it management

What Is Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS)

What is software as a service (SaaS), and what do you need to know to decide whether it’s right for you? IT can be confusing and it’s full of acronyms; I just used one that most of us know.

I’m going to talk to you for a few minutes about software as a service, or SaaS, and The Cloud. The two go together, and it’s how you dramatically reduce your internal or contractor IT costs. Now, most of those people you’re paying now to support your IT systems don’t want you to know what I’m about to share. The best software today is delivered in The Cloud as a service. But what does software as a service really mean, and is The Cloud secure? These are questions I hear often. I’ve been in the enterprise software industry for decades, but I now work as a management consultant, providing trusted advice to those who run businesses.

Here’s what you need to know: it’s not as complicated as some would have you think. With software as a service someone else owns all of the headaches of running your software and hardware for a particular area of your business. It’s where the world is moving, and if you’re not already there then you’re behind. Modern software just needs a web browser installed on a local machine or tablet or mobile device, and the computing work is done on a server rather than locally on the individual’s computer that’s at a desk or in the field. This brings benefits that are huge: it reduces your cost for desktop and mobile device support, both hardware and software, and it keeps the data safe on server rather than on an individual’s machine, and that data is secure in a data centre.

But it’s not just that moving your software applications and storage to The Cloud reduces your costs, it also makes your business more agile. For 90% of you watching, your core business is not being a software development house; your core business is innovating products and services while creating best possible customer experience. The vast majority of in-house software projects are late, they deliver far less than they promise, and often the costs blow out to more than triple of what was originally estimated. Working with proven products that benefit from huge R&D and keep improving as the product is built out is the way to go.

But what about the risks? Is The Cloud secure? Some people find it comforting to see their own server in their own computer room, but any system can be hacked, and usually because of poor password practice or someone with a USB stick rather than poor software code or technical holes in the system. Whether your servers are on your own premises or being managed in a specialist data centre, it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is the level of security and in-built redundancy, and what I mean by that is what happens when the power goes out or a hard drive fails or there’s a communications network failure. Software as a service providers usually use the very best data centres to host their computers and applications, and they have serious security and in-built redundancy for uninterruptible power supply, and they work with telcos if networks have a problem. Most small business struggle to match these levels of secure reliability.

If you’re worried about having data in The Cloud, you don’t need to. All of your contacts are already in the cloud with LinkedIn, all of your financial transactions and personal wealth is managed in The Cloud with your bank. If you use Dropbox – which I do, I’ve used it for years for storage – it doesn’t matter if my laptop is stolen or a hard drive fails, I’ll never lose anything, I can recover all of those documents easily. Microsoft Office 365 is in The Cloud and it dramatically reduces support costs. Things like Skype are cloud applications, Google Docs, Oracle, SAP, NetSuite; there are hundreds of others that have moved their applications into the cloud, and customers want them to do it.

Click here for a post on keeping your data secure and why you are biggest security risk rather than external threats.

Don’t let your self-serving IT people convince you to stay on-premise with applications, unless they can convince you that there’s a compelling reason to do so. They’ll often talk about data residency and security concerns, but most software as a service providers can use a cloud hosting company who keeps the data local – just have a conversation with them.

If you’re frustrated with IT failing to deliver, endlessly asking for more time and more money, to only partially deliver what they originally promised, take the simple step of identifying which applications you can move into The Cloud most easily – it’s worth the effort. Email and Microsoft Office 365 is usually an easy place to start. You’ll free up working capital, you’ll reduce your real costs, and you’ll be a more agile business.

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Main Image Photo by Flickr: JD Lasica - Software