SaaS is a delivery model that presents software as an autonomous service in a distributed environment. In simple terms, it allows organisations to use software remotely without procuring and hosting the same, at a lower cost as compared with a licence cost. This approach relieves organisations from the pain of installation, deployment and associated IT support cost.
The clearest immediate beneficiaries of innovation in SaaS are small and medium sized enterprises. The key change is accessibility. Tools such as CRM and ERP, crucial to understanding the function and health of an organisation, were once impractical for most businesses to consider because offerings from SAP and PeopleSoft were simply too expensive to install and maintain. Fortunately, high priced commercial software is no longer the only option.
Institutional-class software developers have emerged with software offerings specifically geared towards small enterprises. These developers have harnessed open source communities to produce cost-effective, reliable software served in the cloud. WordPress is one such example. It serves some of the largest media and content companies in the world, indicative of its world-class usability and reliability. What is more remarkable is that among the site's 70 million users, 60 percent of sites are hosted for small businesses. By creating prices tiers and service avenues specifically geared towards small businesses, WordPress has put them on an equal footing with big businesses.
SaaS is not just economically feasible for small businesses, it is practical.
Integration is key
Some of the best integrated online applications stem from open source roots. Integration is a natural consequence of the open source development process, one that is comparable to a baptism by fire. Software applications released into an engaged development community undergo an extraordinary degree of refinement, thanks to the wisdom of an enthusiastic crowd. Galaxy is the product of just such a process.
Well-known as the most popular workflow tool in life sciences research, Galaxy's distinctive feature is its highly adaptive integration with external software. Galaxy serves as the nexus for analytics created from different programming languages and design philosophies, and integrates these disparate parts coherently and reliably. This level of integration appeals to small, budget constrained laboratories, but the insight can be generalised to tight budgeted-businesses everywhere: open source SaaS makes powerful software integration economical.
But what of security? The most secure system is off-grid, after all.
Industry surveys suggest security is a growing worry to administrators, but the facts of the matter are far from settled. Fundamentally, there is a clear maintenance benefit gained from deploying SaaS. Security holes are patched quickly and uniformly across most deployments, at a pace and breadth that would be difficult or impossible to replicate across local IT infrastructures. Certainly for many small businesses, the SaaS model allows management to focus elsewhere besides IT.
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