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Software as a Service – better known simply as Saas – has been steadily gaining popularity in recent years. Adoption rates are climbing among small and mid-sized businesses, jumping up from 27% back in 2011 to 73% in 2016. Mid-sized businesses are the heavy hitters in these statistics, but experts are expecting small businesses to make up 20% of all SaaS spending in 2017.
What should these statistics mean to you? For starters, they should mean that even if you don’t currently have any SaaS applications in your technology infrastructure, you should still have a clear idea of what a SaaS application is. And more importantly, why the SaaS model is a great option for your small business.
SaaS is one of the many “as a Service” services that makes up the world of cloud computing. Essentially, SaaS refers to any software or application that is purchased on a subscription basis instead of being bought outright. Any data created or used by a SaaS application, as well as the application itself, is hosted, supported, and maintained by a third party provider in an offsite location. The application and its data are accessed using an Internet connection from any web browser or mobile device. There is no upfront cost to your business for specialized or high-end workstations or servers, and no ongoing cost to maintain the network and server infrastructure the application needs to run.
This is the main advantage SaaS offers to small businesses. Generally, smaller businesses don’t have the budget or manpower to develop and maintain custom applications on their own. The staff and the infrastructure just aren’t there. Where that once would have meant these types of high-end applications would only be available to big businesses with a dedicated internal IT staff, now businesses of any size can get their hands on new software.
More importantly, small businesses can leverage SaaS technology while benefiting from cost savings as a result of:
• Not having to cover the upfront cost of new software or pay for upgrades
• Not having to hire staff to troubleshoot and manage applications in-house
• Being able to invest in less expensive hardware and network infrastructure
• Improved cash flow thanks to predictable recurring billing without any surprise repair, upgrade, replacement or other capital expenditure costs
While the price point is pretty spectacular all on its own, lower costs are far from the only advantage to adopting a SaaS solution. SaaS applications can also give your business the benefit of:
• Around the clock customer and technical support from a team of experts
• Ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure 24/7 uptime
• Scalable systems that will fluctuate along with your business and needs
• External storage and backup of critical business data
• Anytime/anywhere data and application access
• Seamless data sharing and collaboration among members of your team from any location
That said, SaaS is not a perfect solution. Counting on a third party provider to look after your systems and data means placing a high level of trust in their capabilities. Especially if your business is subject to industry compliance regulations such as HIPAA or PCI. That added legal and regulatory responsibility means that you need to make sure your provider has the necessary certifications and that your business can obtain or retain certifications while using a SaaS application.
The good news where security is concerned is that with a SaaS solution, your business will have access to an entire team of professionals that will work to maintain your services, and that team will have a much bigger budget for security and maintenance than you would be able to afford on your own. That means you’ll be getting top-notch security and a much more stable system with your SaaS solution than you would with an internal solution.
Then there is the question of reliability and uptime. A service outage is never a good thing, but when it happens at the worst possible time – like in the middle of a huge sale, or during your busy hours – you need to be able to count on your provider to get you back up and running as quickly as possible. This is where your Service Level Agreement (SLA) comes into play.
An SLA should provide you with a crystal clear set of expectations for the service you’ll be receiving from your provider. This includes uptime guarantees, support request response timeframes, policies for alerting you to planned maintenance outages, and what type of penalties the provider will pay if they fail to live up to those expectations.
Finally, you’ll need to consider how much time your team will spend working offline. Without an Internet connection, you won’t be able to access your SaaS applications or data, which means that if your staff is frequently in an area with poor connectivity (or your building itself isn’t known for its stellar connection speeds) you might want to consider other options. Or at least you should look into upgrading your network bandwidth before adopting a SaaS application. Broadband and wireless data are faster and more widely available than ever, so upgrading shouldn’t me too much of a challenge.
As for what types of SaaS applications are available for your business, the most popular options are applications for:
• Supply chain management
• Inventory management
• Marketing automation
• Customer service
• Vertical applications
Companies like Microsoft and Google are embracing the SaaS platform to offer subscription-based versions of their most popular products, and a number of other companies and providers are taking notice and coming out with offerings of their own.
At the end of the day, whether or not SaaS solutions are right for your business comes down to whether or not you’re comfortable with giving up control over your software and data to a third party, and whether or not you can find both a provider and a solution that will meet your business’ needs.
To learn more about the benefits of SaaS and the SaaS solutions available for your business, contact the CPU Inc. team at info@CPUonline.com or (419) 872-9119. We’re the cloud technology provider area businesses trust.