The quick business guide to software as a service

The benefits and pitfalls of software as a service (SAAS) for business

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Think about the IT systems and software you use to run your day-to-day business. The chances are your company relies on a number of desktop applications, or perhaps some software that runs on a server. What if you could move all these applications to the cloud with fast easy access no matter your location?

The promise of (Software as a Service) SaaS is to move away from the desktop and onto the cloud where your business can gain a number of advantages over using traditionally installed applications. Indeed, IDC predict that the SaaS market will grow by 40% next year, as more of the small business community adopt SaaS practices in to their companies.

Today SaaS can offer services in a number of key business functions that include:

  • Business intelligence
  • Customer service
  • Sales and marketing
  • IT support
  • Accounting and invoice management
  • Website development and deployment
  • Social media management
  • Data backup and archiving

There are few business practices that are not now touched by SaaS principles. For small companies in particular the efficiency gains and financial savings make SaaS a very attractive proposition.

SaaS uses web-based applications, high speed broadband Internet access and cloud storage together in order to create an online business services platform that can be accessed from any device that has an Internet browser and access to the Internet. This is of course increasingly meaning smart phones and tablet PCs.

Giving your workforce access to what have traditionally been desktop applications on their mobile devices is a powerful business tool. SaaS is a perfect match for tablet PCs for instance. You can now manage your business no matter where you are, without having to make compromises, as often, SaaS services include more useful features than their desktop counterparts.

Making an Saas choice

When you are considering moving some of your business' systems to SaaS it is vital to ensure you fully understand what these platforms offer. Just as you would practice due diligence when buying packaging software or other services for your business, buying SaaS services should be approached with all the usual care and attention. Ask yourself these questions to help you make the right choices:

  1. Does the SaaS offer at least the features and functions of your existing software or service?
  2. What are the on-going costs?
  3. Will implementing SaaS need your business to upgrade its network or other IT systems?
  4. What are the security protocols in use? Are these robust enough for your business to meet its legal requirements?
  5. How is the SaaS maintained? Does the vendor offer high levels of technical support?
  6. Does your company have legacy systems that must be taken into account?

SaaS is not a panacea for your business, but a way to enhance the systems that are already in place and expand their capabilities especially when running your business on the move. Moving to a SaaS platform can offer a number of advantages that include:

  • Most of the SaaS offer trial periods for their systems. This enables your company to test the platform for no cost.
  • Lower total cost of ownership. With SaaS you can say goodbye to costly and regular upgrades to installed software. With SaaS the 'perpetual upgrade' is possible.
  • There is generally no upfront hardware cost, as in most cases you can start using SaaS with the hardware your business is already using.
  • Most SaaS platforms are on a pay-as-you-go payment model. Your business can easily upgrade when more features are needed, or terminate the contract and move to another supplier.
  • Ease of use with SaaS systems is often pointed to as a major reason for buying. SaaS systems tend to have highly intuitive user interfaces.
  • As SaaS systems are built on widely adopted technical standards, a high degree of integration is possible with systems from a number of vendors.
  • There is no IT support needed as the SaaS vendor takes care of this for your business.

Cloud management

Using SaaS services to run your business will mean embracing cloud computing. Over the last few years in particular a number of SaaS services have developed that together could deliver to your business a complete SaaS platform.

Some of the services large and small to test include:

  • Salesforce
  • Basecamp
  • MailChimp
  • BackBlaze
  • Pardot

These are just some of the services across the key business systems your company could move to with SaaS platforms. Often, businesses will have a mixture of installed and SaaS to give their businesses the efficiency that is needed to remain profitable.

However, the trend is for all of the main systems within your business to move to SaaS principles over the next few years. Beginning the transition now will ensure your business stays ahead of the market and can deliver its goods or services over the long term.