Guest Post - Why using SaaS delivered applications is good for your business
Nick John is managing director of FCP Internet Limited, the foremost provider of SaaS deployed solutions within the recruitment and staffing sector of the UK. evolve from FCP is Recruitment Software designed as a cloud based service and only available in that way. Delivered via a high availability, multi-tenant platform with secure, 2 factor (read chip & pin) authentication it is fast and functional. Used by recruiters as far apart as California and Sydney it provides a CRM and database combination that powers recruitment workflow.
Why using SaaS delivered applications is good for your business
Software as a Service (SaaS) or Cloud-based software is a way of accessing applications over the internet usually via a web browser-based interface. Instead of installing and maintaining software, you simply access it over the internet, freeing yourself from complex infrastructure (hardware and software) management.
SaaS is sometimes referred to as on-demand, web-enabled or hosted software but the essence of the service is that the provider manages the infrastructure and takes responsibility for availability, security, maintenance etc.
So already we can see an astounding benefit to this way of working: the freedom from the overheads of IT management, admin and maintenance.
A good example of a widely adopted and fairly pervasive SaaS application is e-mail (Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail). Here, everyone accesses a common e-mail platform and benefits from the central management of the system by the provider. Our access to only that data which we are allowed to see is governed by security measures - namely a username and password. We can customise the appearance and precise folder structure to suit our individual needs and we can access it from wherever we happen to be over a browser and an internet connection.
So, whilst we might be familiar with SaaS, what are the key benefits to the business?
Lower upfront costs
The subscription based price model that is typical for on-demand SaaS applications means that the cost is spread over time instead of the capital outlay typically required for on-premise licenses. This, coupled with the non-existent infrastructure and maintenance costs, significantly reduces the lifetime cost of SaaS-based applications versus on-premise licensing.
Always up to date
Since the service provider for SaaS is responsible for delivering a single code base to all users, upgrades and improvements to the software typically come as part of the service. This is unlike server based products that will often require a ‘new release’ upgrade every two or three years.
High adoption rates
These days, it is widely accepted that the internet is used for locating information – everyone is comfortable with that. Internet-based applications replicate this and so are typically granted higher rates of adoption and use within the organisation.
As long as internet access is available, so is application availability. Wherever I am, wherever I need it and at whatever time that is important to me - and without having to make any special provisions to facilitate it.
Of course ‘Cloud-based’ covers a multitude of possibilities so to be clear, in order to deliver the sort of benefits provided above there are some considerations that are really important when considering a suitable SaaS vendor as a partner for your business.
Firstly, true SaaS can only be delivered by what is known as a multitenant architecture. Two of the largest and most prominent providers of SaaS solutions (Salesforce and Google) deploy in this way. Through their multitenant platform they can deliver a single code base to all customers that makes the task of updating and deploying very efficient and dependable. Those benefits can then be passed down to customers.
Applications that are described as ‘hosted’ do need to be investigated because the (now rather old-fashioned) idea of hosting a separate instance of the software for each individual customer builds a cumbersome and unwieldy infrastructure which is not scalable in the way that multitenant systems are.
Secondly, there is the practical (and emotional) issue of security and what systems the service supplier has in place to ensure data separation. Handing over responsibility for management (not ownership) of your data to a third party requires careful consideration and you need to be sure that will manage it as securely as if it were their own.
Thirdly, depending on what the application is for: Is the availability going to be satisfactory to meet the needs of my business? If it’s a business critical application then it is essential to have Service Level Agreements in place to guarantee availability and to ensure that there is clear redress if and when the system goes down. Respectable SaaS suppliers will have these in place as a standard feature of their service contract.
And last but not least, since this is a service contract: What provisions are being made for user support? For training? And does this also meet the needs of the business adequately?
SaaS delivered applications provide numerous benefits to the business. As discussed this is in terms of reduced lifetime costs, reduced IT overhead and management costs, future proofing upgrades to the system and improved flexibility for users. Everyone has access to the same data wherever they are and whenever they need it, in a secured and high availability environment. It’s the smarter way to use applications.