce an update, users would have to download or reinstall the updates. You would pay for a license to use that software. The new model keeps the guts of the program online. Users purchase a subscription to use the software.
SaaS was first introduced in the early 1990s. Companies would use a cloud-based service to connect company applications and data to a central server. Its primary use was webmail, bookmarks, and image sharing, but it quickly morphed into customer relationship management, recruiting, and finances/expense sharing. As internet speeds increased and mobile data became more accessible, cloud-based software grew in popularity.
Today, businesses are using SaaS to assist with more than just e-mail, but are utilizing its capabilities for billing, payroll, sales management, human resource management, resource planning, content management, and document editing. SaaS models allow for easy access across multiple devices.
How does SaaS benefit companies?
Because SaaS offerings are based entirely on using the cloud to host applications, companies do not have to install software on individual devices. This eliminates the time and money spent on hardware, maintenance, and initial setups. Users can also access applications from anywhere they have access to the internet.
Most cloud-based programs have applications for the web, mobile devices, or other internet-ready devices. Moreover, it doesn’t matter if the user prefers products by Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Android, or other products. This accessibility makes it easier for employees to access data or do work while on the go or from remote locations. Companies are now able to utilize a remote workforce to collaborate on large projects. Some companies are now offering more flexible schedules since employees can continue their work from home, a different office, or even while traveling.
Another benefit to consider is how software is upgraded. Since the main application is hosted on a server, the software development team can roll out an entire upgrade or a minor bug fix as needed. Users do not need to update things on their devices and gain seamless access to improvements and fixes. Organizations with limited IT personnel especially enjoy someone else being able to enact needed upgrades without having to schedule with individual employees.
What are some of the challenges when using SaaS?
The biggest challenge companies face when relying on a SaaS model is accessibility. If there is an internet outage, employees may not be able to perform regular and necessary tasks. Internet Service Providers must be up and running at all times. Businesses also lose some control when it comes to when and how updates are made. If the software provider decides to do a massive update during regular work hours, it could mean employees are losing access to essential data. Initial setups may take a while since it may require transferring large amounts of data from company servers to the cloud.
It’s essential to look at overall costs as well. While cloud-computing offers pay-as-you-go models and the ability to add/drop users, it can still be more expensive in the long run. A SaaS development company may be perfectly happy using an outdated software version, especially when the software license has already been paid. The monthly subscription fee never goes away. A business may find that it’s impractical to give everyone access, paying for each user. Business owners and IT departments should work together to determine the most cost-effective way to proceed by examining pricing model options.
What about security?
If there is a data breach, the data held on that server could be compromised. This kind of cyber attack is a significant concern for companies moving to SaaS models. Companies are investing a great deal into securing these assets.
One of the significant benefits of having centralized data is that it can be easy to make changes. In the past, if an employee’s laptop came up missing, it could cause great alarm since it might contain customer data, business secrets, or more. While a missing device is still a cause for alarm, companies can typically remove user access remotely to cloud-based software. The employee with the lost device can also start using a new machine straight away without necessarily missing any work.
What is the Impact of modern SaaS?
Cloud computing creates an environment where users can easily collaborate and share information. This connection allows for better communication, thus improving nearly every process within the business. Cloud-based applications also allow for more exceptional tracking and automation. Marketing teams, for example, can create vast e-mail campaigns to reach potential customers and make sales. Marketers can automate various tasks so that the work happens behind the scenes. They can also track the success of the campaign to both evaluate and adapt their practice. The analytics available is helping businesses make better decisions while keeping a focus on customer satisfaction.
SaaS technology is growing more accessible and useful every day. As the technology matures, cloud-based applications will most likely replace standard software. Ultimately, we’ll see greater scalability in how these programs are used and what is available. Of course, there is room to grow, and companies should evaluate all of their options before jumping in. Even if SaaS solutions don’t seem beneficial for every business today, they are a driving force towards tomorrow.