There is much said about the democratic approach of the Cloud. No matter what the size of your company or outfit, no matter your budget or requirements, there’s something to fit everyone.
One of the principle reasons for this is SaaS, Software as a Service. It’s right at the heart of what the Cloud offers. Its characteristics are flexible, if there’s a particular kind of software application you’re looking for like project management, data storage or a email service like hosted Exchange, then this is your first port of call.
It makes it popular but, as ever when something is popular, it means it has become the focus of a lot of criticism. It isn’t that SaaS is misunderstood, more than concerns over how it works and its practice are somewhat outdated. The technology has been changing rapidly yet there are still descriptions and absolutes that were written when it first emerged on the radar.
So let’s re-write the textbook on SaaS. What do we need to forget and what do we need to remember?
- Security. This is the major sticking point and criticism that’s been levelled at SaaS, and on a wider level the Cloud itself. Because it isn’t something physical, sitting on a server next to you, the assumption is it must be less secure. Much has been done by Cloud Vendors and providers in the last five years to improve security; at some server farms the physical security in place is on par with banks. There are CCTV monitoring, password and keycard access as well as emergency procedures in place in case of natural disaster. In terms of data transfer between applications and downloading the security in place in terms of virus scans and filtering have become a science in themselves. It’s no longer true to say security is something ignored in the cloud; in fact it’s probably the fastest growing industry within the sector.
- SaaS is a fad. Detractors always turn to the Cloud and say it won’t be around for the long term. Well, yes, it’s probably true to say that some of the applications we’re using today might not still be around in five or ten years’ time but the principle of SaaS is something that’s becoming entrenched in business attitudes and behaviour. In fact there’s an argument to be made that the future of business services and email Exchange hosting is the future of IT. Streamlining the software you use and to buy depending on need is a much more cost-effective way to use services. What business wouldn’t want that?
- SaaS applications aren’t that bespoke, they’re too limited. One of the major criticisms levelled at SaaS applications is that they’re off the rack, once you download them that’s it, that’s the service you’re going to get. Not only does that do a disservice to the designers and programmers of the applications but why you get SaaS rather than anything else. Developers usually send updates within a quarter, six months or a year so you’re unlikely to be left with an out of date application. Also if you’re looking for a piece of kit that’s much more bespoke then you’re more likely to commission it.
- If you sign up to SaaS you’re handing over control to someone else. This is probably a criticism that’s been levelled at any element of outsourcing since the year dot. When you’re signing up to a new service you’re doing a deal with the provider. It’s you’re responsibility to make sure you know exactly what the vendor is offering, what their security plans are and how much it will cost. Bringing in someone new as a service provider can always make you feel like you’re handing over control to someone else but by choosing the right provider you have a better understanding of what you’re going to get, and whether you need it.
- SaaS isn’t as cost-effective as you think. The fact that the Cloud saves money in the long run is one of its most attractive and appealing aspects. However some critics say it’s a myth that it will save you money. They say it’ll end up costing you the same amount once you’ve found the right deal, paid the money for back-ups and updates. It goes back to the control issue. What SaaS allows you to do is handover a lot of the grunt work that makes up IT to someone else. But you don’t have to accept it wholesale, you can pick and choose the software and the services you need. As well as the physical savings in terms of staff hire, servicer maintenance and upgrades you’re in fact saving in terms of what you’re buying.