by November 1, 2011 0 comments

SaaS is nothing but a paradigm for how you consume or use a software product. A very simplistic definition for SaaS is the following: it’s the software you use that is not installed on computers on premise but hosted externally and accessed by you when needed. SaaS as a model has been around a long time though the term is a more recent coinage. If you have ever used Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, or Gmail (as most of you probably have been for years) then you have already been on the SaaS bandwagon!

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Why then the huge fuss about SaaS in recent times if it’s something that has been around for a while? The reason is that recent advancements in computing and the Internet have made the ability to deliver software over the Internet a more and more attractive proposition. An Internet browser today boasts of computing ability that was not possible years ago allowing an incredible number of things to be achieved. Advances in virtualization also mean that the same computer can serve many different users or ‘tenants’ at the same time. Finally, the almost ubiquitous access to Internet means you are always connected to remote computers wherever you might be. All of these have contributed to making SaaS one of the most exciting trends in computing today.

Whether it’s Human Resource Management (HRM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Payroll Management, Email Marketing, or a multitude of other internal or customer oriented business needs you are thinking about, here are the 11 key reasons why consuming software through a SaaS model is right for you

1. No need to worry about IT personnel and resources.

For most small to medium enterprises it may not make sense to have expensive IT personnel in-house given their scale of operations. Even if these resources are available, they may not be available 24×7 to resolve your IT needs in a timely and efficient manner. Also, IT personnel on your staff do require a level of strategic oversight that you would rather devote to your core business. With a SaaS model you can do away or significantly reduce the need for these IT resources. There are no servers, software, or installations you manage.

2. Get quality software & computing resources

Your software needs computers and servers to run. What if you had access to a high quality software solution and the computing resources to run that software in a seamless fashion from the same vendor? A top SaaS provider today designs a specialized solution for a business function that meets all your expectations and abstracts you from the complexity of managing or mapping this to specific hardware.

3. Better collaboration

A common problem at many organizations is the lack of collaboration amongst various individuals who own multiple copies of documents, spreadsheets, and other such files. Most SaaS solutions are designed to allow multiple users to access data in a systematic manner which results in better collaboration. Google Apps is an example of a software suite that allows collaboration amongst multiple users working on the same document at the same time which can be a powerful tool to enhance productivity.

4. Easier to use & disseminate

The interfaces of many SaaS solutions in the market today are built to operate within your web browser using technologies such as HTML5/XHTML/Ajax, which apart from a great degree of functionality, still have some limitations vs. a piece of software that is running directly on your computer. While this may sound like a negative, these limitations have indirectly resulted in the invention of improved features and usability which is significantly easier for users to comprehend and embrace. For example, Basecamp is an online project management solution that offers a minimal set of features but is preferred by a number of organizations big and small over large and more heavyweight solutions which need significant ramp up and training for each user.

5. Quick start

Traditional on premise software systems require a longer incubation period to install, configure, and activate. SaaS products take a few minutes to get started with. Once you have signed up and paid up your subscription, you can start using your software immediately. There are no extensive customizations necessary.

6. Scalability

Have one user? A hundred? Don’t know yet how many you will need 6 months from now? No problem. With SaaS you pay for what you use and what’s more you don’t worry about additional hardware or architectural complexity as your needs expand. Most SaaS products will allow you to downgrade your usage if your needs shrink over time. The scalability challenge should not be underestimated. Managing software architecture for 5 vis-a-vis 500 users is a different ballgame and here it makes sense to let the SaaS provider do the heavy lifting. Many SaaS products will even let you use the software for free for a small number of users and then charge you as your usage grows. For example, Zoho CRM, a popular CRM solution is free if you have less than 4 users.

7. Stop worrying about upgrades

No more worrying about compatibility, downtimes, and service disruption. Your SaaS provider will handle all of this seamlessly–in fact even if they do undergo downtimes for upgrades (as we all must from time to time)–they will likely schedule and plan this to cause minimal issues to a large set of users thereby getting you up and running quickly. Compatibility with underlying OS platforms and application development frameworks during upgrades is also a complex topic that tends to trip up many businesses. Why worry about this if you don’t have to?

8. Keep your data safe

Safety for SaaS solutions is often a big sticking point for businesses considering SaaS. Who will store backups? What if data is lost? How do you restore your files? While SaaS is in no way meant to replace your needs for a backup system, many SaaS platforms will maintain multiple versions and backups of your files and use better storage and backup infrastructure than you would deploy yourself. As a result, your data is more secure against damage or loss and most importantly is already attached to the application so you don’t have to worry restoring it.

9. Anywhere, anytime access

Email is a great case in point here. The same way that webmail liberated us from being attached to our computers and allowed us to access our email anywhere in the world, SaaS holds the promise of allowing you to use your software from anywhere, at anytime. The ubiquity of access across location and devices is one the most attractive reasons to consider SaaS. Almost all mature SaaS applications today boast full featured access from mobiles devices which is a huge plus for those on the go.

10. Plethora of options available

The rapid evolution of SaaS products has also meant that today there are solutions for business needs and processes that probably did not even exist a few years ago. A quick glance at crunchbase ( tag/saas) reveals close to 1000 companies offering SaaS products for everything from managing email subscribers to business networking. For instance, the innovative customer engagement solution called UserVoice allows you to create conversations with your customers and solicit features, issues, and feedback from them. No matter what industry or size of company you represent there is a chance that you can benefit from the multitude of SaaS options available today.

11. Expenditure vs depreciation

Finally, we come to one the most oft repeated reasons for the emergence of SaaS today which is the expense vs. depreciation argument. For a small organization, buying and setting up dedicated IT infrastructure, servers, bandwidth, and the like is a capital intensive activity that they can do without. Enter SaaS with its pay-as-you-go model. It is better suited to a small organization where cash flow is an important consideration.

In summary, SaaS promises to offer a number of benefits including cost savings, and quality software by spreading the costs of deployment and development over a large user base.

In an earlier era these were benefits that only larger organizations could afford. The advent of SaaS products across every conceivable business need means you spend more time growing your business and less of it worrying about whether your custom-deployed servers are staying up each night!

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