Feb 28 2012

SaaS Is the Way to Go

Quickly attained efficiencies make software as a service a smart option for growing businesses.

In their quest to expand, small and medium-sized businesses often experience growing pains. They must scale their IT infrastructures to meet sudden surges in demand, yet often lack the resources to do so.

That’s where software as a service can really help. Deploying SaaS applications via the cloud offers a litany of benefits: cost avoidance, greater flexibility, fast deployment, reduced maintenance and energy costs, easier management and improved disaster recovery readiness. In short, SaaS expedites efficiencies.

For those companies that have not experimented with cloud computing, consider testing the waters with a SaaS subscription. You’ll be in good company. A Gartner survey finds that 95 percent of respondents expect to maintain or increase their investments in SaaS. Already, more than one-third have migration projects under way — moving from on-premises apps to public-cloud alternatives.

“Respondents cited ease and speed of deployment and cost-effectiveness as the top two reasons for adoption,” says Sharon Mertz, research director at Gartner.“Leading uses of SaaS were either replacements for on-premises applications or net-new SaaS solutions.”

Released late last year, the Gartner survey draws on responses from 525 organizations in 12 industries. The findings indicate that communications, utilities, and banking and securities rank highest in terms of SaaS deployment.

SaaS-y Choices

SaaS, in some capacity, can make sense no matter what industry your business is in. Most IT leaders already have experience with cloud computing in their personal lives through e-mail and online banking. And e-mail is equally popular for businesses as a first entry into the cloud.

But many enterprises are also pushing office productivity apps cloudward. Consider Microsoft Office 365: It includes the cloud-served web versions of standard Office apps for e-mail and calendars, file sharing and web conferencing. With multiple licensing options, Office 365 is easy to deploy and scale up or down as needed.

Vertical-specific SaaS options are also gaining traction among businesses. According to the Gartner survey, healthcare, insurance and retail industries use the highest number of such SaaS solutions, for services such as medical coding and transcription, electronic health records and banking.

Abundant Advantages

Because a business doesn’t need to buy servers to run cloud apps, SaaS saves space in the server room and reduces energy costs. Best of all, there’s no need to manage hardware.

What’s more, SaaS makes it possible to support users anytime, anywhere. By providing access to apps on any device, SaaS also can help IT managers deploy “bring your own device” and telework programs. And should dis­aster strike, having data stowed in the cloud can speed the business’s recovery time.

But perhaps the greatest advantage is that it’s possible for companies to obtain a better level of IT service through the cloud than they could provide themselves — and at a lower cost.

To be sure, those who dive into cloud computing should expect some challenges along the way. The Gartner survey cites limited integration with existing systems, network instability and longer-than-anticipated implementation cycles as the greatest hurdles experienced during deployment.

But the potential benefits far outweigh the effort required to achieve them. Given the need to boost efficiencies and reinvest savings in your business, the question becomes not why cloud computing, but why not?