SAAS - Software as a service


Cloud services break down into software services and infrastructure services. In terms of maturity, software in the cloud is much more evolved than hardware in the cloud.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is basically a term that refers to software in the cloud. Although not all SaaS systems are cloud systems, most of them are. SaaS is a web-based software deployment model that makes the software available entirely through a web browser. As a user of SaaS software, you don’t care where the software is hosted, what kind of operating system it uses, or whether it is written in PHP, Java, or .NET. And, above all else, you don’t have to install a single piece of software anywhere.

Gmail, for example, is nothing more than an email program you use in a browser. It provides the same functionality as Apple Mail or Outlook, but without the fat client. Even if your domain does not receive email through Gmail, you can still use Gmail to access your mail.

SalesForce.com is another variant on SaaS. SalesForce.com is an enterprise customer relationship management (CRM) system that enables sales people to track their prospects and leads, see where those individuals sit in the organization’s sales process, and manage the workflow of sales from first contact through completion of a sale and beyond. As with Gmail, you don’t need any software to access SalesForce.com: point your web browser to the SalesForce.com website, sign up for an account, and get started.

SaaS systems have a few defining characteristics:

Availability via a web browser

SaaS software never requires the installation of software on your laptop or desktop. You access it through a web browser using open standards or a ubiquitous browser plug-in. Cloud computing and proprietary desktop software simply don’t mix.

On-demand availability

You should not have to go through a sales process to gain access to SaaS-based software. Once you have access, you should be able to go back into the software any time, from anywhere.

Payment terms based on usage

SaaS does not need any infrastructure investment or fancy setup, so you should not have to pay any massive setup fees. You should simply pay for the parts of the service you use as you use them. When you no longer need those services, you simply stop paying.

Minimal IT demands

If you don’t have any servers to buy or any network to build out, why do you need an IT infrastructure? While SaaS systems may require some minimal technical knowledge for their configuration (such as DNS management for Google Apps), this knowledge lays within the realm of the power user and not the seasoned IT administrator.