WHAT IS SAAS? A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE

December 24, 2020

If we told you you’ve been using SaaS for the last 5 years, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had some kind of virus (the computer kind or the human kind).

You may have heard the word bandied around and thought that sounds too technical for me.

In reality, it’s not actually that complicated.

It’s one of those terms that can make things sound more complicated than they are.

SaaS or Software as a Service is a big part of how we use software and you probably use it every day.

When we talk about the cloud and cloud-based software (which we do quite a lot), really what we’re talking about is SaaS.

And yes, it is pronounced how you think (Sass).

We thought we’d clear the air so that if the topic comes up in conversation, you’ll be able to hold your own and you’ll know what you’re looking for when it comes to your own company.

WHAT IS SAAS?

It used to be that when you needed a piece of software, you’d order a box with a disk in, install it on your computer and use it for years.

You can obviously still buy a lot of software in this way and sometimes that is the best solution, but it’s on its way out.

With this model you pay an upfront cost to the vendor and get what’s in the box.

With Software as a Service you pay the vendor as you use the software, with a regular subscription charge, like a rental fee. So, in essence you’re paying for a service, not buying a product.

The software is accessed over the internet and generally runs in a browser or mobile app. This means no downloads and installations and all the data and information you use and create whilst using the software is stored in the cloud.

Most modern software is released in this way and a lot of legacy software companies are transitioning to a SaaS model.

Microsoft Office has been around for a long time and now the main way it’s distributed is through Microsoft 365, a cloud-based system.

Of course, SaaS has many advantages for the vendor but it does have a lot of enviable benefits for the end user too. We’ll look at that below.

WHAT ARE SOME POPULAR EXAMPLES OF SAAS?

Adobe Creative Cloud has changed how people use their flagship creative software, such as Photoshop and Illustrator.

Whereas as you used to buy each piece of software and pay an upfront cost, you can now access all their software over the cloud for a monthly subscription fee.

Accounting and business software such as Sage are also transitioning to this model and indeed is the recommended way to buy these programs.

Other popular and widely used examples include Dropbox, Canva, G-Suite and other CRM’s such as Salesforce and HubSpot – although we reckon Sage has the best offering in this area for most businesses.

sage 200 commercials

THE MAIN ADVANTAGES OF THE SAAS MODEL

We’ve discussed the advantages of cloud-based software in other blogs but here’s a refresher on the main advantages of going in this direction.

A big plus is the accessibility. SaaS is usually sold at accessible monthly price points with no upfront cost and the user can usually pick a payment plan or package that suits their needs.

Many even have free trials or free tiers in their pricing plans allowing you to trial the software first.

This lack of upfront investment and staggered costs means the software can be used across the industry spectrum, by small start-ups and longer running businesses alike.

It will also scale with the business.

SAAS TAKES THINGS OFF YOUR HANDS

The fact they are on the cloud has other benefits including not needing storage space for the software as well as any data you produce whilst using it.

Updates, patches and bug fixes are regularly distributed by the vendor meaning you always have the option to use the latest version. Improvements are constantly being made to the software and respond to user needs quickly.

This takes a lot of time-consuming activity off your team and puts it in the hands of the vendor, saving time and money.

THERE ARE SOME LIMITATIONS OF COURSE

It’s pretty much a given that most businesses will be heading in this direction due to the undeniable benefits of SaaS and the phasing out of legacy software.

However, there are things to be aware of.

The main thing is the pricing models are designed to hook you in and keep you in. Once you start using a service and tying all your data and assets to it, it’s pretty hard to get out. Usually this data won’t be easily transferrable to other systems and SaaS don’t always cross pollinate well.

It being in the cloud also means you have less control and governance over your data. You have to put your trust wholeheartedly in the vendor.

These are not necessarily major disadvantages if you learn to work with them, just considerations to make, before you jump headfirst into integrating a system into your business.

OK SO I KNOW WHAT SAAS IS. WHAT’S IAAS AND PAAS?

Yeah, it doesn’t stop at SaaS I’m afraid. There are other complicated terms.

You may have heard of IaaS and PaaS as well. You don’t need to worry about these quite as much and they aren’t as commonly used as SaaS.

To properly go into them we’d probably need to do a whole other post. But, as this post is primarily about SaaS, we won’t complicate things and instead give you a quick rundown.

PaaS or Platform as a Service and IaaS or Infrastructure as a Service work in the same way as SaaS, hence the similar names, but offer slightly different things.

PaaS vendors provide development frameworks that allow developers to build applications themselves. Essentially, they are providing the platform upon which software can be created.

The storage and servers are still covered by the third-party vendor, so this is still in the cloud and means the buyer doesn’t have to provide this. This makes it very attractive to businesses developing software solutions either for their own use or to sell on.

IaaS covers the infrastructure that so much of what we do is built on. That’s servers, storage and operating systems.

Paying for IaaS gives you cloud based resources that replace traditional hardware used to store your data. You can get as much or as little as you need.

Classic examples of this are Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

GET TO KNOW THE CLOUD

SaaS, IaaS and PaaS are essentially the building blocks of cloud computing.

As an everyday user you don’t need to know all these terms, you’ll just use the names of whatever product you’re using. But it’s nice to know what someone’s talking about when they mention it.

In the meantime, you can let your IT support team work on the technical side of things and keep that all afloat.

If you want to know more about the cloud and the different cloud-based software we provide and install, get in touch.

We’d be happy to answer your questions and see what fits into your business.

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