One of the three pillars of cloud computing is Software as a Service, or SaaS (the others are Infrastructure as a Services, IaaS; and Platform as a Service, PaaS). SaaS is one of the easiest to understand elements of cloud, and perhaps the most instantly useful.
To understand what SaaS is, the best example is web based email, such as Hotmail or Gmail. In an earlier age, email had be to set up to be read and composed within a piece of desktop software called a client, such as Outlook or Eudora. Now though, emails can be received and sent using a website - much easier!
If you want to get started quickly and for free with SaaS - even just to find out what sort of things are possible, try out Google Docs at docs.google.com - which is a suite of office tools including a word processor, spreadsheets and presentations. They all run in the browser and store your files online (you can also download your files locally).
Here are five ways SaaS could be a real benefit to your business:
Collaboration is key to SaaS and is usually an integral part of applications that run on an online infrastructure. Most SaaS apps allow more than one person to work on a document or record at once. Sometimes this can be rather surprising - seeing somebody else’s words appearing in real time in front of your eyes as you both edit a report!
The advantages here are obvious. No more emailing round copies of documents for review, and then having to merge all the changes into one master document - everyone just edits the same copy!
One of the biggest costs and annoyances of maintaining software on all the computers within an organisation is keeping it up to date. With software developers bringing out new versions which have to be paid for, then rolled out throughout the business, and files checked for compatibility, in can be a major resource hog.
With SaaS, all the responsibility for upgrading software sits with the software developer. In fact, the whole process of upgrades is redesigned, with updates to the software being rolled out to users on a daily basis - sometimes many times in a single day.
This allows for a much more iterative and agile method of developing the software. No big changes for users to deal with in one go, just little changes here and there that are easier to get used to. Also, if an update actually makes things worse - this does happen! - it’s quick and easy to revert things.
Work wherever you want on any system you want
The joy of SaaS is that the software sits within a web browser - a bit of technology every modern computer worth its salt has installed. This means that whether you are on a laptop, a desktop, a tablet or a phone; or using Windows, Mac, Linux; or Android or iOS - you’ll be able to use the software.
It also means the software is available to you on any device. So if you’re on holiday and want to check progress on a sale while you’ve been away, you don’t need to worry about the internet cafe having the software you need - as long as you have a reasonably modern browser available, you’re sorted.
Pay monthly and flexibly
Particularly for new and small businesses, SaaS tends to follow a rather helpful financial model. Rather than paying up front for software as one would traditionally, with SaaS one pays a monthly fee per user.
This tends to be a very quick and flexible process, so if an employee leaves, you can cancel their licence with a month’s notice, and then when they are replaced, a new licence can be purchased, so you aren’t paying for software that isn’t being used - great for the cashflow!
Speed of deployment
Implementing a new software package can be nightmarish projects that can take forever, go over budget and distract attention from business as usual. But because SaaS makes software a commodity, a business can be up and running with a new application within half an hour.
Remember - there is nothing to download and no hardware configuration to be done. By its nature this software is networked, so no worries there. Some of the bigger, more complicated systems may require some setting up to fit with your business’ processes, but generally it will always be much quicker than with traditional software.
You will also find that employee adoption is much quicker with SaaS as staff with be used to web based apps from their use of Facebook, Amazon and other consumer products. This will also reduce significantly the amount of training required - saving time and money!
This article has been provided by Dave Briggs who runs Kind of Digital, an online innovation agency based in Spalding. You can read his blog at kindofdigital.com or connect with him on Twitter attwitter.com/davebriggs. His LinkedIn profile is uk.linkedin.com/in/davebriggs.