Software as a Service concept represented by an open laptop, tablet, and white smartphone on a desk.

What is Software as a Service (SaaS)?

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software delivery model in which software is hosted by a third-party in the cloud, accessed by users over the internet, and licensed on a subscription basis. This definition is a bit technical, so we will try to break it down. Software as a Service is defined by two components – where the software is hosted and the licensing model.

Let’s start with where the software is hosted. In the Software as a Service model, a third-party vendor hosts your software on a remote server, known as “the cloud.” You then access the software over the Internet, usually through an mobile app or web browser. Unlike traditional software, which requires you to install software to your server or hard drive, cloud-based software puts the onus of hosting on the vendor. This provides many benefits to industrial organizations, which are discussed later.

Now let’s talk about the licensing model. Simply put, a software license grants you permission to use a software application. Software licenses can be owned (perpetual) or rented (subscription). Traditional, installed software uses perpetual licenses, which allow you to make a one-time license purchase and use the software indefinitely.

Rented licenses, such as those used in the Software as a Service subscriptions, are paid on a monthly or annual basis. You are given permission to use the software so long as your subscription is paid – this is where the “service” aspect comes in. There is more discussion to be had about licensing, but for the sake of this article, we will stop here.

Why SaaS? Challenges of the Traditional Software Model

In the past, organizations were responsible for hosting and maintaining software on their own premises. This meant working with a dedicated IT staff, buying servers and storage, providing security, and spending valuable resources on software installation and maintenance. In addition, IT resources were needed to perform ongoing software upgrades, install patches, carry out disaster recovery tests, and manage software licenses. While this software delivery method is viable for large companies, the costs are too great for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs).

These obstacles prevented SMBs from implementing business software, such as computerized maintenance management software. Instead, many SMBs stuck with manual or low-tech methods for tracking maintenance, and still continue to do so today. However, computer technology has advanced and introduced new ways to make business software possible for all companies. Software as a Service (SaaS) addressed many of the challenges of locally-installed software and is now an industry-standard model for vendors offering CMMS.

SaaS Examples

You may already be using some Software as a Service products in your everyday life. While some of them have a free version, you may pay (either monthly or annually) to unlock more than what’s offered in the free version, such as advanced features, additional storage space, etc.

  • Video Streaming: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video
  • Online News: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today
  • Email: Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook (formerly Hotmail)
  • Entertainment: PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, Nintendo Online
  • Cloud Storage: Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox
  • Productivity Software: Microsoft Office 365, Slack, Basecamp
  • Google Apps: Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Photos

Note: All company names, product names, trademarks, and registered trademarks are property of their respective owners.

Benefits of Software as a Service

Today, many software vendors offer their product through the Software as a Service model, which offers many built-in benefits including:

  • Lower Upfront Costs: SaaS subscription plans eliminate the higher upfront purchase and installation costs associated with on-premise software.
  • Lower Financial Risk: Monthly or annual subscriptions allow you to start and stop as you please. If you decide to cancel or switch providers, your losses are minimized.
  • Accessibility: Because of the low startup costs, SMBs can now afford to purchase and use powerful software that might have otherwise been unobtainable.
  • Lower Cost of Ownership: SaaS subscriptions are cheaper over the long run compared to the equipment and staffing costs associated with running an internal system.
  • Flexibility: Multiple subscription options allow you to pay only for what you need. If you discover additional needs, SaaS makes it easy to switch plans.
  • Reduced Time to Benefit: Since it is delivered over the internet, you do not have to wait for disks to arrive or IT to install the software. SaaS allows you to get started right away, thereby shortening your payback period.
  • Predictable Fees: Regular SaaS subscriptions fees make it easier to budget because costs are more predictable.
  • Ongoing Support: Subscription fees typically include ongoing support and upgrades. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about the penalties of expired warranties or service agreements.

Software as a Service (SaaS) CMMS

With the introduction of the SaaS delivery model, CMMS software is a possibility for every company, regardless of size. FTMaintenance is offered through a number of Software as a Service subscriptions. These low-cost, low-risk subscription plans are designed to accommodate the needs of everyone from first-time CMMS users to experienced maintenance management software veterans.

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