Software as a Service (SaaS) is a model of software delivery where customers access network-based software.  This is far from a new concept and has had many names in the past, such as service bureau (in the 1980’s), ASP (in the 1990’s), hosted software or on-demand software in the early 2000’s and most recently Cloud SaaS as defined by NIST:

Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The applications are accessible from various client devices through a thin client interface such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email). The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application configuration settings.

While the services behind each of these names has subtle differences in delivery options, underlying architecture, the technology available at the time, etc.; the core concept remains the same.  From an individual perspective, it is a service available online. From a business IT perspective, SaaS is basically outsourcing the management and operation of software required to support a specific function.

There are many well known offerings such as SalesForce.com for CRM, Carbonite for online data backup, Google Apps For Business for desktop functions, or any of the free online email systems like YahooMail or Gmail used by both businesses and individuals.  These examples reflect another point about SaaS, which is that it can be for either business or consumer software.

Following are my 10 reasons to consider software as a service:

  1. Rapid Implementation – There is no faster way to get started with a new software application than to take advantage of a professionally run service.  Even complex business process oriented applications can be ready to go in less than 30 days.
  2. Lower Cost to Implement – Implementation costs are significantly lower than developing custom solutions or purchasing and installing proprietary software and hardware.
  3. Lower Cost to Operate – The Software as a Service model spreads infrastructure, development, maintenance and future innovation costs across a broad base of users.
  4. Reliable Cost Forecasting – Subscription fees are predictable, allowing you to forecast your IT costs over several years.
  5. Ease of Access – Implementations are based on Internet access with browser-based interfaces making it easy for staff to access the service from anywhere and from a variety of devices.
  6. 24X7 Support – Support staff who specialize in the given application and are available 24X7 can mean significant improvement in end user assistance over on-premise implementations where the support function is spread across internal IT staff and remote vendor support for software related issues.
  7. Increased Reliability – The infrastructure behind most software as a service offerings is based on professionally run data centers with full system and database redundancy, load balancing and fail-over.  This will provide for better availability and performance.
  8. Increased Security – Physical and data security are generally greater than most companies will put in place for on-premise implementations.
  9. Continual Technology Enhancements – Planning and managing upgrades is someone else’s problem.  You get the benefit of frequent upgrades without the hassle of testing, managing change control or converting data.
  10. Reduced Risk – Low up front cost, little or no staff time to get going, and an already up and running environment means that most of the risks to selecting and implementing new software are avoided.  The project will be on-time, there will be no hardware costs or other infrastructure surprises, and if it’s not the right software you won’t be walking away from a big investment if you choose to make a switch.
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