SaaS, the colloquial name for Software as a Service, can be a vital opportunity for companies of all shapes and sizes. Offering significant flexibility to incorporate web-based software use into day to day operations, the chance to utilize SaaS solutions is something many companies appreciate.
However, SaaS isn’t the right fit for everyone. In spite of benefits, there are limitations that can stand in the way of accomplishing business objectives. This is what you need to know about the pros and cons of Software as a Service.
What Is Software as a Service?
Software as a Service, or SaaS, is a subtype of cloud computing that offers a cloud-based software platform that is accessible online. Instead of downloading a program onto a computer or network and accessing from on-site resources, software using the SaaS model is completely web-based. Using software is universal across all devices and operating systems, making it easy to stay connection from anywhere, at any time.
SaaS programs come in many different shapes and sizes but are available in all major categories, including:
- Customer relationship management
- Accounting, accounts payable, and financial planning
- Applicant tracking systems
- Photo editing and design programs
- File sharing services
- Document creation and editing software
- Data valuation software
- Email management
It’s important to note that SaaS isn’t the same thing as cloud computing. While it is certainly a part of cloud computing, there is a difference between utilizing SaaS technologies and implementing a cloud-based solution. While SaaS is a part of cloud computing – and, for many companies, an important one – cloud computing on the whole is far more comprehensive, encompassing the infrastructure required to establish cloud-based services, storage, and operations.
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What Are the Pros and Cons of SaaS?
No decision in business should be made without careful consideration. For SaaS offerings, this means fully understanding what SaaS can do for you as well as the inherent risks in moving forward.
Pros of SaaS
Software as a Service has many advantages to offer users, regardless of end goals and objectives. Here are some of the benefits of SaaS, outside of a simple and predictable subscription fee, you can expect when employing SaaS software over on-premise software and other software applications.
No Need to Install and Run Applications
Historically, utilizing applications has required physically downloading them onto a computer in a way that can require space and draw on a significant amount of computing power, limiting productivity. All maintenance is handled by on-site staff, from troubleshooting issues to downloading programs and applications on new machines during technology refreshes. This can come with a whole host of problems, like taking time and energy away from more important IT priorities.
SaaS systems and a SaaS subscription simplifies this, however. As software isn’t installed on a computer and is instead accessible through the internet, fewer resources are required. Company computers have more space to house documents and other applications, improving efficiencies. This also alleviates the pressure on in-house IT teams, saving money and allowing companies to allocate resources to more important projects. Especially as an enterprise business trying to switch integration away from onsite to a SaaS service provider.
Easy or Instant Updates
Using software that is out of date may not seem like a big issue – after all, it happens all the time, and sometimes it feels like updates roll out on a never-ending basis – but failing to update apps in a timely manner can lead to vulnerabilities and compromised functionality. As many updates offer security patches, failing to do so can leave your systems open to attack. Using traditional software, updating can be a large commitment that often involves IT staff to ensure all team members follow prompts and upgrade by mandated deadlines. In other cases, IT pros must manually handle software updates, an hours- or days-long process that squanders time and resources.
SaaS solutions, however, make upgrades instant. Software products can either provide notifications to users to update, or can update automatically without user interference. This means saving time and money while also avoiding security issues. Further, more frequent updates means access to the best functions and features without delay, improving what your business is able to offer. For those with evolving software needs, SaaS is a good way to make sure all relevant product features are available as soon as possible.
Historically, doing work has been limited to being at the office. Computers are only available at an employee’s desk and software can’t be accessed remotely. SaaS changes all of this. With web-based software accessibility, most SaaS products are available from anywhere, so long as internet is available. SaaS solutions are generally useable across operating systems and devices, too. This crosses over all different kinds of SaaS programs, from customer relationship management to development platforms, offering a vast web of universally accessible web-based tools.
When using SaaS model solutions, companies can take advantage of remote access, allowing employees to check in from anywhere. From a long weekend at home to traveling for business, team members can meet objectives and fulfill deadlines without missing a beat. For companies that are well suited for remote work, utilizing SaaS solutions can facilitate this. Remote work can significantly reduce overhead, like utilities and the space needed for desks, giving your company a way to save money directly and indirectly through the use of SaaS applications.
For small companies with sights set on growth, finding the right fit can be a challenge when it comes to technology. Trying to accommodate current needs and budgets while balancing future expectations isn’t easy. However, SaaS programs can ameliorate these strains, providing an extremely scalable opportunity.
Most of the time, SaaS pricing is set up on a per-user basis, which means that companies only pay for the users they need. This allows for ongoing growth without significantly increasing expenses like a standard software license can. There are no server space limitations, either, so if your company grows rapidly or finds itself with changing demands, the opportunity to grow and expand will be there when you need it. Traditional servers can require expensive upgrades when more space is required, but as management and storage is all handled on the SaaS application provider’s side, there’s no risk of incremental costs to your company.
No one wants to consider the possibility of scaling down, but this can be a reality as well. Sometimes, needs change in the opposite direction, and the right software solution should be able to accommodate this as well. From a change in business perspective to seasonality that requires flexibility, SaaS solutions can handle scaling of all kinds.
Cons of SaaS
In spite of the benefits, SaaS isn’t perfect and won’t properly meet all of the needs of companies interested in a cloud platform. These are some disadvantages you should keep in mind while evaluating your options.
A Lack of Control
Despite the downsides associated with traditional on-site servers and applications stored within them, maintaining control is a major perk. When all stored information is tied to your on-premises resources, there is no chance for a change in hands or an adjustment in how things are operated; any threat is purely internal.
However, this isn’t the case with SaaS solution; the information used within SaaS programs is stored within the SaaS vendor’s data center. There is no way to influence anything regarding how this information is maintained, like security measures. This means that if servers go down or there is a hack, there’s very little you will be able to do about it. This puts data at risk, potentially costing you the trust of your customers and your reputation in your industry.
Many of the larger SaaS platforms, like Oracle and Salesforce, have strong security measures in place in their data centers and the risk of something happening is low, but there’s no way to be sure exactly how things are running behind the scenes. Accordingly, those strongly concerned with security may not want to move away from traditional software.
In many cases, upgrades are a good thing. Offering benefits like security patches and enhanced functionality, most updates benefit businesses. Unfortunately, incorporating upgrades into daily use isn’t always a choice – and it isn’t always what companies want.
Keeping things current and up to date is a big benefit of SaaS but for some companies, this functionality can be a downside. Due to how SaaS models work, it’s not uncommon for SaaS providers to roll out changes to an entire user base at one time, both for ease of use and to maintain security requirements. However, some companies have specific reasons for remaining on older versions of software. This can be due to functionality, compatibility with outside applications – take, for example, Oracle Hyperion’s financial planning tools and compatibility with varying versions of Microsoft Excel – or myriad other events that can impact how companies use software. When there’s no way to turn off automatic updates, or no way to defer updates indefinitely, problems can arise. For businesses with a delicate setup that is best not disturbed without warning, moving from traditional software to SaaS isn’t always the best choice.
Web Access Necessity
Under normal circumstances, a majority of software programs are available without web access. Things like Microsoft Excel, for example, can function offline, and many job functions that require access to things like word processors and spreadsheets can manage a majority of day to day work with minimal or moderate internet access. When web access goes down, whether due to internal problems or issues with service providers, this still allows for at least some ability to continue working.
SaaS programs, however, are hosted online and thus generally require the internet to function effectively. When the internet is working properly, this is a non-issue, but when it isn’t, problems may arise. Service outages can significantly interrupt the ways in which you do business, standing in the way of meeting deadlines and bringing productivity to a halt. Slow internet can also cause problems; when your service isn’t up to the demands of your employees, for example, it’s almost impossible to get anything done.
It’s important to note that some SaaS programs do have an offline feature that allows for partial functionality when not connected to the internet. However, this is usually limited to core functions and may inhibit access to data or key features required during the work day.
When a service provider offers both traditional and Software as a Service models, it’s easy to assume that a traditional version of a software program would be the exactly the same as its SaaS counterpart. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, there are some functional differences between how the two programs operate, resulting in reduced, limited, or completely different options between two seemingly-identical platforms.
When doing your due diligence on SaaS service providers, be sure to carefully evaluate the features available across all products. Some companies, for example, may explore the opportunities available with traditional software and choose to move forward with a SaaS model, assuming the same features and functions, but later find themselves limited to the use of an inferior or imperfect product.
Is SaaS Right for You?
As with all cloud computing options, SaaS isn’t always the right choice. In some cases, it’s an excellent opportunity, but in others, there are downsides that should be carefully considered before choosing to purchase a product.
In general, SaaS can be a great option for companies with limited needs or very diverse needs, for example. Small businesses with one or two software requirements and no use for a more expansive approach to cloud computing can find great opportunity in SaaS products. Alternately, for those with a wide array of existing traditional software programs and no need to change an established setup, adding a few SaaS programs to the mix can alleviate pressure on employees and open up new opportunities for remote work.
However, companies interested in a full transition to cloud services may want to hold off on the products of individual SaaS companies. Due to the downsides available and the alternatives that can be provided by a more robust third-party vendor, a different approach may be preferred.
If you are considering making the switch to cloud computing, a comprehensive private cloud solution from a trusted cloud service provider like Avatara is an excellent option. Providing the main benefits of cloud computing without the loss of control SaaS solutions and public cloud hosting can yield, Avatara’s CompleteCloud hosted services provide private cloud access in a customized environment. Encompassing everything from private hosting to tech support and even utility bills, CompleteCloud gives companies everything necessary to get started in cloud computing. Contact us today to learn more.