March 7, 2017
If your organization owns and manages its own software applications, you are likely aware of — and possibly fed up with — the huge costs involved in purchasing, installing, integrating and updating that technology.
Fortunately, there’s an alternative that has become increasingly attractive to small and medium-sized businesses: Hiring someone else to do it all for you.
It’s called Software as a Service (SaaS). What that means is that your organization essentially rents software applications and leaves the responsibility for maintenance, upgrades and performance to the SaaS vendor.
The bottom line is that SaaS can be healthy for your organization’s bottom line.
SaaS providers offer a wide range of applications, such as customer relationship management, suites of applications for small and medium sized businesses, and human resources software, to name just a few.
SaaS applications can operate over any reasonably fast and reliable broadband connection and can be accessed through the Internet on just about any browser. Because SaaS is delivered through the Internet and there is no installation or setup on the user’s end, companies are usually up and running the systems quickly.
Choosing to go the SaaS route can provide many advantages, but keep in mind that not all providers are equal. Shop around, ask questions and be certain that you are satisfied with the answers before you sign on. Among the most obvious benefits of switching to SaaS are:
Low Start-Up Costs
SaaS doesn’t require large up-front charges. The provider manages all the initial investments in hardware, licenses, and databases, hires and trains its own IT staff, and takes responsibility for upgrades and maintenance.
Pay as You Go Adaptability
SaaS is a subscription service, typically billed on a per-user, per-month basis, although some providers charge per transaction. In some cases there is no minimum contract term so you can cancel the service at any time, and some companies will allow you to test drive its software offerings for no charge.
The service also lets your business adapt the applications to changing needs and growth. For example, you could subscribe to the service for just two people and later expand it for 10 people, or two departments, or some percentage of your company’s total software applications, or your entire operation.
Enhanced Accessibility and Productivity
Because SaaS is Web-based, your company’s data is stored on the Internet, so the information is easy to access from any location. SaaS applications can let employees collaborate with colleagues, accountants, and any other individuals at any time, increasing productivity and efficiency. And if a computer crashes or gets stolen, the employee simply logs on from another computer and keeps working.
SaaS applications can be used by most operating systems, including Windows, Linux and Mac, so partners on different platforms can still work together.
SaaS providers have the resources to build failover systems to cover every eventuality, including server failures, network unavailability and power losses to ensure that they are providing reliable systems. As well, customer demand usually means that the providers have up-to-date security and intrusion detection systems. In fact, they generally spend far more on security measures than most organizations could afford on their own.
A Word of Caution: Opting for SaaS means handing over sensitive and often private information to a third party. You should expect the vendor to provide access control mechanisms that allow only the end user to see the information and limit user access to just the data an individual is authorized to see.
You may also want to look into whether the provider hosts the applications in several locations to help ensure the continued availability of the application and your business’s data in the event of a disaster. And don’t forget to ask what measures are in place to ensure that data isn’t lost or stolen and what happens if it is.
When evaluating SaaS options, you should weigh different variables. Compare the systems to on-premise software on the basis of total cost of ownership rather than simply installation and purchase costs. Be sure to conduct background checks, contact references and perform due-diligence assessments of service-delivery track records.
A firm with experience in technology issues may be able to help determine if SaaS would be a good fit with your organization and to help you choose the right provider.