SaaS is a software distribution model in which a cloud provider hosts applications and makes them accessible to end users via the internet. Under this model, an independent software vendor (ISV) may contract with a third-party cloud service provider to host the application. Or, in the case of Microsoft and other large corporations, the cloud provider may also be the software vendor.
SaaS is one of the three main categories of cloud computing, the others being infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) (PaaS). SaaS applications are utilized by various IT professionals, business users, and personal users. Products range from personal entertainment like Netflix to sophisticated IT tools. SaaS products are frequently marketed to both B2B and B2C customers, unlike IaaS and PaaS.
According to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, technology industry analysts anticipate continued growth in the software as a service market, with the market for SaaS products expected to reach close to $200 billion by 2024.
How is a software as a service implemented?
SaaS is delivered via the cloud model. An ISV may contract with a cloud provider to host the application in the provider’s data Centre. The application will be accessible from any network-connected device. Typically, SaaS applications are accessed through web browsers.
Consequently, companies utilizing SaaS applications are not responsible for the installation and maintenance of the software. Users simply pay a subscription fee to gain access to the pre-packaged software.
SaaS is related to the application service provider (ASP) and on-demand computing software delivery models in which the provider hosts the customer’s software and delivers it to authorized end users over the internet.
In the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, the provider grants customers network-based access to a single copy of an application created specifically for SaaS distribution. All customers share the same application source code, and when new features or functionalities are introduced, they are rolled out to all customers. Customer data for each model may be stored locally, in the cloud, or both locally and in the cloud, depending on the service-level agreement (SLA).
Utilizing application programming interfaces, businesses can integrate SaaS applications with other software (APIs). For instance, a business can develop its own software tools and use the SaaS provider’s application programming interfaces to integrate them with the SaaS offering.
Typically, SaaS applications and services employ a multi-tenant architecture, which entails that a single instance of the SaaS application will run on the host servers and serve each subscriber or cloud tenant. All customers, or tenants, will utilize a single version and configuration of the application. Although different subscribing customers will utilize the same cloud instance with a shared infrastructure and platform, their data will be kept separate.
The multi-tenant architecture typical of SaaS applications enables the cloud service provider to manage maintenance, updates, and bug fixes more quickly, efficiently, and effectively. Engineers can make necessary changes for all customers without having to implement them in multiple instances by maintaining a single, shared instance.
In addition, multi-tenancy enables a larger pool of resources to be made accessible to a larger group of individuals without compromising essential cloud functions such as security, speed, and privacy.
SaaS eliminates the need for businesses to install and operate applications on their own computers and data centers. This eliminates the costs associated with hardware acquisition, provisioning, and maintenance and software licensing, installation, and support. Additional advantages of the SaaS model include:
- Flexible payments. Customers subscribe to SaaS rather than purchasing software to install or additional hardware to support it. Transitioning costs to recurring operating expenses enables many businesses to budget more effectively and predictably. Users may cancel SaaS offerings at any time to stop incurring these recurring costs.
- Scalable usage. Vertical scalability is high for cloud services like SaaS, allowing customers to access more or fewer services or features on demand.
- Regular updates. Customers can rely on a SaaS provider to automatically perform updates and patch management instead of purchasing a new software. This further reduces the workload of internal IT personnel.
- Accessibility and tenacity. Users can access SaaS applications from any internet-capable device and location, as SaaS vendors deliver applications over the internet.
- Frequently, SaaS applications are adaptable and can be integrated with other business applications, especially those from the same software provider.
SaaS challenges and risks
- SaaS also presents potential risks and difficulties, as businesses must rely on third-party vendors to provide the software, keep it operational, track and report accurate billing, and provide a secure environment for business data.
- Problems beyond the customer’s control Problems. They can arise when providers experience service interruptions, impose unwanted changes to service offerings, or suffer a security breach, which can significantly impact the customers’ ability to use the SaaS offering. Customers should understand and enforce their SaaS provider’s SLA to proactively mitigate these issues.
- Customers are no longer in charge of versioning. If the provider adopts a new version of an application, it will distribute it to all of its customers, regardless of whether or not the customer desires it. This may necessitate additional training time and resources from the organization.
- Difficulty changing suppliers. As is the case with any cloud service provider, switching providers can be challenging. In order to switch vendors, customers must migrate vast quantities of data. Furthermore, some vendors use proprietary data types and technologies, which can further complicate the transfer of customer data between cloud providers. Due to these conditions, a customer cannot easily switch service providers, which constitutes vendor lock-in.
- Cloud security is frequently cited as a formidable obstacle for SaaS applications.
Security and privacy for SaaS
Software as a service presents unique cybersecurity risks compared to traditional software. The software vendor is responsible for eliminating code-based vulnerabilities, while the user is responsible for running the software on a secure infrastructure and network. Consequently, independent software vendors and third-party cloud providers bear greater security responsibilities.
Despite the rapid adoption of cloud-based models for fully serviced software products, organizations still have security and privacy concerns regarding SaaS products. These include the following:
- Encryption and key administration
- Management of identity and access (IAM);
- Security surveillance;
- Incident response;
- Insufficient integration with enterprise-specific security environments;
- Fulfillment of data residency requirements;
- Data privacy
- The cost of investing in third-party tools to mitigate the security risk posed by SaaS
- During the sales process, there is a lack of communication with technical and security specialists.
SaaS vs. IaaS vs. PaaS
In addition to IaaS and PaaS, Software as a serive is one of the three major cloud service models. All three models involve cloud providers delivering their own hosted data center resources to clients over the internet.
The models differ in their level of product completion. SaaS products are fully managed and comprehensive applications. PaaS provides a development platform and other tools hosted by the provider’s data center. IaaS primarily involves outsourcing data center resources.
Users of SaaS applications are not required to download software, manage existing IT infrastructures, or deal with software management. The vendor handles all other aspects of managing software, including maintenance, upgrades, support, and security.
IaaS is utilized by businesses that outsource their data center and computing resources to a cloud provider. IaaS providers host infrastructure components, including servers, storage, networking equipment, and virtualization resources. Customer organizations utilizing IaaS must continue to manage their data utilization, applications, and operating systems (OSes).
PaaS provides an infrastructure of resources for a company’s internal developers. This hosted platform permits the creation of customized applications by programmers. The vendor is responsible for managing the data center resources used to support the tools. Organizations utilizing PaaS do not need to manage their operating systems but must manage their applications and data usage.
SaaS vendors and illustrations
There are a variety of software vendors and products on the SaaS market. Industry participants range from small, single-product vendors to cloud titans such as AWS and Google.
Software as a service product are also diverse, ranging from IT business analytics tools to video streaming services. Email, sales management, customer relationship management (CRM), financial management, human resource management (HRM), billing, and collaboration are all available as SaaS applications. Vertical Software as a service product is enterprise SaaS products designed for specific industries, such as insurance or healthcare.
SaaS products may be marketed primarily to B2B, B2C, or both markets. These are examples of popular SaaS products:
- Google Apps for Workspace
- 365 Microsoft
- Creative Cloud by Adobe
SaaS products are generally more cost-effective than traditional software licenses for enterprise software, as setup and installation on hardware are not required. Customers of SaaS providers are typically charged using one of the numerous subscription-based pricing models.
- Free or ad-supported. Service may be provided at no cost to the user, with the SaaS provider generating revenue by selling advertising space. In this model, there is typically the option to upgrade to a paid tier without intrusive advertisements.
- Flat rate. Customers pay a fixed monthly or annual subscription fee to gain access to the complete suite of software features.
- Per user. Pricing is determined by the number of individuals using the service per subscription. There is a single price for all customers.
- Per user tiers. Pricing tiers are based on a range of the number of active users per subscription.
- Storage tiers. Customers may have free access to service but must pay for storage if they wish to continue using the product after the free storage limit has been reached.
- Pay-as-you-go or based on usage. Customers are billed more as their usage of the service increases, and vice versa.
- Per user active. This combines elements of the per-user and pay-as-you-go pricing strategies. Subscribers are billed per user, but only if the user has exceeded a predetermined threshold of active usage.
- Tiers based on features. The number of features desired by the subscriber determines the price tiers. This model offers reduced software versions with fewer features at a lower price than the tier with the most features. There may be additional feature tiers between the minimum and maximum functionality tiers.