Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a Service (SaaS)

September 9th, 2013 by Christopher C. Wright

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Continuing our month-long look at cloud computing and its impact on Sonoma County businesses, today we focus on the most prominent use of Cloud technology, Software as a Service. Instead of purchasing an expensive permanent license for software, the SaaS model allows business owners to pay a monthly charge for the software they use. While services hosted by third parties such as email or websites have been common for two decades or more, the rise of fast internet speeds and standardization of software programming languages has given rise to much more variety in the types of services offered by cloud vendors.

How SaaS Works

Instead of purchasing 30 copies of Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop or Quickbooks to provide copies to an entire company, requiring a great deal of upfront capital investment, a business owner may contact one of the many SaaS vendors available and buy access for 30 employees to these products, to be renewed every month or on a contractual basis. In addition to having a far lower initial cost, most vendors allow for additional licenses to be added at any time or extraneous licenses removed, ensuring the CEO is paying only for what licenses are in use.

Many SaaS solutions are available online through a web portal, requiring only an internet browser such as Firefox or Safari, while other vendors prefer to have other easy-to-use solutions. When the employee wishes to use the hosted software they log in to the vendor and begin working. Since the software is not installed on the user’s computer there is no initial installation or configuration time, all additions and changes being done on the remote end. This makes SaaS very attractive for businesses with fluctuating or seasonal workforces where new users must be configured quickly and have ready access to established tools without delay.

Additional Advantages of SaaS

  • Little Downtime — software or data outages are rare due to redundant, failover servers providing customer information
  • Remote Management — with all software and data living on a remote server, the vendor may upgrade and improve services without needing to schedule with its many clients
  • Single-Configuration Design — the centralized nature of SaaS offerings mean that company-wide configuration changes may be made instantly without a technician working on every computer individually

SaaS Disadvantages

  • Privacy — the SaaS provider has complete access to your data and many do not limit internal access to your files
  • Tricky Integration — when managing large data sets or moving to cloud-based software in staggered roll-outs the configuration and verification process is much more complicated than with dedicated internal tools
  • Network Access — without internet access a cloud user loses all ability to see, interact with, or update their hosted data, which may be crucial to the operation of the company
  • Forced Upgrades — cloud providers often upgrade software to the latest version, which may be undesirable for many clients who require a specific software version for the feature set they need, particularly in the financial or engineering fields
  • No Expectation of Privacy — governmental bodies or other law enforcement agencies are more easily able to obtain end-user information from a cloud provider than they would if a server were owned and located corporate property
  • No Backups — many cloud providers do not have systems in place to allow easy access to the uploaded data, making backing up the cloud-hosted information costly or complicated

Our Recommendation

While each client has different needs many are looking for ways to expand without spending thousands of dollars on software. We believe that Cloud services such as “Software as a Service” have developed to the point where they are a good option for budget-conscious companies with specific needs. It is important to explore multiple cloud vendors however, as each may provide different services and have unique contract terms, specific to each business. We readily caution each client who is considering moving to an SaaS model about the dangers listed above, but feel that in some cases modern-day cloud providers are overcoming many of the roadblocks which prevented widespread adoption of SaaS technology in its infancy.


MSMB Networks — Your IT Professionals!


Christopher C. Wright is the CTO of MSMB Networks, focusing on network and system administration, upgrade planning, disaster recovery, and IT budget analysis in Petaluma and all over Sonoma and Marin Counties. With more than fifteen years of hands-on experience, he is committed to educating and protecting his clients, ensuring they receive the best individualized support possible. Email him at christopher@msmbnetworks.com

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