What’s SaaS?

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SaaS is a software distribution model where users access an application hosted by the vendor on an as-needed basis. It requires network-based software managed from a central location, per-user pricing, and centralized maintenance. The infrastructure is based on a service-oriented architecture.

A SaaS solution is a software distribution model that allows users to access a specific application or module hosted by the vendor on an as-needed basis. Software as a Service (SaaS) is commonly used with a range of different software products. The main feature of a SaaS solution is the licensing rules. Instead of purchasing an entire application as a unit or product, customers can purchase access rights.

There are five main characteristics used to classify a system as a SaaS solution. The access methodology is the former. To be considered a SaaS solution, the software must be network-based and managed from a central location or hub. Customers are required to access the tool via the Internet. Each customer site comes with a set of unique usernames, profiles and views. The software is able to recognize the user and provide appropriate viewing and access to the data. Users can come from a variety of companies, all with access to the same tool, but with slightly different user experiences.

The software itself is designed to provide the ability for multiple people or users to access the same data and tools simultaneously. It’s important to note that there is far less customization than in a traditional software delivery model. The relationship is similar to one to many, rather than an individualized service.

The business aspects of software management, ranging from pricing, partnerships, and overall architecture, are designed for a per-user pricing structure. This structure must be set up with the initial system design and requires significant effort to achieve. However, once the job is done, the same rules apply to all users, regardless of volume.

All system maintenance is managed centrally. This is a big plus, as the vendor has a much greater degree of control over the product. In some versions of SaaS, there is a component downloaded in the software tool. The vendor maintains access rights and can apply patches and system fixes to all users at the same time. This type of control solves much of the work typically done at the customer site to update the technology. It also ensures that the software company can limit the number of versions it has to support.

The infrastructure needed to run this type of software is significant and often based on a service oriented architecture (SOA). This type of structure creates packages for different functionalities such as services or interoperable modules. Each customer is free to activate the different services and expand their toolkit according to their needs and timing. The design ensures that each module functions as an independent unit, integrating with other aspects of the software.

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