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What is SaaS?
Examples of popular SaaS products:
- Google Workspace
- Adobe Creative Cloud
A brief History of SaaS
Software-as-a-Service or SaaS is a relatively new concept in the world of software delivery, although 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 own 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 included 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 made it possible to deliver software applications over the internet using remote servers, which drastically reduced the cost and complexity of deploying and managing SaaS applications.
The continued rise of the SaaS operating model has been driven by several factors, below we highlight some of the key developments in the SaaS space over the last decade:
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. This shift has been driven by the benefits of scalability, flexibility, and the cost-effectiveness of the SaaS operating model.
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.
Mobile-First Approach: With the increased importance of mobile devices, SaaS providers continue to adopt a mobile-first approach, with a focus on developing applications that are optimised for mobile devices and accessible anywhere.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): SaaS providers are leveraging AI to provide advanced functionality such as predictive analytics, natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning (ML) functionality.
Platformisation: SaaS providers have moved beyond providing standalone applications to creating platforms that enable third-party developers to build and deploy their own applications on top of the SaaS infrastructure. This has opened up new opportunities for innovation, customisation and cross platform integration.
Integration: SaaS providers are increasingly providing integrations with other applications and services, making it easier for users to connect and share data across different systems and platforms.
Data Security: Security has become a top priority for SaaS providers, with a focus on providing leading edge security features such as encryption, authentication, and access controls.
SaaS has evolved significantly over the past 10 years, and it will continue to be a key driver of digital transformation and innovation in the years to come.
SaaS Characteristics and Features
SaaS v On-Premises Software
Salesforce SaaS Products
Raise efficiency and lower costs with scaled automation and intelligent analytics using real-time data with Sales Cloud.
Power your sales teams to do more with less with automated processes and data that drives connected customer experiences with the Service Cloud.
Make every engagement count whilst building lifelong loyal relationships with the Marketing Cloud.
Adapt quickly to boost sales, profitability and reduce inventory risk with Commerce Cloud.