Software as a Service (SaaS) is a Cloud computing concept that has been strongly marketed over the last decade or so, as the way to go for organizations that do not want to be burdened with software installations, upgrades, configurations and disaster recovery.  The software is installed and maintained on a remote server owned by the service provider. All activities related to the upgrade, maintenance and configuration are handled by the service provider and the customer is free to use the instances at a nominal predefined cost.

SaaS vendors view the shared software service as a business and are competitively inclined to focus on reducing costs, improving quality, and delivering services in a timely manner. It is easy to sell the concept, as it delivers tangible benefits to the user organization with assurances of security and lowering of risks.

SaaS adoption is on an upswing. IT administrators in user organizations are happy. Apart from acquiring power to manage the software instances consumed, centrally, enterprise administrators realize that they can enjoy specialized personnel support with sharp decline in IT risks associated with obsolescence, skill degradation and change.

End users too, are suddenly liberated from vendor lock in as SaaS applications are subscription based and choosing not to renew a subscription will not result in huge capital losses to the enterprise. Learning curves are also not steep and familiar Internet interfaces are used to deliver the software. Outdated solutions do not bother the user as the responsibility for updates vests with the vendor and delivering the latest software is in the interests of the vendor business.

Interestingly, SaaS is the starting point for every service that is delivered in the Cloud ecosystem.  So, it exhibits the highest level of maturity among the Cloud services and has become the service that generates the highest revenue for the vendors.  The customer focus remains on the software and not the infrastructure.

The proliferation of SaaS applications in the recent years is an indication of its growing popularity. An instance in point is the Google suite of applications called the Google Apps which include Google Docs and Google sites. Intuit provisions for financial management software. Microsoft’s Windows Live offers an online version of its office applications. SaaS is gaining ground in the medical field and is very popular with Doctors who want to save, update and share patient records with each other. These applications are widely used.  While the scope for customization of software is limited, there are a number of customized applications available for users who demand that their software includes specific functionalities.