What Is SaaS?
Within the IT industry, you will come across a lot of acronyms. One that is being used more and more regularly, as businesses become used to operating in cloud, is SaaS. SaaS stands for Software as a Service and is rapidly becoming the way that many businesses purchase their software. You will already be familiar with it as an end user, even if you don’t already use it in your own business. Services we use every day, such as Microsoft 365, Stripe and Zoom, are all run from a SaaS platform.
Traditionally software has only been available on the machine where it has been installed. However, using cloud infrastructure, SaaS allows a third-party provider to build an application and make it available to its customers via the internet. The software can then be accessed from any device, as long as the user has an internet connection and web browser.
This solution makes it an attractive option for start-ups and small businesses. You can benefit from the capabilities of an application, without having to invest the time, expertise, or capital of building your own applications, or hosting applications yourself. Rather, you can buy a smaller number of licences initially, and scale up as you need to. Larger companies can also benefit from SaaS technology, particularly for short-term projects or applications that aren’t needed all year around.
What do you need to set it up?
Before you decide to develop a SaaS product, the first thing you need to do is establish is your idea. What do you want to provide to your customers on a subscription basis? The type of companies that have taken advantage of SaaS products are diverse, from well-known offerings like Dropbox, Netflix and Canva, through to more niche businesses like Equicantis, which provides bespoke, professional equine and canine exercise plans – all using SaaS products. Once you have worked out your offering, you need to carry out market research to ensure that there is a market and sufficient demand for your subscription. Once you have confirmed this, you just need to build it.
While many end users can set up SaaS technology themselves, you might find that it makes more sense to bring in a third-party provider, to help with the integration, customisation and security of your SaaS product. SaaS offers a number of advantages over the other types of solution, particularly around flexibility and savings.
According to The National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST), there are three different models which you can use to deploy SaaS. These are Public Cloud, Private Cloud or Hybrid Cloud. The Public Cloud is used by services like Adobe Photoshop and MailChimp, where the general public has open access to the platform, but the infrastructure is owned, managed and operated by the organisation. A Private Cloud is deployed where exclusive use by one organisation is required. Here the cloud software is built on infrastructure that is accessible to multiple users within restricted parameters. The secure cloud services offered by IBM, Microsoft and other companies would be examples of a Private Cloud SaaS. Hybrid Cloud software has the ability to switch between the private and public cloud models, dependent on the levels of demand that are placed on the software. Standardised or proprietary technology enables data and application portability.
There are various products available for developing SaaS products. One example is Umbraco Cloud and Umbraco CMS, hosted on Microsoft Azure. This provides a proven and solid foundation, with extensive capabilities including managed CDN and caching, media storage, security options, automatic upgrades and much more.
The benefits of SaaS
From cost-effectiveness and scalability, through to its accessibility, operational management, security and reporting features, there are many benefits associated with SaaS.
Cost-effective: The availability of flexible payment methods (such as pay-as-you-go or pay monthly models) make SaaS products affordable for most end customers. The costs for developing a brand-new SaaS product can vary. However, working with an experienced partner who can help you refine the requirements of your product’s core offering can keep costs at a minimum. This will also enable you to get the first version of your product out more quickly, which in turn will lead to a much quicker return on investment. This provides everyone, regardless of size, with the opportunity to be able to afford to disrupt existing markets.
Accessibility: As long as you can log into a stable internet connection and a browser, then SaaS products are easily accessible. Also, as your SaaS product is available online, you are not limited by geography, and there is the potential for your product to be accessible all over the world. In addition, SaaS products can be built to easily integrate with a range of payment providers (Stripe, Paypal etc).
Operational management and IT support: Working with a third-party provider to develop your SaaS product can help keep development costs to get up and running at a minimum. Also, by partnering with a company with existing expertise in SaaS product development like Titan Webtech, you won’t need to hire or train someone within your own in-house IT team to undertake the development. We can work with you during the initial development phase and offer on-going technical support alongside your existing team once the product goes live.
Scalability: With the software being cloud-based, it is easy to upscale the solution to accommodate the changing needs of your business. You can also enable your clients to benefit from the licence/subscription model, which easily allows them to buy more, as and when, they grow. It is a common strategy with SaaS products to have multiple options, that offer additional features (i.e Bronze, Silver, Gold or Basic, Intermediate, Pro etc). This enables you to easily upsell to your existing customer base.
Security: Keeping your site updated and secure is vital. The different platforms your SaaS product can be developed on will offer different security features. However, one of the main reasons we like to use Umbraco Cloud for SaaS products are features like automatic upgrades which will mean you'll always have the latest features and necessary security fixes in place. In addition, with Umbraco Cloud you automatically receive TLS certificates via Cloudflare giving you zero-config HTTPS without any added cost, support for OAuth login system, options to set-up password rules, PCI compliance, DDoS protection along with built-in security Health-checks which are all important security features.
Reporting: It is also straightforward to show the return on investment (ROI) of SaaS products, as the analytics are advanced, with simple access to easy-to-understand data reporting and intelligence tools.
Challenges of SaaS
While much of the UK now benefits from improved connectivity, via broadband and high-speed networks, there are some areas (often the most remote or rural) that suffer from poor internet connections. The lack of stable, reliable internet access proves to be a massive challenge when it comes to using SaaS. Other challenges to consider before investing in SaaS are aspects such as the level of customisation available and choosing the right third-party provider, as obviously you are dependent on their capabilities to ensure the right level of data security is in place. While these challenges are all surmountable, it is worth taking the time to consider them and work out how to best approach them.
Designing your SaaS Product
At Titan Webtech, we are skilled in developing SaaS products and in helping businesses implement them. We provide development, technical support, guidance and advice, not just across Cheshire and North Wales, but throughout the UK. We design, develop, and manage bespoke software solutions for web-based applications and provide digital management services to all kinds of businesses and clients. As cloud computing adoption becomes increasingly popular, we will continue to evolve our offering, to ensure that we can provide the right SaaS product for your business needs.