All businesses require some sort of software to operate. Whether it’s your accounting software, practice management software or office productivity tools. For most businesses the total cost of software can be expensive – painfully when you consider maintenance costs, license costs and backup costs. What other options are there? Well – for many Software as a Service, also known as SaaS, is a great candidate for reducing your operating costs.
SaaS is a way to get software to your computer through the power of the cloud – allowing you to access your programs and platform from any device that is connected to the internet. Since you do not need to physically be in your office to use your software this offers a great deal of flexibility. All you need is a supported device and a connection to the internet and your office can be anywhere.
Since SaaS applications are hosted in the cloud, you’re able to reduce, or even eliminate the need to buy new hardware, spend money on maintenance or plan for and provide for backup contingencies. Often all the responsibilities of maintenance, upkeep and upgrades are now the responsibility of your SaaS provider.
SaaS differs in its approach to licensing costs as well. With traditional deployments of software solutions, you purchase a license and then pay annual support fees, with the SaaS solution however you pay a monthly or annual fee that covers licenses, support and other fees – allowing you to spread the costs out. Your subscription can often be changed – increased or decreased—from month to month, or other periods providing you with the flexibility to scale up or down as needed.
Some business owners are reluctant to move to the cloud because of the fear of losing their data, or not “owning” their data any longer. The fact of the matter is whenever you partner with a SaaS provider there is going to be a contract or agreement that will address these fears. These documents are often referred to as Service Level Agreements (SLA) and can include provisions for data ownership, failures to perform, delivery issues and more. When you sign one of these just make sure there are provisions for how the data is protected as well as where does it go if the vendor goes out of business or any other areas of concern.
Much of the time the SaaS provider’s network is going to be much more secure than your network. They provide services to countless companies and conform to countless regulations and undergo strict security audits – this means they invest more into security and backup technology than you would have to. In addition to the security, many SaaS providers have redundant instances of their servers (that host your software) in very secure locations and often in multiple locations in different geographies – think of this as built in disaster recovery.
Thinking about embracing SaaS? While SaaS may sound like the perfect fit now, it’s not for everyone. Small and medium businesses with fairly straightforward business models looking to reduce their software costs can benefit immensely. Larger businesses or businesses with a complex process or unique need, however, may still need an on-premise software solution tailored for them.
Either way – SaaS is something every business should consider. Talk to your IT provider about how you can embrace and benefit from Software as a Service.
MICHAEL REMER is founder and president of ComputerCare LLC, an IT services company providing a full spectrum of IT solutions and services to small and medium businesses.