What is software as service (SaaS)?
About a decade back, software was delivered to the customers as installable files on floppies or CDs. With advancement in Internet and storage technologies a huge paradigm shift is seen in software availability. Software is not delivered now but is provided as a service and is called SaaS.
Technically defined, it is a model of software delivery where the software company provides maintenance, daily technical operation, and support for the software given to the client. It is delivered as a service over the omnipresent Internet. The target users are from marginal to large businesses, educational institutes and home users.
It comes under the scope of Cloud Computing where the Cloud provider manages the infrastructure and platforms on which this application is run. SaaS is sometimes referred to as "on-demand software" and since it is on demand so payment of usage is also pay-per-use basis.
Over the years communication technology has grown from a restricted network to a huge web spreading to every nook and corner of the World, thanks to the fast growing bandwidth technologies. The web has been accepted as the central point of any type of interaction. The software development companies also decided to use web from this point to another dimension. It led to use of web as an interface to client for accessing the software remotely. The striking feature of SaaS is that it provides network-based remote access to the commercially available software.
For users, it builds a reliable and compatible application environment through access to the same versions. Economically, this gives a huge margin to the client as implementation charges are considerably lower compared to acquiring proprietary software and hardware. The users do not need to spend money, energy and time in updates of various versions released by the software company. Instead he/she can focus on the real core business practices. The whole scenario of buying proprietary software as a capital investment changes to getting the services as an operating expense. It makes the financial status of the client company more promising and making a better budgeting sense.
SaaS creates a consistent application environment for all users without worrying about the cross platform compatibility. The access to such software is easy, reduces software piracy and provides continuous enhancements in the technology.
In spite of all these benefits the initial licensing and agreement process may take quite some time as the company requirement in terms of licenses and hardware must be freezed with an eye towards future. Sometimes the client may not have complete trust on the services, thus hindering the acceptance of Software as a Service (SaaS). Users may also not quite ready for centralized control of the application lying with a third party. The user may also feel infringement of privacy. If client ever wants to use SaaS as a disconnected service, it will never be possible.
Implementing SaaS in an enterprise cannot be a sudden decision but has to be analyzed for financial and efficiency possibilities.