Software as a service (SaaS) computing, is a popular method of providing software through a web-based connection. This type of software provision does not require the individual user to have a copy of the software installed on his or her computer. Instead, the software runs on a remote server and is accessed through an Internet-enabled computer or similar device. SaaS computing is also sometimes referred to as software on demand and is commonly purchased on a subscription or pay-as-you-go basis.
SaaS computing is part of the cloud computing model, and its advocates claim that it benefits many different types of businesses. Companies with employees who travel frequently, for example, can benefit from the accessibility of software applications from anywhere with an Internet connection. The company can avoid purchasing expensive laptop and notebook computers because the software runs on an external server and does not require the high-performance equipment that locally-installed software might. With SaaS computing, employees can often use older equipment to access software applications that would normally not run properly when installed directly on the computer.
Organizations that cannot afford a full-time information technology staff to oversee the requirements of in-house software purchasing, licensing, installation, upgrading, and maintenance can benefit from the SaaS computing model. Most SaaS providers offer several different types of payment options. The most common is a subscription-based method, which suits many businesses because it allows them to avoid incurring a large, up-front capital expenditure and to pay a small month-to-month subscription instead.
Another benefit to SaaS computing is that it allows businesses to easily scale to meet changing information technology needs. As a company grows, it can increase the services it purchases from the SaaS provider instead of purchasing entirely new equipment and software. On the other hand, as an organization realizes that it needs fewer services, it can scale-down and reduce month-to-month costs. This is helpful to businesses because it allows them quicker access to the software they need. In the traditional software delivery method, a company would need to order and pay up-front for the additional equipment and software for each employee. With SaaS computing, as long as the company can provide the employee with an internet-capable computer, it can have software available to an employee in hours instead of days or weeks.
While many experts are certain of the power of cloud computing and the SaaS methodology, some have raised concerns and remain skeptical of its effectiveness. Some companies prefer to keep program files and application data in-house for security purposes. Some businesses believe that SaaS computing presents a security risk because the data and information that are often stored on company servers are now stored on a remote server. Depending on the type of service, the company’s data could be stored on a shared server, meaning that there is some small risk of the data being co-mingled with other customers’ data. Many organizations, however, are experimenting with SaaS computing and beginning to use it as their primary method of software delivery.