As it happens, I've talked about SaaS and what's good about it many times, both at various it conferences and in behind-the-scenes conversations, but I've never had to write on the subject until now. Moreover, the SaaS model is essentially native to me, given the sphere of activity, and secondly, it is one of the main trends in modern web-technologies. In this connection I would like to talk about SaaS as such, and in the long term, if it turns out to be interesting, about particular aspects. In essence, the material is about basic things, but this is the kind of understanding many people lack. You should at least try to talk about complex things in a simple way. It helps.
I want to say one thing right away – SaaS is a specialized term and, if you start digging into it, it's complicated. It can bring not only melancholy, but also a certain awe. But in fact it's a simple thing. To use any SaaS product, including ours, you don't need to understand the deeper, or even superficial meaning of the term. Moreover, when uCoz was created, none of the developers themselves had even heard of such a word. They just appeared products that were inherently common, and then they began to classify it somehow, identify the features, pluses and minuses.
If you have made web technologies your vocation or hobby, or if you are thinking about what type of products are the most suitable for you personally, what are the most promising, etc., all of this can be interesting and useful.
Much has been written about SaaS, and you can start learning about it with, for example, a Wikipedia article. But as a rule, all this information is rather difficult to comprehend. In the end, it seems to be clear, but it is not clear why a person needs it. And if you ask them to tell you what they have just read about, again, not everyone is able to. It is a classic situation: "I understand everything, but I cannot explain.
Therefore, I will try to simplify as much as possible and consider the model of providing software as a service, as a service, using the simplest examples.
SaaS is often regarded as a business model, and it is often mistakenly equated with rent, which although it has common features, the main essence is still different. What tends to be interesting is the technological feature of the model, rather than the order and periodicity of payment.
When we consume a service as a service and not as software to be installed, we tend to become SaaS consumers at this point. The simplest, and most commonly used SaaS service is an email service – the same gmail.
In order to set up your own e-mail service from scratch, you have to:
In fact, in many organizations today, mail continues to function in a similar fashion, handled by a full time sysadmin or even a staff, depending on the size of the organization and its infrastructure.
End users and the mass consumer do not use anything like this. Nor do they use their ISP's mail, although about 12 years ago almost everyone was using it and getting their mail via pop3 only. Web interfaces for working with mail were in their infancy. Today, however, the vast majority of people use web-based mail. And even people who are affectionately known as geeks, even they are often migrating to the web interface from email clients. This is not to say that everyone will eventually move to this model of mail consumption, there are specific tasks, there are wild forces of habit, but for most people today it is already more convenient and practical this way. It's all here: reliability, simplicity and even security. Not only individual users, but also entire companies, in some cases even corporations, are shifting to such solutions. Google, Zoho and a number of others have specialized solutions for corporate mail based on the service.
Mail, by and large, is the simplest example, and the most massive. At least because the vast majority of internet users use email, but some kind of CRM, ERP system, or the same sitebuilders are not needed by everyone. They have a narrower range of consumers. But very many software products can already be found in the form of services. In some cases, of course, they still lag behind their desktop counterparts, but they often give their consumers advantages. Almost always this is expressed precisely in the simplicity of operation, in the lack of maintenance requirements, in the economic efficiency, simply put, in the cheapness of such a solution and approach. Other advantages mainly depend on the particular field, in some cases a higher degree of security, in other cases unprecedentedly convenient synchronization and availability of convenient multi-user work, due to cloud data storage.
In order not to get bogged down in general words and characteristics, I suggest looking at some examples. The most common ones.
The most common examples of using SaaS solutions are project management systems and collaboration on them, online organizers, document management systems. They are all at hand and many are already using them without thinking about the ideology of such services and scary clever acronyms.
As I said, you don't have to go far to find examples. Working with documents? Please – this is the popular google docs, which allows you to do away with Word and Excel, and get a number of advantages, primarily related to the possibilities of collaborative work on documents. And a number of companies have such solutions – Microsoft, Zoho and others.
Online organizers are in principle more than enough, as well as systems for organizing work in general, for keeping todo. Take for example our calendar and webtop project management system or similar google solutions or famous 37signals products: basecamp, backpack.
A third (not obvious) example is online games. Of course, they are not usually referred to SaaS solutions, but they have become available today as services, with the same ideology. Most often it is MMORPG. Just in case, let me remind you that games are also programs and for example Xbox Live by Microsoft very clearly classifies itself as a SaaS product.
What was the point of all those examples? The point is that software presented as a service has been all around us for a long time. Both the market and ourselves use SaaS far more often than we realise. And the convenience, simplicity, cost-effectiveness and other perks of SaaS are winning the hearts of consumers without having to explain their complex device and philosophy of the model.
I hope this publication has made the term SaaS not as mysterious and scary as it seemed before, and that its triumph in the future is finally evident.