What Is Software-As-A-Service (SaaS)?
Pros & Cons
Software-as-a-service has plenty of benefits for businesses, including massive savings, easy accessibility, and professional support that allows businesses to upgrade, downgrade, protect information, and ensure the system is working as promised without needing in-house IT experts.
However, SaaS isn’t perfect. Certain platforms may have holes that enable data breaches, the outsourced software may malfunction or have outages, and companies could be locked into a contract before realizing that a software doesn’t suit their needs. Before you choose a SaaS provider, make sure you know what you’re paying for, the support you’ll receive and how long you are committed to them.
Cloud Computing vs. SaaS
Many people use SaaS and cloud computing interchangeably. However, cloud computing is actually a larger model that houses the idea of distributing services digitally and storing content remotely. In fact, cloud computing also encompasses IaaS and PaaS.
Although SaaS systems are stored “in the cloud,” it’s not quite the same as traditional cloud computing. Cloud computing and SaaS are like squares and rectangles -- a square (SaaS) is can be a rectangle (cloud computing), but a rectangle isn’t necessarily a square.
IaaS & PaaS
Don’t confuse SaaS with infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS), although they are quite similar. A good way to view each of these cloud-adjacent systems is that you build IaaS, purchase SaaS, and deploy PaaS.
IaaS is a cloud computing model that gives companies control over their server infrastructure, processing power, and storage. Meanwhile, PaaS is a lesser level of SaaS, and manages most of the server, software and operating work for PaaS programs, as well as managing the general infrastructure.
SaaS platforms can help with a myriad of tasks, including customer relations management systems (CRM), human resources duties, accounting, recruiting, and general office software. Software-as-a-service can simplify everything from receiving and processing invoices to streamlining email clients for employees.
In addition to minimizing costs and streamlining the process, allowing employees to access these functions and features remotely is incredibly important for modern businesses. Nearly four million Americans in the workforce work from home at least half of the week.
What Is SaaS
SaaS, or software-as-a-service, is a type of subscription-based software that enables people to access information from any Internet-connected device or web browser. Although it sounds complicated, in a digital age filled with “the cloud,” many people have been using SaaS platforms daily without even realizing it.
With SaaS programs, vendors and providers host the information remotely, eliminating the in-house work that companies who license the software need to do. SaaS platforms often save businesses money because they don’t need to invest in hardware and staff to manage and protect the data.
How SaaS Agencies Help Grow Companies
Businesses are always changing, evolving strategies and pivoting campaigns -- and they need programs that can keep up with those quick changes. Software-as-a-service programs allow the flexibility needed to quickly add new functions or find new business solutions to attain overall growth.
In addition to quickly and seamlessly adding new features as needed, SaaS allows subscribers to share this information with many employees or teams. This fast communications lessens the learning curve often associated with updates and ensures all team members are in the loop and at the same level of productivity.
Many times, when businesses want to add additional functions, improve features, or handle robust consumer requests, they need to completely build and integrate new functionality. But with SaaS, brands can simply adjust their subscription to garner these results.
Great SaaS companies offer many tiers of services and features and help brands adapt their company’s work up or down in relation to their needs. This assistance makes minute adjustments relatively inexpensive while also providing fast outcomes.
Due to emerging technologies, it is fairly easy to customize many SaaS programs to your business. Some customizable features include modified data fields, altered user journeys, and customized UI interfaces, among others.
These customizations don’t just improve productivity and workflow -- they also strengthen brand identity. After all, 90 percent of consumers expect a consistent brand presentation on every platform. Because brand identity also encompasses a business’s mission and core values, cohesive visuals and interactions are key.
The best SaaS companies give subscribers access to the latest, greatest versions of their programs. Much like a cell phone automatically updates its operating system, top SaaS programs automatically install new programs updates.
This gives business access to the latest tech, new features and even solves any glitches or troubleshooting problems that may arise. Giving businesses new features ensures they stay productive and ahead of the latest trends without wasting time searching for new programs or downloading additional programs manually.
All in all, great SaaS companies provide quality platforms and reliable assistance at a reasonable price point. By utilizing SaaS, businesses no longer need in-house experts to handle those platforms and services -- they are all automated by the company, which has a team of experts who are responsible for its performance.
Because of that, brands can allocate that time and money to other departments, which ultimately makes the business more productive. In addition, the tiered subscription model often encourages clients to add additional functions at a higher level for a discount, adding more value to SaaS.
Types of SaaS Programs
SaaS software actually supports all facets of a business, including human resources and recruitment. Businesses can post jobs, filter through resumes, and even contact potential hires directly through the software.
These SaaS benefits increase internal productivity and empower brands to expand their reach to top talent. By streamlining the recruitment, hiring, onboarding, and even annual review process, companies can spend less time planning company culture logistics without sacrificing quality.
Customer Relations Management
Customer relations management (CRM) is a popular software-as-a-service task. Many CRM platforms have desktop versions that are complemented by web-based software. This enables employees to make changes and adjust information about professional partners and clients on-the-go.
CRM SaaS platforms are typically the newest versions at all time, and many vendors don’t lock clients into a specific contract, which means businesses can switch to a new provider at any time. In addition, the best SaaS companies manage the network stability and security of the cloud platform.
Top software-as-a-service agencies offer easy to use accounting and invoicing systems that allow brands to track expenses and manage vendors easily. Instead of needing to download a hefty program that takes up space on a server and needs additional cybersecurity, users can just access the system through a PC or mobile application.
These types of accounting and financial systems are also called “cloud computing.” They are particularly beneficial to modern companies with remote employees because they can be accessed and used from anywhere, as opposed to outdated systems that required employees to be in the office to work.
More and more employees are working remotely or in different offices than their team members, but SaaS software makes team projects easy to complete. Collaborative software includes everything from chat systems like Slack to web-hosted Adobe programs to group calendars.
This idea of collaborative software has even expanded to social software. This includes social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as online dating websites and apps such as Hinge, Bumble, and Tinder.
Enterprise Resource Planning
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a comprehensive system that manages all major tasks and departments within a business. Most ERP services host information regarding e-commerce sales, distribution, general accounting, human resources, employee performance, customer services, and more.
By streamlining ERP within a SaaS system, businesses can better plan for future growth. Top SaaS systems can show high-level executives how certain initiatives and information line up, allowing them to create multi-departmental initiatives and plan for internal changes like raises and expansions easily.
Top Examples Of Software-As-A-Service In Action
Salesforce is one of the most well-known customer relations management software. It stores data, analytics, and information -- which can be gathered through integrations or input manually -- in one remote location.
The program hits many of the SaaS-specific benefits, including its flexible integrations, scalable tiers of features, and ability to integrate with existing business’s current operations. Despite being so robust, employees who use Salesforce can access the information remotely, which improves productivity while streamlining information security.
Although unexpected, movie streaming service Netflix could be considered software-as-a-service. The program is a subscription-based model with various tiers, allowing consumers to scale their entertainment service up or down, depending on personal needs.
In addition, users don’t need to download programs to use them. Instead, every movie and TV show is hosted remotely. Subscribers only need Internet access to watch them from anywhere. Like many modern adaptations (think, online dating apps with integrated communication and complex profiles), Netflix is a social deviation from traditional SaaS platforms.
Collaboration software-as-a-service program GoTo Meeting allows business professionals to have high-quality video calls directly from their browser. This communication software also has a downloadable program and an option to call into a meeting via conference call number.
GoTo Meeting takes its features a step further by integrating with many email clients. This allows users to send video calendar requests, which can then sync and send automated reminders to join a meeting.
Business management powerhouse Microsoft 365 is perhaps the most comprehensive example of SaaS in action. The tech company offers many tiers of subscription, from creating one email to powering an entire business with hundreds of emails, Skype accounts, Slack, and productivity programs.
Notably, Microsoft 365’s also offers web versions of MS Office Suite, which includes programs like Word, PowerPoint, SharePoint Server and Lync Server. These cloud-based systems empower users to compose content directly in their browser without needed to download a single program.
ZenDesk is a customer service, internal communications, and human resources-centric SaaS program. The scalable program allows businesses to pick and choose the features and functions they need, which integrate seamlessly into many existing platforms that a company may have.
ZenDesk notably serves employees and customers. For example, the cloud-based software can power employee performance, annual reviews, and paycheck distribution, which simultaneously filtering through customer service requests, sending all applicable information to the right people automatically.
Questions To Ask Top SaaS Companies
A SaaS company's pricing structure is directly related to the services a business will receive and the account support they will receive -- especially because software-as-a-service platforms are quite literally built around a subscription model. As the following questions to ensure you’re receiving the functions you need at a price that fits your budget.
- How much will your services cost?
- How often will we be billed?
- Exactly what features and support are we receiving at that cost?
- Can we expect any additional fees?
- How much will it cost for us to add or remove services during the time of our contract?
Due to its remote cloud storage model, ensuring cyber security is imperative when choosing the right SaaS company to grow your brand. Take the time to understand where your information is stored, how a SaaS company plans to protect it, and who is responsible should a data breach occur.
- How will our data be protected?
- How many data breaches have you had in the past?
- Why did they occur and how were they rectified?
- What is the protocol in the event of a security breach?
- Who is responsible in the event of a data breach?
- How do you recommend we minimize the risk of a data breach?
One of the biggest benefits of SaaS is that they are flexible and can be adapted for a business’s needs. However, not every software-as-a-service is created equally. The following questions will help brands learn if a SaaS can be integrated with their existing programs, platforms, services, and business growth needs easily.
- Are we committed to the program for a specific period of time?
- How long will it take for us to add or remove services during the time of our contract?
- What is the process for scaling our current subscription up or down?
- Can your programs be customized or personalized? How so?
- Can your service be integrated into our existing platforms?
The best software-as-a-service companies have teams of experts in place to implement your new program and provide support throughout your time using it. Make sure you understand exactly how much assistance you will receive for your services licensed and cost.
- Who will our point of contact be during the implementation?
- Do you plan to place any experts in our office? If so, for how long?
- Who will our account manager be?
- How often can we expect to talk to them or have meetings?
- Is anyone available to help guide our strategy, if needed?
- Do different subscription tiers receive different support?
Most importantly, businesses should search for SaaS companies that actually provide the services you need. Ask the questions below to make sure a software-as-a-service company has solved similar business problems and is equipped to help grow your company.
- What SaaS programs do you offer?
- What features and functions do they include?
- Have you worked with businesses our size, in our industry, or with a similar business problem?
- Are there any other SaaS programs you plan to offer in the near future?
- Does your business offer any other services?