What Is Software As A Service (SaaS)?

You may not realise it, but you have probably been using SaaS since the first time you opened up your Internet browser. Every time you open up your Internet browser and go to your favourite search engine and click ‘search’ you may think your simply using a search engine, when you are in fact using a piece of software hosted and supplied by a provider i.e. Software As A Service.

SaaS outsourcing is typically described as a method of delivering applications to users over, most commonly the Internet, (but not necessarily) without the requirement for the user to install, maintain and develop the software and associated infrastructure. Thus, search engines which have been around for many years are a prime example of SaaS.

SaaS runs on a providers infrastructure i.e. servers, the provider is therefore responsible for ‘feeding & watering’ the servers i.e. OS patching; firmware updates etc; ensuring availability of the application i.e. resilience; controlling access; ensuring application responsiveness and performance. The end user benefits are clear, with SaaS consumers not requiring any of the initial infrastructure outlay or application development costs, the only requirement being that of connectivity, e.g. Internet, MPLS VPN. As one of the key typical characteristics of SaaS is connecting to the SaaS application over the Internet, a reliable internet connection becomes paramount to the consuming business. Whereas, when the application was ‘in-house’, a greater risk revolved around server resilience over that of LAN / WAN the converse is true with SaaS, no WAN connectivity and you cannot access your SaaS.

The security landscape also takes on a different appearance, with typically multiple access points for in-house LAN hosted applications, SaaS solutions commonly have a single access method, thus controlling, monitoring and managing access to the SaaS is less problematic. Many SaaS solutions are hosted on multi tenant infrastructure, i.e. multiple different customers accessing the same or different SaaS on the same infrastructure. This may not be a concern for many organisations, but dependent upon your companies security constrains, this may need to be addressed.

There are a plethora of SaaS applications out there currently, ranging form Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Microsoft Office 365, Amazon Azure, to many companies offering bespoke SaaS development services. The next evolution of SaaS is SaaS Integration Platforms, in which these seek to offer easy integration between disparate SaaS providers, for example Google API and Amazon Azure with Amazon S3. The key for any business is to realise the potential Return On Investment for migrating their applications to the cloud. Highly complex legacy in-house applications may not warrant the SaaS development costs, whereas small businesses seeking to reduce infrastructure costs can obtain an immediate benefit from implementing Microsoft Office 365.