Jul 6, 2008

Software-as-a-Sevice : Opportunities and Challenges

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) or Software-as-a-Service(SaaS) as it's popularly called now, has been around since the early nineties presumably to deliver software services over the internet. Beginning on the first quarter of 2007, it has steadily increased popularity and acceptability across different business spectrum – from manufacturing, healthcare, and even banking industry.

What is SaaS?

SaaS is a remotely hosted computer programs (applications) provided to customers/subscribers across the internet. These applications range from a wide variety of purpose, from Customer Relationships Management(CRM), Content Management Software (CMS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to Electronic Health Record.

Common SaaS Infrastructure.

Besides just the software, it also carry an impressive support infrastructure as an added value service.

    • Scalable and redundant 24x7x365 data centers

    • Call center support

    • Security and security management

    • Service Level Agreement (SLA) Guarantee

    • Sufficient network and bandwidth capacities

    • Performance and availability commitments

    • Disaster Recovery Procedures

SaaS Opportunities: the business bottomlines.

Adopting the SaaS initiative takes your business on a level with huge enterprise as to management and service tooling. The bottomlines are as follows:

1. Either free or low-cost.

There are many SaaS offerings that are either free or has scalable payment scheme meaning, you only pay as you use them on a fixed term - usually on an annual. The features you get also increases as your business grows.

2. No required maintenance. In house IT not required.

In a traditional setup, an IT staff is required to maintain the software purchased. Maintenance may be in the form of security patches, upgrades, and bug-fixes. In a SaaS setup, all hardware and software maintenance are completely managed by the SaaS provider, thus freeing your business from additional unwanted costs.

3. High availability of service – mostly guarantees 99.99% uptime.

SaaS providers spent billions of dollars building advanced data centers that are spread across the globe to provide high redundancy and reliability on the services.

These data centers is where they host SaaS and guarantees 99.99% uptime. This means they guarantee 24x7x365 availability of your application.

4. High quality of software service.

Almost all SaaS come in a very rich and complete features.

5. Freedom of Choice

There are literally thousands of SaaS offerings on the internet and you are free to choose the service that is right for you. On the other hand, you can also move your existing SaaS to another whenever you wish. Most SaaS providers provide a free migration tool so you can easily switch your data from one service to another.

6. Focus on core competency.

Since much of the work implementing SaaS are at the hands of the provider, your business can now save on resources (manpower and financial) and focus more on core competencies.

SaaS Challenges:

1. Security

Since corporate data will be hosted offsite, and despite saas guarantee on privacy; many are still very skeptical on adopting it. My personal point of view is, SaaS providers are very good on what they do and that, they can secure and provide better services on managing your data than we do – period.

2. Offline Connectivity

Another front where SaaS is trying to prove itself is its offline connectivity to remote services. Not all SaaS providers can let you connect to your subscribed services offline. Google is leading the pack on offline connectivity with its Google Gears project. Google Docs, Spreadsheets and News Reader are some of its applications that can be managed offline.

3. Speed

Speed is somewhat subjective and relative from the end-users point of view. In many developed countries like the U.S., access to these SaaS are never really an issue. If you live in a country where internet connection is somewhat slow or flaky, this can pose a serious problem when considering to choose SaaS.

SaaS Starting Point

The starting point may again vary from one company to another. It depends on which 'in-house' applications that's taking too much of your company's resources that you wish to address first. If you manage a small or medium size business, a school or any form of organization; the best place to start is Google Apps (GA). It's a free SaaS that boasts tremendous usability and reliability features. You can also try using Salesforce CRM for your sales team as well.

Google Apps can also be extended through it's Google Apps Engine so you can take advantage of the current collaboration features and its enormous 'cloud' computing resources.


SaaS clearly provides more opportunities and far outweighs its temporary limitations. The trend in computing now is inevitably towards that direction and any business will surely benefit from its cost-effective solution than the traditional practice of hosting and maintaining in-house applications.

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