SaaS or Software as a Service

Definition of the concept of SaaS or Software as a Service.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a type of software that is hosted on the cloud and can be accessed through the internet. It is also known as “software as a service” in French. One of the advantages of using SaaS for business owners is that they do not need to purchase or maintain their own hardware, software, or data center infrastructure. Instead, all of this is provided by the service provider.

1. Definition of Software as a Service platforms

Software as a service (SaaS) is a software distribution model in which the seller provides applications and data to customers over the internet. Users typically access SaaS through a lightweight client on a web browser, but they can also access it using other lightweight clients such as a desktop computer, mobile device, or tablet.

1.1 What is a SaaS solution?

A SaaS solution is software that is hosted on the cloud and can be accessed through a web browser. In other words, software as a service (SaaS) is a software application that is accessed over the internet. The application is hosted on the provider’s servers, and users or clients access it through a network, usually the public internet.

1.2 What are the advantages of SaaS?

The main advantages of SaaS solutions, and this list is not exhaustive, are the following:

  • Flexibility: The customer can use it whenever they want, on any device with an internet connection. A SaaS platform is therefore independent of the client’s operating systems. SaaS providers generally charge monthly or annual fees based on the number of users or features.
  • Profitability: It is easier for businesses to start with SaaS because it does not require installation. And therefore in the same way, no software update.
  • Scalability: Businesses can easily increase or decrease their use of SaaS applications without installing new hardware or hiring more employees. This means that the client company does not have to manage the renewal of servers from a company.
  • Model: Software as a service (SaaS) is a model for delivering software over the internet. It is often used by small businesses and startups because it does not require significant initial investments.
  • Progressive investment: It allows small, starting businesses to grow without large initial investments.
  • Ease of use: SaaS solutions are generally easy to use and offer dedicated features that meet the needs of the user.
  • Support: SaaS providers generally offer customer service in multiple languages, often automated and online.

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1.3 Main disadvantages of SaaS solutions

The disadvantages of SaaS are generally all related to the lack of control, on the source code or the deployment of updates. Here is a non-exhaustive list:

  1. Lack of control: As a SaaS user, you do not have control over the source code or the deployment of updates. This means that you cannot manually fix bugs or customize the software to your specific needs.
  2. Limited customization: While some SaaS solutions may offer some level of customization, they may not offer the same level of flexibility as a software that you install and host yourself. This can be a disadvantage if you have specific requirements or needs that cannot be met by the SaaS solution.
  3. Dependency on internet connectivity: SaaS solutions require an internet connection to access the software and data. This means that if there are connectivity issues or outages, you may not be able to access the software or your data.
  4. Security concerns: As with any cloud-based solution, there may be concerns about the security of data stored on a third-party server. It is important to carefully review the security measures in place and the terms of service before choosing a SaaS provider.
  5. Vendor lock-in: Since you are reliant on the SaaS provider for hosting, maintenance, and support, it can be difficult to switch to a different provider if you are not satisfied with the service. This can lead to vendor lock-in, where you are tied to a specific provider and may have limited options for switching to a different one.
  6. Lack of central authority for deciding on new features: There is no central authority that determines which new features will be released and when. This can be a disadvantage if you are relying on specific features or enhancements to be added to the software.
  7. Difficulty in implementing specific code: It may be more difficult to implement custom code that is designed to bypass certain limitations of the software. This can be a disadvantage if you need to customize the software to meet your specific needs.
SaaS or Software as a Service are accessible all around the world with an internet connection
SaaS or Software as a Service are accessible all around the world with an internet connection

2. Example of SaaS vendors

There are many SaaS vendors that offer a variety of products and services. Some examples of important vendors include Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, Salesforce, etc.

The following list of companies offerings SaaS solutions or products is not exhaustive:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a leading SaaS vendor that provides a wide range of products and services, including messaging, ERP, database hosting, storage, machine learning, and more.
  • Google Workplace (formerly Google G Suite) is a suite of productivity tools that includes Gmail, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive, and Calendar, among other products. Google Workplace aims to help businesses and organizations collaborate and communicate more effectively.
  • Microsoft Azure is another major SaaS vendor that offers a variety of products and services, including hosting for Office software, databases, Power BI, virtual machines, DevOps services, machine learning, and application hosting.
  • Dropbox is a file hosting and sharing service that allows users to store, share, and collaborate on files in the cloud.
  • Salesforce is a customer relationship management (CRM) platform that helps businesses manage customer data, sales, marketing, and customer service.
  • Zendesk is a customer service platform that offers a range of tools for managing customer inquiries and support requests.
  • Slack is a messaging and collaboration platform that is popular among businesses and organizations.

3. Differences between SaaS and on-premises solutions

Here are 3 major differences between the SaaS solutions and the On-Premises ones:

3.1 Upfront costs

Upfront costs: With an on-premises solution, you typically have to pay upfront for the software license and any hardware required to run the software. With SaaS, you usually pay a recurring subscription fee, which can be more cost-effective for small businesses or startups with limited budgets.

Example: If you want to purchase an on-premises customer relationship management (CRM) system, you might have to pay a one-time license fee of $10,000 and also purchase servers and other hardware to run the software. With a SaaS CRM, you might pay a monthly subscription fee of $50 per user.

3.2 Maintenance and updates

With an on-premises solution, you are responsible for maintaining the software and applying updates yourself. With SaaS, the provider typically handles maintenance and updates, which can be more convenient and reduce the workload on your IT team.

Example: If you have an on-premises enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, you might have to allocate time and resources to apply updates, fix bugs, and troubleshoot issues. With a SaaS ERP, the provider handles these tasks for you.

3.3 Customization

With an on-premises solution, you have more control over the software and can customize it to meet your specific needs. With SaaS, customization options may be more limited, although some SaaS providers offer some level of customization.

On-premises CRM solution

A company using an on-premises customer relationship management (CRM) system has full control over the software and can customize it to meet their specific needs.

For example, the company might want to add a custom field to the CRM to track the type of industry their customers are in. With an on-premises solution, the company can easily make this customization by modifying the code or hiring a developer to make the changes for them.

SaaS CRM solution

A company using a SaaS CRM has more limited customization options compared to an on-premises solution. Some SaaS providers may offer a certain level of customization, such as the ability to add custom fields or configure certain settings.

However, the company may not have access to the underlying code and may not be able to make more extensive customizations. In this case, the company would have to work with the SaaS provider to see if their customization request can be accommodated.

4. Difference between SaaS and PaaS (Platform as a Service)

SaaS solutions are pre-built software applications that users can access and use directly. PaaS solutions on the other hand are platforms that provide tools and services for building and deploying custom applications. Here are some additional differences between SaaS and PaaS (Platform as a Service):

  1. Focus: SaaS solutions are typically pre-built software applications that users can access and use directly, such as CRM, ERP, or productivity tools. PaaS solutions, on the other hand, are platforms that provide a range of tools and services that developers can use to build and deploy custom applications.
  2. Customization: SaaS solutions are generally more limited in terms of customization compared to PaaS solutions. With PaaS, developers have more control over the development and customization of their applications, as they have access to a range of tools and services that they can use to build and deploy their software.
  3. Deployment: SaaS solutions are typically hosted and managed by the provider, and users access them over the internet. PaaS solutions, on the other hand, can be deployed either on-premises or in the cloud, depending on the needs of the developer.
  4. Maintenance: With SaaS solutions, the provider typically handles maintenance and updates, while with PaaS, the developer is responsible for maintaining and updating their applications.

5. Conclusion on Software as a Service solutions

SaaS solutions offer a convenient and cost-effective way for businesses to access software applications without having to purchase and maintain their own hardware, infrastructure and training dedicated teams. However, it is important for companies to carefully evaluate the provider’s resources and capabilities to ensure the stability and performance of a given system.

The provider should have a good reputation and track record to earn, and maintain over time the trust of the customers. When implementing a cloud solution, it is important to consider carefully all these factors to ensure a successful implementation.

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