The Software as a Service (SaaS) model continues to gain traction across all corners of the business world, and for good reason. Also known as on-demand software, hosted software or web-based software, SaaS eschews traditional software installation, maintenance and management approaches in favor of delivering cloud-based applications via the internet. With SaaS, service provider partners shoulder the burdens of security, availability and performance.
Organizations of all shapes and sizes are embracing the SaaS philosophy as an alternative to on-premises hardware and software deployment. IT management metrics provider Computer Economics reports that 60 percent of all companies now have integrated at least some SaaS solutions into their business, with 36 percent intending to increase their investment in the months ahead.
But is SaaS a sound idea for your company? Here’s what you need to know.
The pros and cons of Software as a Service
SaaS is a natural fit for businesses intent on slashing IT responsibilities and costs. On average, firms that transition to Software as a Service subscriptions from capital-heavy, on-premise infrastructure installation, maintenance and upgrades enjoy an IT spending reduction of more than 15 percent, according to data collected by Computer World.
SaaS is particularly well suited for small businesses. Instead of investing in additional in-house server capacity and software licenses, companies simply can adjust their Software as a Service subscription on a monthly basis, scaling consumption requirements up and down based on project demands and other variables. There’s also an increase in human bandwidth: In-house IT staffers are liberated from the tasks associated with on-premise hardware and software, allowing them to tackle projects more vital to the company’s future growth. And because the IT infrastructure resides in the service provider’s data center, your organization can get back up and running immediately in the event of a service outage or more dramatic disruption.
Nothing is perfect, of course, and SaaS is no exception. Companies that adopt multiple Software as a Service applications or plan to connect hosted software with existing on-premise apps may encounter software integration headaches along the way. Security is another common concern for businesses mulling SaaS options: Whenever sensitive company data and business processes are entrusted to a third-party service provider, issues such as identity and access management must be addressed. Businesses must also take into account the government compliance regulations inherent to storing customer data in a remote data center.
Essential SaaS apps every company should know
Still on the fence about SaaS? Perhaps a deeper understanding of some of the most innovative and popular SaaS applications can help you make up your mind.
Arguably the quintessential Software as a Service application, Salesforce remains at the vanguard of the cloud computing revolution it helped create. The customer relations management solution enables businesses to collect all information on customers, prospects and leads within a single online platform, enabling authorized employees to access critical data on any connected device at any time. Salesforce credits its tools for boosting customer sales an average of 37 percent as well as driving increased client loyalty and satisfaction.
Microsoft Office 365
Signature Microsoft productivity applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint are longtime staples of the workplace, but the cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 dramatically expands the Office suite’s parameters. Users now may create, edit and share content from any PC, Mac, iOS, Android or Windows device in real-time, connect with colleagues and customers across a range of tools from email to video conferencing and leverage a range of collaborative technologies supporting secure interactions both inside and outside of the organization.
This online workspace enables professionals to collaborate with anyone, anywhere. Users can securely share large files via traditional link or custom URL, safeguarding data and documents via permissions and password protection. Box supports more than 120 file types, and users may preview content prior to downloading. All content sharing, editing, discussion and approval is confined to one centralized file, and users receive real-time notifications when edits are made. Box also automates tasks such as employee onboarding and contract approvals, reducing repetition and abbreviating review cycles.
Google long ago expanded beyond its search and advertising roots to offer businesses a comprehensive suite of productivity tools. Google Apps includes custom professional email (complete with spam protection), shared calendars and video meetings alongside Google Drive. A cloud-based document storage solution, Google Drive enables staffers to access files from any device and share them instantly with colleagues, in the process eliminating email attachments as well as the hassles of merging different versions.
Amazon Web Services
Amazon, too, has evolved beyond its core e-commerce platform to support the on-demand delivery of cloud-based IT resources and applications, bolstered by pay-as-you-go pricing options. Amazon Web Services currently encompasses more than 70 services in all, including computing, storage, networking, database, analytics, deployment, management and tools for the Internet of Things.
Business travel can pose headaches for on-the-go employees and finance departments alike. Concur streamlines the process by automating travel and expense management. Its web-based and mobile solutions enable staffers to book travel plans according to their own needs and preferences, while also making sure all bookings fall within company spending limits. Concur additionally reconciles expenses after travel is completed and delivers electronic airline, hotel and auto rental receipts directly into digital expense reports. This negates the need to collect, track and submit paper receipts.
This cloud-based customer service and support ticketing platform enables representatives to more efficiently tackle inbound client requests across any communications channel — email, web, social media, phone or chat. Features include Automatic Answers (a machine learning-powered tool for interpreting and solving customer questions and requests), Zopim (a real-time chat service) and Zendesk Voice (a cloud-based, built-in phone support solution). According to Zendesk, its business users experience positive ratings for more than 86 percent of their customer interactions.
Electronic signature technology and transaction management services platform DocuSign supports the exchange of digital contracts and other e-signed documents. Users may access, sign and send business documents from their office, their hotel room or anywhere else their job leads, guaranteeing approvals and agreements are executed in a matter of minutes, not days. DocuSign e-signatures are legally binding for most business and personal transactions in virtually every nation across the globe. The app supports more than 85 million users in 188
Keep your documents and files at your fingertips across all your devices using Dropbox. Anything added to Dropbox storage automatically shows up across all your desktop and mobile devices, enabling professionals to begin a project on their work PC, make edits on their smartphone during the evening commute home, and add the finishing touches from their home tablet. Then users can invite teammates to access any Dropbox folder or send them specific files and images accessible through password-protected links; there’s even a remote wipe option in case of emergency.
A real-time messaging, archiving and search solution, Slack is redefining business communication. Users may organize team conversations in open channels dedicated to specific topics or projects or limit more sensitive interactions to private, invite-only participants. Colleagues also may interact one-on-one using private, secure direct messages. Slack also enables users to share files, documents, spreadsheets and PDFs, complete with options for adding comments and highlighting for future reference; moreover, all messages, notifications and files are automatically indexed and archived.
Even if none of those Software as a Service solutions float your boat, chances are there’s an app that can transform how your organization does business. “When deployed correctly, SaaS promises decreased infrastructure, speed of implementation and comparable customer experience. It also can save on upfront costs,” said David Wagner, Computer Economics’ vice president of research. “It is no surprise that companies are making the switch.” You owe it to your business to consider joining their ranks.