Software as a Service, or SaaS, is a concept you will be hearing more and more about in the coming months and years. It is an alternative to the more established, yet increasingly less popular software as a product solution. SaaS solutions come in all shapes and sizes, yet if you are looking to invest in such a solution for your organization it is in your benefit to make sure that the product is extensible, scalable, and integratable based on the user experience you are looking to attain. After all, frequent software upgrades, easy integration with third party applications, and easy accommodations for growth are the key benefits of SaaS over Software as a Product (SaaP).
Software as a Service
SaaS solutions deliver applications over the Internet, and charge a regular fee for its use. A SaaS solution is in essence a web-based software that is hosted exclusively by the provider, as opposed to being downloaded upon purchase and subsequently hosted by the client. The provider in turn furnishes the client with access to the application in accordance with agreed-upon security, availability, and performance standards. As such, SaaS applications run exclusively on the provider’s servers. All a client needs in order to access the software is an Internet connection. An example of a SaaS solution is a solution like Prezi and, of course, Bynder.
Software as a Product
Software as a Product solutions, on the other hand, require you to purchase a license to use a solution that you will then have to host yourself. An example of this would be Microsoft Office 2011, or any on-premise digital asset management solution. SaaP solutions are an expensive one-time purchase, with no monthly usage fees but extensive maintenance and update costs.
Generally, you do need Internet access to run a Software as a Product solution, but rather can use offline or with an intranet connection. However, whenever a software update is released, users generally have to purchase it at an additional cost, although it is usually less than the cost of the original purchase. Although upgrades are usually not strictly necessary (the software works offline, independently), it is recommended to purchase them anyway as they allow users to enjoy fixes and new features. Moreover, upgrading may be a good idea if you want to work with materials created on the new version of the software. Although Microsoft is very good at supporting older, outdated software versions, not all companies are as understanding. Some will even stop support for some, if not all, services as soon as a new version is released, leaving users with an expensive solution that is no longer usable.
With a SaaS solution, however, you purchase a hosting service and the rights to use a software that is future-proof. As a result, the provider is responsible for maintaining the hardware (which obviously falls fully under the jurisdiction of the provider), upgrades which are rolled out system-wide as soon as they are released (and usually tend to be free), and secure data backups. In short, with a SaaS solution the burden of making sure that services remain operational and at peak performance levels lies squarely on the vendor. A SaaP solution will give you the tools the companies feels you need to manage your solution on purchase, but no technical support, access to future updates, or a guarantee that your software is future-proof.
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