What does SaaS actually mean?
Basically, Software as a Service is a way of using software in which it’s all hosted on remote servers. Instead of having the software and data hosted, installed and managed on premises, organisations access their software via the internet, through browsers, through apps and by APIs.
The earliest kinds of services we might recognise as SaaS products are things like web-based email. You use the URL of your email provider, log in, and find your inbox laid out in a recognisable way with all its functions intact and all your messages before you.
But none of the information came from the local network or the individual computer—it’s hosted remotely, and accessed by web browser. And changes to the way that email client functions are deployed centrally, not updated by the owner of the machines used to access it.
Traditional software delivery models have some advantages, but a lot of disadvantages too.
The key advantage of more traditional software models over SaaS is that they’re managed internally, which affords those using the software more control over the granular details of its function across installation, deployment, maintenance and upgrades.
But having more direct control over those processes also means that you’re wholly responsible for them: the software has to be correctly installed, which can create a long lag time to deployment; it needs to be kept up to date, which requires someone there to update it; and maintenance and updates demand an adequate level of both resourcing and expertise operating in-house at any given time.
It’s a challenge to ensure that services and facilities supported by software continue to function as expected as the software ages.
Your service is can only be as good as the support you give it. And staff working from home can find it a serious challenge to get the access they need once they’re not part of the local network.
Nevertheless, this might really be the correct kind of software model for some organisations and some purposes.
SaaS models are centralised, easy and accessible
Because the software is hosted remotely, it is updated, maintained and managed centrally—and automatically. Although SaaS products can be heavily customised for use, their central management means they also have low installation requirements and hugely reduced time to deployment.
SaaS products are operated and managed by organisations whose whole purpose is technology, which means the resources, skills and expertise are always present, and often exist at a scale that makes servicing the product much more economical. Those are benefits to cost and efficiency that get passed on directly to end users.
Accessibility is another point in favour of SaaS products, especially among employers that strive to ensure diversity and equal access among their employees.
Telstra’s Hybrid Working Report tells us that hybrid working models are officially no longer “the future”—they’re now the present. It’s now very probable that someone will need to access a software product from a remote computer terminal, whether that’s at home or while travelling. Under these circumstances, a product that takes advantage of cloud infrastructure so you can log in from anywhere and receive the exact same experience becomes invaluable.
How secure is the cloud, anyway?
The cloud is a network of remote machines on which data is hosted, as opposed to a local one. Cloud computing has been in use for more than twenty years, and it’s now used across leading businesses in virtually every industry.
Three major companies
Right now, the three major companies that offer cloud hosting services are—as you may expect—Amazon, Google and Microsoft. All of them offer data centres in the ANZ region that can help organisations make sure they retain data sovereignty and adhere to local privacy regulations. In terms of their reliability, many years of development and expansions to cloud computing have made it a highly robust way to store information.