As technology rapidly advances, businesses are adopting cloud-based solutions to keep up with industry developments and trends like the Internet of Things (IoT). Where more market agility is needed, migrating traditional on-premise enterprise software to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) can help businesses reduce IT costs and gain access to cloud-based solutions and tools. Further, SaaS allows businesses to optimize their workflow through more IT independence, deeper collaboration, and improved decision making.
The benefits of SaaS are numerous, yet it also changes how a company delivers its products and services. Quoting cloud experts at Amazon Web Services (AWS): “It’s often unrealistic to expect that teams can completely rebuild their applications and instantly adopt all of the tenets and principles [associated with SaaS].”
They advise enterprises and firms to make their move with careful planning and forethought. Planning includes weighing in detail the benefits of SaaS platforms — cost, convenience, agility — against a firm’s goals and needs.
A 2014 McKinsey report shows that 29% of small and medium businesses (SMB) in the US are cost optimizers who want lowest-pricing packages. About the same percentage of SMBs are also want solutions that can make them more competitive; even if it requires multiple vendors and customization. Here, SaaS gives businesses a cost-effective solution to meet their agile needs.
Moving to the cloud means avoiding traditional software and server maintenance costs. SaaS runs on a subscription model, so firms pay a low monthly fee for the services they use; compare the expense of updating Microsoft Office suites across a business with cloud-based Office 365 offered at 9$ per month. The potential cost savings are obvious.
SaaS migration also changes how firms calculate their returns. New SaaS clients still need to plan for short-term implementation costs that include planning, consulting, and training. Depending on a firm’s budget, it can take months to balance these initial costs. However, many value SaaS for its automatically upgrades and scalable IoT solutions; because cloud providers take care of server and application upgrades, firms no longer have to worry about the cost of installing the latest software versions, which can really add up.
Cloud services allow businesses to achieve higher levels of enterprise efficiency, collaboration, decision making, and market agility. An IBM survey shows that 47% of IT and business decision makers report gaining competitive advantage through using SaaS applications. This is valuable in a business environment where technology— hardware, software, network— is continuously advancing.
A large part of the named advantage comes from the ease of adding new SaaS services. A new software traditionally takes months to implement, but with SaaS, firms can implement and offer cloud applications immediately, depending on the level of integration with other services. This agile environment lets a company adopt innovative technologies more seamlessly and optimize its business offerings.
Take the case of a local UK beauty product distributor. The company uses a SaaS platform for its accounting and customer relationship management and other in-browser web services. According to the company’s head of IT, this has helped them “streamline everything.” They replaced their multiple on-premise accounting and sales software with cloud-based NetSuite, which integrated accounting, CRM, and inventory management into one user-friendly web interface.
The result: “An one-hour job now takes about ten minutes,” said the IT representative; it enabled his team to move away from prior administrative duties and dedicate more time to building innovative applications on top of NetSuite’s products, like their unique cloud-based image request system that gives clients access to product images for marketing needs.
The beauty supply company is still moving to SaaS piece by piece. It’s now focused on replacing its Microsoft Office suite with cloud-based Office 365, which employers expect to be an easy transition since its users are already using browser-based NetSuite applications and Microsoft Office Web Apps.
The UK beauty product distributor mentioned above used an incremental SaaS migration model
— one that’s recommended by Amazon Web Services. Because SaaS migration involves multi-
layer integration, experts advise against a "lift and shift" method as it can disrupt critical
Instead, AWS outlines a few “minimally invasive” SaaS migration models. One approach
involves moving only some applications to the cloud to start; basic tasks like emailing and
calendaring. As firms become more familiar with SaaS environment, they can then adopt other
cloud applications like content management platform, ERP, and CRM. This silo migration
approach allows a business to transition their services and applications to SaaS independently
without affecting the operations of other applications.
Another soft-approach migration model moves a business's software environment layer by
layer. The idea is that single-tenant applications can share a common multi-tenant application
layer with tenant context; that is, one tier like web interface or database can service multiple
independent services, each customized for different clients. A business could segment its
software environment into layers and gradually make them multi-tenant until the entire
environment functions in a SaaS environment. This approach, too, ensures that the remaining
parts of a business application can run smoothly during the SaaS migration.
Finally, one might consider moving its data server first. It entails working out one of the most
challenging parts of SaaS migration; e.g. shifting from relational database to Not-only- SQL
(NoSQL); but the advantage is that the firm can convert the rest of its applications much easier.
In this bottom-up migration approach, a data access layer can be added so applications
experience little impact from database structure change. For example, applications can be
configured to read information through an API or storage technology instead of communicating
directly with the database.
Security is an important consideration when companies move their systems to SaaS. Working in
the cloud, firms have to constantly propagate data through a network to an offsite server. That
doesn't make SaaS services less secure than on-premise softwares, however. Most established
cloud providers have highly advanced security technology in place to protect client's virtual
A SaaS security architecture will include strict controls that allow only authorized personnel to
access a business platform and data. For instance, applications might use identity verification
through single sign-on or fingerprint authentication. Similar controls can manage client device
access to prevent shadow IT – a problem where non-compliant device opens up network
Multiple forms of authentication are often implemented in a SaaS enterprise solution. Intel's
cloud framework verifies its laptop users via Microsoft Windows Authentication, but if employees
want to access applications through a smartphone or tablet, they have to complete a one-time
form authentication. Those that want to use Intel's online business environment must VPN into
Intel's network for further authentication. More steps are taken to protect the data itself. Cloud
providers use a mix of tokenization and encryption technology to secure data transaction. These
security measures and others help establish a safe SaaS environment for every business
application; preventing fraud in data sensitive systems.
The robustness of SaaS infrastructure can be best demonstrated by the mobile payment
industry. Bank accounts and credit card information are among the most sensitive data. Yet e-
commerce companies continue to adopt cloud-based payment technology in lieu of traditional
sales systems. Driving e-payment success are advanced digital issuance systems that securely
store credentials to the cloud, issue them to mobile apps, and allow trusted apps to access the
credentials; embedding security features like tokenization, dynamic encryption, cryptography,
and fraud detection.
For example, Antelop has an innovative SaaS payment platform that transforms a bank’s mobile
app into a NFC payment app which can process purchase transactions through a compatible
point of sale system. It does so conveniently through APIs with minimal integration required from the bank. This quickens an associated product’s time-to- market and reaffirms Software-as-
a-Service solution’s market agility benefit.
Then enters the security concern. Antelop’s cloud payment solution is built upon Host Card
Emulation technology, which replaces hardwired card chips with software logic to securely
control data storage and access. Like other mobile payment solutions on the market, it complies
with PCI DSS, meeting 12 sets of mobile payment data security requirements established by
international payment technology companies like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. The
product’s easy integration doesn’t compromise on its ability to protect cardholders, merchants,
and financial institutions.
A competent SaaS provider can provide a firm optimized solutions based on its budget and
goals. Thorough planning allows a business to find the right provider that can deliver cloud
solutions they need.
Most cloud providers offer clients a comprehensive support package. IBM Commerce on Cloud,
for instance, provides case management support for customer issues that involve their cloud
services; they help teams troubleshoot communication and business logic issues and diagnose
technical problems associated with network, database, and application infrastructure.
Contact methods and support response times can be found on a vendor’s website, though
resolution time is dependent on the level of support required. However, SMBs with urgent cloud
assistance needs can consult third-party companies like VMware who offer rapid 24-hour cloud
support via phone and web. Its target response times, as stated on its website, can range from
one to twelve business hours. As well, ticketing systems allow clients to track its solution
progress online or over the phone.
Moving forward with SaaS
SaaS offers business clients an agile environment and scalable solutions that can help them
meet their business needs. Because cloud infrastructures differ significantly from traditional
enterprise software, established cloud providers recommend firms to migrate to the cloud in
increments and with care.
Moving to SaaS takes time, says AWS experts. A precarious migration approach can help
ensure that a company ends up with a product that inherits the best traits of SaaS and becomes
an enabler for its business.