Definitions[edit | edit source]

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS, typically pronounced "sass") is

[t]he capability provided to the cloud service customer . . . to use the cloud service provider's applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The applications are accessible from various client devices through either a thin client interface, such as a web browser (e.g. web-based email), or a program interface. The cloud service customer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application configuration settings.[1]
software deployed as a hosted service and accessed over the Internet.[2]

Overview[edit | edit source]

The term SaaS dates from the 1990s and thus predates cloud computing. SaaS is also known commonly as "Web services." SaaS systems can be implemented in a number of different ways.

Characteristics of SaaS[edit | edit source]

"In the SaaS model, cloud users directly access the applications of the cloud provider and therefore have the convenience of not having to manage the underlying infrastructure or the capabilities of the applications. . . . SaaS cloud services include applications for specific business processes and purposes. The spectrum of examples is large and ranges from e-mail applications used by consumers to business applications and integrated management software solutions such as customer relationship management (CRM) tools, document management or accounting solutions, to name just a few."[3]

A key advantage of Cloud-based software for users is that users essentially outsource the operation and maintenance of software. Upgrades happen automatically at the back end, eliminating the need for local technical support teams. Users can rapidly scale up the number of subscriptions or usage volume by paying more, without needing to redesign datacenters or undertake costly IT system upgrades.[4]

By eliminating the need to install and run the application on the customer's own computer, SaaS alleviates the customer's burden of software maintenance, ongoing operation, and support. Conversely, customers relinquish control over software versions or changing requirements; moreover, costs to use the service become a continuous expense, rather than a single expense at time of purchase.

Using SaaS also can conceivably reduce that up-front expense of software purchases, through less costly, on-demand pricing. SaaS lets software vendors control and limit use, prohibits copies and distribution, and control all derivative versions of their software. This centralized control often allows the vendor to establish an ongoing revenue stream. The SaaS software vendor may host the application on its own web server, or this function may be handled by a third-party application service provider (ASP). This way, end users may reduce their investment on server hardware too.

"[W]hen deciding to use a SaaS provider, your organization is no longer focusing on managing the technical software application. Instead, it must shift its attention to managing the SaaS vendor relationship. This is where heavy IT contract negotiation, contract management and vendor management skills come into play. All rights and responsibilities that are associated with the relationship should be memorialized in an enforceable contract and effectively managed until the relationship has been terminated."[5]

The varieties of the SaaS applications determine what can be consumed by the SaaS consumer. There are varying degrees of functional standardization. SaaS applications are mostly consumed using a Web browser, and some are consumed as a Web service using other application clients, such as stand-alone desktop applications and mobile applications.


Risks[edit | edit source]

"The specific risks to be addressed in your contract with a SaaS provider will depend upon a number of factors:

These risks can be mitigated by careful review of the SaaS provider's system setup and by the terms and conditions of your SaaS contract."[6]

References[edit | edit source]

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