What is SaaS? Most Asked Questions about Software as a Service

Adam Hughes
Software as a Service (SaaS) is a common cloud computing model for business applications within an enterprise

As enterprises today leverage cloud computing to improve scalability, save money, and increase productivity, one of the most popular components of that strategy continues to be the adoption of software as a service, or SaaS, solutions. SaaS is one of the three major forms of cloud computing, along with platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (iPaaS) and is one of the most widely adopted solution models today.

What is SaaS (Software as a Service)?

Software as a service is a very common cloud computing deliver model for business applications within an enterprise. SaaS offerings span all types of use case, including email and social collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), human resources management (HRM), and content management, just to name a few.

Through a SaaS model, data can be accessed from any device that has an internet connection and web browser. In the web-based method, a software vendor will host and maintain the servers, databases, and code that make up an application. This saves companies a tremendous amount of money since they no longer have to invest in expensive hardware to host the software. Additionally, instead of companies paying ongoing maintenance fees as well as a perpetual license, a SaaS model means they only pay an annual or monthly subscription fee, which includes the software license and support fees.

Embedded Integration and SaaS

A company’s growth is highly dependent on its ability to exchange data with its customers.  Data transfer to and from customers is incredibly important for those organizations providing a SaaS offering. As a SaaS provider’s customer base grows, the demand to support many kinds of protocols and connectors also grows.

A SaaS ecosystem is dynamic, so it is imperative that a company makes itself easy to do business with. Providing fast and reliable information exchanges to and from customers is at the core of each software and SaaS solution, especially those that support other businesses.

SaaS companies with a modern data movement platform allows them to move microservices in the offerings they provide for their customers between their private cloud infrastructure and their customers. These solutions are created via technology-based capabilities that deliver valuable business outcomes. If a SaaS company has an embedded data movement platform that allows them to provide frictionless data movement between themselves and their customers, they can greatly improve their services and in turn, deliver more value for their customers.

When selecting an embedded integration technology, it is critical that it supports hybrid integration, fast and easy implementation, greater speed to market, as well as end-to-end visibility at every transactional stage for data moving in and through your cloud.

IaaS, PaaS, SaaS – What’s the Difference?

Software as a service, infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and platform as a service (PaaS) each serve a distinct purpose as a cloud infrastructure when used within an enterprise. However, there are several key differences among them.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS offers essential building blocks, database storage, and a virtual platform. An IaaS model provides cost-saving and scalable IT solutions so the complex and expensive hardware can be outsourced to a third-party cloud vendor. The IT components are also automated for customers that can self-provision the storage and processing power of the IaaS platform itself.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

 PaaS deployment model revolves around a third-party cloud vendor that manages a computing platform, which usually includes an operating system, virtualization, servers, storage, and networking. A platform-as-a-service model does not fully replace your IT infrastructure, but it does augment what is already in place, specifically application hosting. Software development is a common PaaS category because it provides developers the tools and services required to rapidly and flexibly create new applications and microservices.

Software as Service (SaaS)

As mentioned above, SaaS is the most commonly implemented cloud computing service for enterprise customers. SaaS can either fully replace or augment traditional enterprise systems, everything ranging from ERP to accounting and supply chain and inventory management services. Users can access many cloud-based applications on an as-needed basis.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of SaaS?

While SaaS has many appealing features and reasons that its grown to be such a popular delivery model for its business applications, just like any form of cloud computing, there are some potential roadblocks to be cognizant of.

The advantages of SaaS are wide-ranging, and allow enterprises to capitalize in a number of alluring ways. SaaS models provide a much lower up-front cost than traditional IT models, saving businesses a considerable amount of money. Additionally, SaaS deployments are quick and easy to set up, which minimizes many of the common delays that result from a traditional software deployment. It’s also much easier to install updates, since the providers themselves are the ones dealing with the hardware and software updates. Finally, SaaS models provide accessibility and scalability to make the most of your IT budget.

Conversely, there are a few disadvantages to a SaaS model. The first is that, like any form of cloud computing, you are giving up a certain amount of control to a third-party vendor. Another disadvantage revolves around security and data concerns, which many companies still have concerning the cloud. Access management and data privacy remains a major consideration when a company chooses to dip its toes into a SaaS model. Not every software solution is offered in the form of SaaS either, and integration with other software, for things like single sign-on, can be difficult or even unsupported.

How SaaS Solutions Can be Used by Enterprises

With SaaS solutions, enterprises gain flexibility and scalability that allows them to do their jobs more efficiently, and there are many different forms of software as a service that companies can utilize. Business applications such as Office 365, Google Apps, Salesforce, and Citrix GoToMeeting are popular examples of SaaS technologies.

Companies can deploy SaaS accounting software to help with financials, inventory management tools to monitor product stock, and system performance monitoring solutions to keep an eye on infrastructure health. They also can use HRM tools to manage employees, CRM software to centralize and manage account information, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) to integrate data across various departments to better fulfill orders and shipments.

Who Owns the Data/Is the Data Secure?

One thing a company must fully understand under a SaaS contract is data ownership. It’s often confusing since contracts do cover service outages and access to service, but who is truly in control and ownership of your data in case a breach happens or a legal incident occurs?

The question as to who owns the data in the cloud is an ongoing one that is tricky to fully resolve. There are legal and technical aspects that some experts say depends on whether the data was created by users before it was uploaded to the cloud, or whether it was created within a vendor’s cloud platform.

A SaaS provider also must ensure that its customer’s data is fully secure, and that its privacy is truly valued to comply with a variety of mandates (GDPR, for one). Some of the freemium SaaS vendors don’t even subscribe to a privacy and permission policy, so it’s important for companies to be aware of who they are working with and trust with their data, as privacy regulations must be in place before a contract is signed.

Is SaaS Right for Me?

Whether a SaaS model is a right fit for your enterprise depends entirely on you and your specific needs. Operational expenses can be dramatically lowered with a SaaS model, and ease of disaster recovery, maintenance, and 24/7 support are additional reasons businesses might choose software as a service. Perhaps the most alluring aspects of the cloud are the pay-as-you-go models where you consume and pay only for what you need, as well as the ability to scale as needed and as your business grows.

Conversely, depending on your industry, SaaS solutions may not meet your company’s security and data concerns. Regulatory compliance cannot be a dealbreaker, and while many third-party cloud vendors are making strides to meet those security and compliance requirements, the fact of the matter is that there will always be a certain measure of risk involved when it comes to cloud computing.

Is SaaS Dead?

The short answer is – no, SaaS is not dead. But the term might be slightly misleading. Perhaps the term shouldn’t be so much software as a service rather than just simply software. The SaaS business model isn’t going anywhere, and more companies are leaping head first into the cloud to reap all benefits it has to offer.

Cleo features integration for SaaS software providers that propels exponential business growth, that allows companies to seamlessly connect and integrate their most critical data so they can focus on what truly matters – their business. Cleo provides all the features that you want and more importantly – need, to support a SaaS solution. Scalability, uptime, speed to revenue, legacy roadblocks, monitoring, and compliance are all included in Cleo’s SaaS integration solutions.

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