It’s called SaaS (Software as a Service) and means that more and companies are moving away from the traditional model of buying and installing software as a one-time purchase to the idea of software as a subscription service.
Some examples of this for the home user are Microsoft’s Office 365 at $99 per year or Adobe’s Creative Cloud at $49 per month. But the place you’ll really see this concept exploding is for businesses.
In 2013, the IT research firm Gartner projected that software as a service (SaaS) would experience a compound annual growth rate of 19.5 percent through the year 2016. Business expenditures on SaaS are expected to reach $32.8 billion worldwide by 2016, up from $13.5 billion in 2011, according to the firm. SaaS not only saves companies time and money, but it streamlines processes and reduces the amount of resources needed to accomplish a given task. SaaS providers are adapting to the increased demand for their products, while companies continue to incorporate new platforms and technologies as they become available.
The Platform as a Service Phenomenon
Cloud computing firm Salesforce is best known for its customer relationship management platform, which continues to garner rave reviews from large corporations and small businesses alike. But the company announced at its 2013 Dreamforce event last November that it no longer wants to be referred to as an SaaS company, but rather a PaaS (platform as a service) firm.
Salesforce wanted to eliminate the hassle companies endure when developing and configuring hardware and/or software necessary to run apps built for a specific purpose. The Salesforce1 API allows developers to link their own applications and code to Salesforce data, thus eliminating the need to learn new programming languages.
Companies like Dropbox and LinkedIn are using the platform to develop and maintain mobile and other solutions for its own customers and Salesforce customers, CiteWorld  reports. It makes it much easier for businesses to have apps custom-made by their own developers while still utilizing the cloud and features provided by Salesforce.
Billing Made Easy
Businesses are either charged monthly or annually for SaaS applications and services. Simplified billing solutions are thus integral to maximize profits. Chargify  recognized this business need and took off from there.
Lance Walley, the CEO of Chargify, said his company’s goal is to make upselling and managing payments as simple as possible for SaaS merchants. Firms can easily offer free trials of their software and direct customers to sign-up pages when the grace period ends. The system also streamlines the process of collecting failed payments, so business owners can focus on sales and marketing. There is no software to install, and no merchant account is necessary to try the interface out.
Best SaaS Solutions for Businesses
Whether you are a one-person outfit or a large corporation with 5,000 employees, there are SaaS apps that can increase both efficiency and profits.
Infusionsoft enables companies to track and analyze leads to determine specific courses of action for each unique prospect. OfficeAutoPilot is a similar app. Retail companies are changing the way they interact with customers with iPad point-of-sale applications like ShopKeep. It allows cashiers to ring up sales from anywhere in the store and eliminates the need to print paper receipts.
ToutApp  is an email analytics tool that works with popular platforms like Gmail and Outlook. It not only tracks how leads respond to your emails, but helps you write and respond follow-up messages based on their level of engagement.
SaaS is now being applied to just about every aspect of business. Scalability, low costs and ease-of-use should make SaaS a top priorities for any business wanting to increase profits and customer reach.
Although many people have expressed doubts about the end of traditional software installations (it’s seems odd to me that software is now old enough to have a traditional form), the march toward the clouds seems to be inevitable.