What is SaaS and how can it benefit your business?
SaaS refers to 'Software as a Service' and really relates to cloud-based applications where the software is remotely hosted (on a vendor's servers) and accessed through a web browser. So what are the benefits and risks of SaaS for your businesses? We give a rundown of the pros and cons of SaaS here.
SaaS is familiar (maybe more than you think)
The chances are you are already using some SaaS applications. Facebook and Twitter are SaaS, as are services such as Office 365 and Google Apps. As consumers, we have all got used to running complex applications through our web browsers so the 'leap' to SaaS for running your a business is not a great one at all. You will probably find that users will adapt smartly and quickly to operating SaaS within your organisation and they will prefer a slick and modern web interface to that out-of-date software you are currently using.
No need for new hardware
Because SaaS is hosted in the cloud, the processing power required to run the applications is supplied by the cloud provider. This means that powerful new software can be introduced to your organisation without hardware upgrades.
Minimal initial setup costs
SaaS applications are generally ready to use once the user subscribes. This makes rolling out SaaS software pretty straightforward. Of course, there may be some configuration to do to make the software suitable for your needs so this is worth considering on top of the advertised license costs.
Only pay for what you use
The SaaS licensing model is usually highly flexible. Need a piece of software for a one-off project or limited amount of time? SaaS allows you to pay for subscriptions over that period and can be halted at any time.
Usage is scalable
If you decide that you need additional users, more storage or extra services, then they can access these on demand without needing to install new software or hardware.
Updates are automated
Whenever there is an update it is usually available straight away to existing customers, often free of charge. No new software will be required, as it often is with other types of applications, and the updates will usually be deployed automatically by the cloud provider. Another benefit is the ability for new features to be introduced through a tutorial shown on a user's account when they next log in.
Cross device compatibility
SaaS applications can be accessed via any internet enabled device, which makes it ideal for those businesses that use a number of different devices. This is particularly relevant in today's BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environments where varying operating systems (such as Windows, OSX, iOS and Android) are prevalent and nobody wants to abandon their own favourite tech brand.
Accessible from any location
Rather than being restricted to installations on individual computers, phones or tablets, a SaaS application can be accessed from anywhere with an internet enabled device.
Customisation and white labelling
With some SaaS platforms, customisation is available meaning it can be altered to suit the needs and branding of a particular business or organisation.
Of course, as with any technology, not all is 'rosy in the garden' and there are some serious considerations for any business aiming to introduce a SaaS platform into the organisation. So, what are the risks?
Regulatory and legal risks
It is important to understand where your data is stored. This includes, not only your company data, but sensitive data you may hold about your customers or clients. If the data you hold is regulated, or has specific legal requirements around management and access, then you must thoroughly investigate how your SaaS provider will allow you to comply with imposed regulations.
As your organisation moves more functions into the cloud with SaaS providers, you potentially put yourself at risk of more downtime. Since SaaS involves passing on all the responsibility of your software to a SaaS provider, you are essentially relying on them to keep everything up and running.
There have been some high profile data leaks at some major SaaS providers (such as Dropbox) over the past few years and this must be considered before ploughing your data and user credentials into the cloud. Make sure that you understand the steps that your SaaS provider takes to keep your data secure from hackers and how they are likely to react to keep you protected in the event of a data breach.
Where to find the right SaaS for your business?
There are so many SaaS providers and applications nowadays that choosing the right one for your business can be a bit of a minefield. We would recommend researching SaaS applications through the fantastic www.getapp.com website. The GetApp website has neatly categorised apps for all types of business tasks and genuine reviews from existing users. As a SaaS resource, it is the best place to start your search for a solution.
Of course, if you need any further information, we are always on hand to give you some extra advice based on your business needs.
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