Software as a service: Outsource the hassle, stay in control

* Advantages of software as a service

Software as a service is a model of software delivery where customers access network-based software. It has many names, such as hosted software, ASP (in the 1990s), service bureau (in the 1980s) and is currently referred to as on-demand software. There are many well-known offerings such as SalesForce.com for CRM or any of the free online e-mail systems like YahooMail or Gmail. These examples reflect another point about SaaS, which is that it can be for either business or consumer software.

SaaS is basically outsourcing the management and operation of software required to support a specific function. A recent addition to the SaaS market is a desktop management offering from WebEx.

This SaaS offering for automated desktop management provides sophisticated management tools to automate effective desktop management without the cost and hassle of on-premise software and hardware. Many vendors offer fully outsourced desktop management, however, the loss of control of such important internal infrastructure and the additional management efforts required to manage an outsourcer are trade-offs that some companies do not wish to make. The SaaS model provides relief of many of the functions required to run a major software suite while allowing internal IT staff to remain in direct control of the actual management functions affecting end users.

Following are my top 10 reasons to consider SaaS:

1. Rapid implementation: There is no faster way to get started with a new software application than to take advantage of a professionally run service. Even complex business process oriented applications can be ready to go in less than 30 days.

2. Lower cost to implement: Implementation costs are significantly lower than developing custom solutions or purchasing and installing proprietary software and hardware.

3. Lower cost to operate: The SaaS model spreads infrastructure, development, maintenance and future innovation costs across a broad base of users.

4. Reliable cost forecasting: Subscription fees are predictable, allowing you to forecast your IT costs over several years.

5. Ease of access: Implementations are based on Internet access with browser-based interfaces making it easy for staff to access the service from anywhere.

6. 24x7 support: Support staff who specialize in the given application and are available 24x7 can mean significant improvement in end user assistance over on-premise implementations where the support function is spread across internal IT staff and remote vendor support for software related issues.

7. Increased reliability: The infrastructure behind most SaaS offerings is based on professionally run data centers with full system and database redundancy, load balancing and fail-over. This will provide for better availability and performance.

8. Increased security: Physical and data security are generally greater than most companies will put in place for on-premise implementations.

9. Continual technology enhancements: Planning and managing upgrades is someone else's problem. You get the benefit of frequent upgrades without the hassle of testing, managing change control or converting data.

10. Reduced risk: Low up front cost, little or no staff time to get going, and an already up and running environment means that most of the risks to selecting and implementing new software are avoided. The project will be on-time, there will be no hardware costs or other infrastructure surprises, and if it's not the right software you won't be walking away from a big investment if you choose to make a switch.

Join me for a free Webinar on Feb. 14 - Desktop Management: Getting It Right. This Webinar will cover the importance of desktop management and will discuss a new SaaS model for delivering automated desktop management software. Register here.

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