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Learn about SaaS (Software as a Service) features, benefits, and how it can increase your business’ efficiency.

What is Software as a Service (SaaS)?

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a cloud-based method of delivering software where users subscribe to access applications on the Internet rather than purchasing them outright. Common SaaS examples include email, calendaring, and cloud-based collaborative tools like Slack. This model operates similarly to streaming services, offering flexible, subscription-based access from any compatible device. By hosting the software in the cloud, SaaS provides a complete solution that enhances accessibility and convenience, allowing users to connect and use these apps on a pay-as-you-go basis.
  • Google Workspace
  • Salesforce
  • Trello
  • Zoom
  • DocuSign
  • Slack
  • Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Mailchimp
  • Netflix
  • Spotify

A Brief History of SaaS

Software-as-a-Service or SaaS is a relatively new concept in software delivery. However, its origins date back to the mainframe era of computing in the 1960s and 1970s, when computer terminals were used to access a mainframe that hosted software applications.

However, the modern-day SaaS model as we know it today didn't emerge until the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the internet became more widely accessible and reliable. This technology shift made it possible to deliver software applications over the web, which gave rise to the SaaS delivery model.

The first known SaaS applications were simple web-based tools such as email, customer relationship management (CRM), and project management software. These applications were designed to be accessed through a web browser, eliminating the need for users to install and maintain software on their personal computers.

One of the very earliest examples of a SaaS application was Salesforce, launched in 1999, Salesforce offered a web-based CRM solution that allowed businesses to manage their customer relationships more efficiently and with greater scalability. Other early SaaS applications are NetSuite (launched in 1998), which provided accounting and ERP software, as well as WebEx (launched in 1995), which provided an early example of web conferencing software.

Early SaaS applications faced several challenges, including slow internet speeds and limited bandwidth. However, these challenges were gradually overcome as internet infrastructure improved and more businesses adopted the SaaS model.

The popularity of the SaaS operating model has continued to grow since the early 2000s, driven in part by the rise of cloud computing. Advances in cloud computing technology made it possible to deliver software applications over the internet using remote servers, drastically reducing the cost and complexity of deploying and managing SaaS applications.

Several factors have driven the continued rise of the SaaS operating model; below we've highlighted some of the key developments in the SaaS industry over the last decade:

  1. Increased Adoption: SaaS has become the dominant model for delivering software applications. Many organisations have shifted from traditional on-premises software to cloud-based SaaS solutions. The benefits of scalability, flexibility, and the cost-effectiveness of the SaaS operating model have driven this shift.
  2. Cloud Infrastructure: Cloud infrastructure has become more robust, with the major cloud providers (AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud) investing heavily in expanding their cloud services.
  3. Mobile-First Approach: With the increased usage and importance of mobile devices, SaaS providers continue to adopt a mobile-first approach, focusing on developing optimised applications for mobile devices and accessible anywhere.
  4. Artificial Intelligence (AI): SaaS providers are leveraging AI to provide advanced functionality, such as predictive analytics, natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning (ML).
  5. Platformisation: SaaS providers have moved beyond providing standalone applications to creating platforms that enable third-party developers to build and deploy their applications on top of the SaaS infrastructure. This has opened up new opportunities for innovation, customisation and greater cross-platform integration.
  6. Integration: SaaS providers increasingly provide integrations with other applications and services, making it easier for users to connect and share data across different systems and platforms.
  7. Data Security: Security has become a top priority for SaaS providers, who strongly focus on providing leading-edge security features such as encryption, authentication, and access controls.

SaaS has evolved significantly over the past ten years and will continue to be a key driver of digital transformation and innovation in the years to come.

The Key Characteristics and Features of SaaS

A helpful analogy to grasp the SaaS model is to compare it to a bank. Just as a bank ensures the privacy of each customer while offering reliable, secure, and efficient services, SaaS operates similarly. The SaaS model shifts the burden of maintaining and hosting the software to the SaaS provider. This shift results in substantial benefits, such as consistent maintenance, robust security, and guaranteeing that the software remains continuously accessible and current. This setup allows businesses to focus on their core activities without worrying about the technical complexities of software management.

The SaaS (Software as a Service) model enhances business efficiency in several key ways, aligning with the modern need for flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness. Here’s a refined reasoning:

  1. Improved Customisation: SaaS applications offer highly customisable settings that allow businesses to tailor functionalities to their needs. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, companies can modify aspects of the software to better align with their processes and workflows, enhancing overall productivity and user satisfaction.
  2. Lower Costs: With SaaS, businesses avoid the large upfront costs of purchasing and maintaining traditional software. Instead, they pay for what they use, typically on a subscription basis. This reduces initial capital expenditure and spreads costs over time, making budgeting more predictable. The SaaS provider also handles updates and maintenance, reducing IT overhead. 
  3. Enhanced Connectivity: SaaS solutions are cloud-based, offering superior connectivity compared to traditional software. Employees can access the system from anywhere via the internet, facilitating collaboration and remote work. This connectivity ensures that teams can stay in touch and share information seamlessly, crucial for maintaining operational continuity in today's dispersed work environments.
  4. Four Customisable SaaS Characteristics: The adaptability of SaaS is rooted in four key customisable characteristics:
  • Scalability: Businesses can quickly scale their SaaS usage up or down based on demand without needing significant infrastructure changes.
  • Integration: SaaS apps often offer robust APIs and built-in integrations with other tools, allowing for a seamless data flow across different business functions.
  • Security: Providers typically invest heavily in security measures, offering robust protections that may be superior to what a business could afford independently.
  • Performance and Reliability: Regular updates and a managed cloud environment ensure the SaaS applications remain high-performing and reliable, with minimal downtime.

SaaS Vs. PaaS Vs. IaaS - What's the difference

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS provides fully functional applications via a web browser. The service provider manages the application and its underlying infrastructure, including networks, servers, and data storage. Users access and use the software without handling installation, maintenance, or updates. Examples include Gmail, Slack, and Salesforce.
  2. Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS offers a cloud-based platform allowing developers to build and deploy applications online. It includes frameworks, tools, and support for software development, as well as managing infrastructure like servers and networking while users manage applications and data. This facilitates the rapid growth of web or mobile apps. Examples include Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure.
  3. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): IaaS provides the most flexible cloud computing model with virtualised physical computing resources over the Internet. Users get control over operating systems, applications, and data while the provider manages the infrastructure. IaaS is ideal for businesses needing on-demand resources without buying hardware. Examples are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Compute Engine.

These distinctions help determine the right cloud service based on business needs, technical skills, and resources. SaaS is best for ready-to-use solutions, PaaS for rapid app development, and IaaS for customisable IT infrastructure.

5 Key Ways SaaS Enhances CRM to Drive Business Growth and Reduce Costs

If cost reduction and business growth are priorities, leveraging SaaS features in your CRM system can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of sales and business teams in interacting with stakeholders, current clients, and potential customers. Here are the top five ways SaaS features can elevate your business through CRM:

  1. Enhanced Lead Management: Streamline the identification and monitoring of leads throughout the sales cycle for more targeted and effective follow-up.
  2. Improved Sales and Marketing Collaboration: Facilitate better capturing and sharing of insights about prospects and customers, ensuring both teams are aligned and can work together more effectively.
  3. Refined Marketing Automation: Optimise your digital marketing campaigns by automating repetitive tasks and personalising customer interactions, which will lead to higher engagement and conversion rates.
  4. Better Data Management: Enhance the organisation, accessibility, and security of business-critical information, supporting more informed decision-making and strategic planning.
  5. Advanced Contact Management: Improve the storage, organisation, and tracking of information about customers, prospects, and sales leads, ensuring all relevant details are readily available for more personalised and timely interactions.

SaaS v On-Premises Software

In the past, businesses bought and relied on packaged software; however, this “on-premises” software had several drawbacks.

The Drawbacks of On-Premises Packaged Software:

  • Requires in-house systems that need to be regularly upgraded by an internal IT department.
  • Requires frequent maintenance that can lead to IT word pressure and project bottlenecks.
  • Architecture and coding differences can make it difficult to integrate multiple systems.
  • Increased upfront software, licensing and server costs.
  • The costs of CRM software and hardware could make it unaffordable for small businesses or challenging to scale up quickly in response to growth or change.

Learn more about Sales Cloud and how a cloud-based CRM can support business growth.

Salesforce SaaS Products

Sales Cloud:
Raise efficiency and lower costs with scaled automation and intelligent analytics using real-time data with Sales Cloud.
Service Cloud:
With the Service Cloud, you can power your sales teams to do more with less with automated processes and data that drive connected customer experiences.
Marketing Cloud:
Make every engagement count whilst building lifelong loyal relationships with the Marketing Cloud.
Commerce Cloud:
Adapt quickly to boost sales, profitability, and reduce inventory risk with Commerce Cloud.

The Future of Saas

Cloud computing, and SaaS have come a long way in helping companies develop end-to-end integrated solutions. With increasing awareness and uptake, organisations are developing SaaS integration platforms (or SIPs) to build additional SaaS applications.

SaaS is one of several cloud computing solutions for business IT issues. Other ‘as-a-Service' options include:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – the provider hosts hardware, software, storage and other infrastructure components
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Everything as a service (XaaS) – which is all the "aaS" tools neatly packaged together.

The payment model for these kinds of services is typically a per-seat, per-month charge based on usage – so a business only has to pay for what they need, reducing upfront costs.

With companies adopting various "aaS" services, long-term relationships with service providers will grow, leading to innovation as customers' evolving needs are understood and provided for. SaaS may one day help address critical business challenges, such as predicting which customers will churn or which cross-selling practices work best.

With the need for high-volume data, software performance and backup increasing daily, it's easy to see why so many businesses are outsourcing to cloud-based providers. If you're considering moving to a SaaS platform, find out what Salesforce offers for businesses of all sizes.

Why choose SaaS?

Due to software's increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness as service applications, many businesses turn to cloud-based SaaS for solutions. Why?

With Software as a Service, you get:

  1. Low Set Up and Infrastructure costs:
    You only pay for what you need, so it is a cost-effective solution for all-sized businesses.
  2. Scalability:
    You can adapt your requirements to the number of people who need to use the system, the volume of data and the functionality required as your business grows.
  3. Accessible from Anywhere:
    Just connect to the internet, and you can work from wherever you need via desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile or other networked devices.
  4. Automatic, frequent updates:
    Providers offer timely improvements thanks to their scale and because they receive feedback about what their customers need. This frees up your IT department for other, more business-critical tasks.
  5. Security at the highest level required by any customer:
    Because of the shared nature of the service, all users benefit from the security level set up for those with the highest need.


See how Salesforce can help you.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Both. The front end of SaaS development involves HTML, Javascript and CSS, whereas the back end of SaaS application involves servers (Apache, Nginx, Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure)  and databases (relational or non-relational).
According to Microsoft, “Cloud computing delivers computer services - including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and intelligence - over the internet (‘the cloud”) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” Whereas SaaS is software delivered to an end user from a cloud environment and needs service provider interaction.

Generally, there are three types of cloud computing - public, private and hybrid.

Public Cloud Computing: Public clouds are multi-tenanted architecture owned and operated by third-party cloud service providers that deliver their computing resources. With a public cloud, the cloud provider owns and manages all hardware, software, and other supporting infrastructure.

Private Cloud Computing: Private cloud computing refers to the single-tenanted architecture used exclusively by a single business or organisation. A private cloud can be physically located in the company’s on-site data centre, with services and infrastructure being maintained on a private network.

Hybrid Cloud Computing: Hybrid clouds combine public and private clouds, bound together by technology that allows data and applications to be shared, giving your business greater flexibility to optimise your existing infrastructure, security, and compliance.

Salesforce: A cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) platform that helps businesses manage their sales, marketing, and customer support activities.
SaaS (Software as a Service) means accessing software through the internet without downloads. Users subscribe to applications hosted on remote servers, accessing them via web browsers. No maintenance or updates are required, making it a convenient and cost-effective way to use the software.
SaaS (Software as a Service) refers to software applications accessed over the internet without downloads. Users subscribe to remote-hosted applications accessible through web browsers, eliminating the need for maintenance. It offers convenience and cost-effectiveness.

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