The official definition of SaaS, according to Wikipedia, is as follows:
Software as a service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as “on-demand software”. SaaS is typically accessed by users using a thin client via a web browser. SaaS has become a common delivery model for many business applications, including office and messaging software, payroll processing software, DBMS software, management software, CAD software, development software, gamification, virtualization, accounting, collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), management information systems (MIS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), invoicing, human resource management (HRM), talent acquisition, content management (CM), antivirus software, and service desk management. SaaS has been incorporated into the strategy of nearly all leading enterprise software companies. One of the biggest selling points for these companies is the potential to reduce IT support costs by outsourcing hardware and software maintenance and support to the SaaS provider.
Although quite a mouthful, the paragraph above brings up several crucial points, and those are:
- SaaS has the attention of nearly all the leading enterprise software companies.
- This would not happen if there weren’t a demand for it. Therefore, if they’re all concerned about providing SaaS, we should pay attention and understand why that’s so.
- The final sentence states that the potential for reducing costs is one of the biggest selling points of SaaS. From here we can infer that people are looking for options to lower their IT support costs.
- Another point to take away is that people are concerned, not only with the ongoing maintenance costs, but also the fact that hardware gets outdated, and eventually breaks down. Software becomes outdated. In order to gain access to new features, upgrades must be performed and licenses need to be purchased.
- When equipment breaks down, the associated down time may translate into a loss of revenue, far greater than the cost of purchasing new equipment.
- Time spent tinkering with obsolete technology, is time lost from conducting business. This translates into a loss of revenue for the business.
I’d like to bring up another point that business owners may be concerned about. Suppose a disaster strikes. Your business is without power. Or even worse, your office building just got destroyed. What happens to your business? Do you just shut down and call it a day? What about everything you spent years building up? Your dreams? Just because some kind of disaster just eliminated the physical location of your business, does not mean you have to loose everything! SaaS is the answer! With SaaS, your provider is responsible to ensure business continuity. If I were building a business (and I am), my greatest fears would be vulnerability, and how to mitigate, or eliminate, them. With SaaS, your business operates in the Cloud. You, therefore, aren’t tied to a single specific location. If the location disappears, you can still continue to do business from somewhere else. A few months ago, I was traveling somewhere by plane, and I had some critical time sensitive tasks to perform. No problem. With in-flight Wi-Fi, I was able to conduct business from 35,000 feet in the air! Think about that! Someone can drop an atom bomb on New York (hopefully not!) and you’re still doing business from a bunker under a mountain in Wyoming!
I was curious about what Google thought of SaaS, so I did a search on “advantages of SaaS”. Here is what Google came back with:
- Lower cost of entry.
- Reduced time to benefit/rapid prototyping.
- Pay as you go.
- The SaaS vendor is responsible for upgrades, uptime and security.
- Higher adoption rates.
- Integration and scalability.
- Work anywhere.
Let’s review them one by one:
Lower Cost of Entry – This one is huge! Let’s close our eyes for a moment and try to remember what life was like before SaaS. It was so primitive! Imagine a small business, say a startup, wanting to take advantage of the rich feature set of Microsoft Exchange. Or, perhaps, they would like a world class CRM solution like Salesforce or ConnectWise. How about access to an industry standard database like Microsoft SQL Server? Or, perhaps, they would like their data automatically backed up nightly and accessible on demand? In the “olden day” before SaaS, this was not an option, because they would be priced out of the game. These solutions are enterprise class software packages and were not accessible to the average startup or small business. Today, every small business has easy access to Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps, Salesforce.com, ConnectWise, and a suite of other enterprise grade business applications. Microsoft is making the full power of a cloud datacenter available to small businesses with their Azure platform! If you do a Google search on “IBM SaaS”, and click on the first (non-ad) link, you get to IBM’s cloud page. They sum it up for you: “With SaaS, everyone is an IT buyer.” With over 150 SaaS applications available via their website, the power of the world is in your hands! Cost is no longer a limiting factor.
Reduced time to benefit/rapid prototyping – Let’s revisit a Microsoft Exchange deployment. For those of you who have installed a Microsoft Exchange Server in the past, you’ll remember how it took some time. It’s not like “Hey, I need email, let me install this software package and then I have email.” There was a lot of configuration that had to be done. With a SaaS email server solution, like Microsoft Office 365, you basically have access to an Exchange Server without having to install Exchange! You want email? Just sign up for the service, select the number of email accounts you want, enter the names and email addresses (oh yes, provide your credit card information), and you’re up and running! That’s about all the time it takes. In about 15 minutes, your startup is operational with Microsoft’s latest enterprise class Exchange solution!
Pay as you go – As a small business owner, this one is really important to me. If I have 20 employees, I don’t want to pay for 50; yet, I still want the ability to scale my service to meet the needs of my growing business. I don’t want to have to think about upgrades or fork lifts. With SaaS, you pay per seat. If your business shrinks (hopefully not) or grows, the service scales to meet your needs.
The SaaS vendor is responsible for upgrades, uptime and security – This one is also pretty important. As a small business owner, I don’t have the resources to deal with upgrading servers, outages, disaster recovery, and data security. Yet, I require those attributes to be in place in order to ensure the continuation of my business. This is why I choose SaaS. The provider takes all these concerns off my shoulders, leaving me free to do what I should be doing, running my business.
Higher adoption rates – This one is pretty straightforward. Since many SaaS applications are accessible via a standard web browser (i.e. Google Drive, Office 365, etc.), as opposed to requiring software packing installations, people are quicker to start using them. Since the web browser is familiar to them, there is less resistance to trying something new.
Integration and scalability – Many SaaS based apps are built with API hooks that enable them to integrate to other apps. For example, a SaaS based phone system may integrate to a SaaS based CRM package, like Salesforce. Using the pay per use model, the solution can easily scale to meet your growing business needs.
Work anywhere – This one is my favorite (remember working from a plane?). I will sum it up in one word: ubiquitous. This is the true power of SaaS: it enables you to conduct business wherever you are, whenever you want, and whichever device you want to use. You are not locked into anything! This gives you true freedom!
Cloud Based Telephony and SaaS
Having gone over the benefits of SaaS for your business, one very important business application is telephony. In fact, for many businesses, telephony is their life blood! Taking this newfound knowledge of the SaaS rapid deployment model, we can also apply this model to telephony. Think back to the last time you lived through a PBX fork lift upgrade. I bet it involved a bit of stress! (And for those of you who haven’t gone through one yet, try to imagine what it’s like.) All those concerns mentioned above apply to telephony as well, if not, more so than with data applications! What happens if your phone system stops working? What happens if your business grows, what’s it going to cost, how big of a upgrade do I need? When a new feature becomes available, how much is it going to cost me to take advantage of it? What happens if someone drops an atom bomb? With a SaaS based model, your telephony provider is responsible for all these concerns.
When you sign up for a SaaS based telephony service, it’s as simple as setting up a new email account in Office 365. You select the number of phones you want, enter the names for each extension, provide your credit card information, and you’re done. The telephony provider ships you the phones, you plug them in, and they work! With many SaaS providers, the phones are included with your monthly service, so there is little to no upfront cost. I have a client who is 100% SaaS based. They don’t even own a telephone! All of their telephony is provided via a softphone app on a laptop or mobile phone! Talk about rapid deployment! Talk about work from anywhere! SaaS completely revolutionizes the way we think about telephony! Now, isn’t that exciting?
A little bit about myself. I am a telecommunications consultant and I am passionate about telephony. I am focused on one thing, and one thing only. Helping YOU get the most value out of your communications flow. Not equipment, not infrastructure, but flow. As a business owner, what matters the most to you is how your business is flowing. I help customers like you optimize their communications environment so that communication is truly flowing. To find out more about the services I offer, feel free to visit my website at http://www.simiplex.com.