What is SaaS?

May 20, 2013


In an age where everything seems to live in ‘The Cloud’, the term Software as a Service (SaaS) seems to be popping up everywhere… but what is SaaS, what do SaaS companies actually do, and what distinguishes SaaS companies from regular software developers?

In a nutshell, SaaS is software you access using your browser, instead of opening applications on your desktop.

When you buy a regular piece of software, it lives on your machine. That means you’re responsible for making sure it’s installed right, keeping enough storage space free, and ensuring you’ve installed any recent updates…

When you’re buying software that’s sold as an ongoing service however, everything changes:

  • Instead of buying the software outright, you will generally be paying a regular subscription fee (typically charged annually, quarterly or monthly)
  • Instead of installing the software on your own servers or computers, it’s held in ‘The Cloud’ – or in other words, the company’s own servers
  • Instead of maintaining the software internally (such as training your IT department on how to resolve issues), the SaaS company takes care of all responsibility

One-time software works fine for things like games, word processors and applications like calculators… but when it comes to processing complex, sensitive data (and in a world where technology is changing everyday), having your software maintained as an ongoing service in the cloud can come in very handy!

For example, choosing HR software as a service might mean you’re subscribing to an online human resources system that stores all your workforce data in the cloud. And this means as well as the added security, there is no burden on your internal services (or IT department), and the software should be constantly improving without you having to reinstall it for every single update that’s applied.

And SaaS is often the better option for cash-strapped businesses and individuals too – there’s usually no need to fork out huge upfront costs, and you can usually choose to pay monthly for only the features within the software that you actually need.

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