Software as a Service, or SaaS, describes an application or program that is accessed over the internet. The software is hosted and powered by the service provider.
A simple example of Software as a Service is the Google Docs word processing application. The application allows for word processing and editing, but does not require the user to download or install any software to his personal computer. Instead, the application is powered by Google’s computers in a remote location. Files can also be saved onto Google’s remote storage centers, rather than on the user’s personal hard-drive.
A counter example to Google Docs would be Microsoft Word 2003. Microsoft Word 2003 must be installed to a person’s computer in order for that person to use it and that computer powers the application. Any files created in Microsoft word must then be saved to that personal computer (Or a local area network, perhaps, but let’s keep this simple).
Today, SaaS offerings exist for numerous business tasks. Many applications which once required a user to install a program off of a disc and have appropriate computing resources in-house can now be accessed with only a sufficient internet connection. To list a few of many thousand examples, Salesforce.com offers SaaS CRM, NetSuite offers SaaS ERP, and Zoho offers a SaaS office applications suite.
SaaS can offer several advantages.
- SaaS reduces the need for infrastructure because storage and compute power can be provided remotely.
- SaaS reduces the need for manual updates and upgrades because SaaS providers can perform those tasks automatically.
- SaaS makes applications more accessible to multiple users, because often only require an internet connection is required.
- SaaS can improve scalability through pricing models that allow users to pay according to use, not as a one time or periodic licensing fee.
SaaS also has disadvantages.
- SaaS can reduce organizational control of the application because iapplication updates and availability are often determined by the SaaS provider.
- SaaS can create security concerns because business data and processes are maintained by a third party.
- SaaS can create integration challenges because integration of SaaS applications requires techniques and strategies different from on-premise integration.
What is SaaS integration?
SaaS integration is the process of getting SaaS tools to work with and alongside both on-premise and other SaaS applications. SaaS integration requires new strategies and expertise in order to make applications on multiple platforms and applications delivered in multiple ways come together to power your business.
Many SaaS providers offer applications designed with integration in mind. These offerings come ready-made to integrate with other popular cloud tools. Some SaaS providers also offer development platforms in conjunction with a principle SaaS offering, such as SnapLogic, Google Apps, and Salesforce.com. Users can create and share custom applications on that platform that meet specific business needs and integrate easily with one another.
Many consultancies and software providers, such as Informatica, Boomi, and Cast Iron, also offer integration services to help an enterprise integrate its SaaS portfolio with existing infrastructure. Nevertheless, some SaaS integration will be hard-coded by in-house IT professionals.
Software as a Service Definitions
In a room of fifty people, you might get fifty definitions on what precisely constitutes Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS. We’ve offered our definition, but if you’re looking for a second opinion check out some of the articles and explanations below. Click the links to be taken to that site’s full definition.
GoGrid (Added 6 May 2011): Go Grid here presents cloud computing as a pyramid. At the top are applications, beneath those is the platform, and beneath the platform is the infrastructure. This graphic representation makes sense: The applications most users interact with only represent the top of a much larger system.
TechRadar (Added 6 May 2011): “Cloud computing is all about using somebody else’s stuff – their storage space, or their computing power. So what is the cloud? The short answer is that the cloud is the internet.”
Webopedia: “Short for Software as a Service, SaaS is a software delivery method that provides access to software and its functions remotely as a Web-based service. Software as a Service may also be referred to as simply hosted applications.”
Firmex Blog: “SaaS can be defined as a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over a network, typically the Internet.”
MangoSpring Blog: “The reality is that soon, the workforce will only know about software delivered this way and will be scratching their heads when the idea of installing software is even raised.”
SearchCloudComputing.com: “Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over a network, typically the Internet.”
CIO.com: “What is SaaS? Generally speaking, it’s software that’s developed and hosted by the SaaS vendor and which the end user customer accesses over the internet.”
MSDN: “Simply put, SaaS can be defined as “software deployed as a hosted service and accessed over the Internet.”
Zoho: “What does SaaS mean? It means, to put it very simply, software available for use online. There is no need to download it. Just signup on the internet and use it.”
Salesforce.com: “What is SaaS? Software as a service (or SaaS) is a way of delivering applications over the Internet—as a service. SaaS applications are sometimes called Web-based software, on-demand software, or hosted software.”
PCMAG.com: “Software that is rented rather than purchased.”