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What is SaaS?
What is "The Cloud?" PDF

Small to mid-size businesses are adopting managed IT services at an ever increasing pace.  While this is not surprising due to the limited or stretched IT resources of many small to mid-size businesses; those in charge of evaluating or considering managed services for their business are faced with a host of unfamiliar terms and a very different model than how their business has historically used IT services.  We have compiled a set of the terms one might encounter when evaluating managed services and how they might be used to provide superior tools and simplified management for users and processes.

"aas" or "aaS" used to indicate "as a Service"  -- as in SaaS (software as a Service), DaaS (Desktop as a Service), IaaS Infrastructure as a Service

By adding "aaS" the writer is indicating that the item is being offered "as a Service."  The indication is that the item is offered to users without the need to manage or own the infrastructure used to deliver the service.  Most ofen seen with "Software as a Service" but gaining popularity with DaaS (Desktop as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and others.  We do not see the trend of adding "aaS" to indicate that someting is being offered "as a service" slowing in the near future.

"Cloud Computing" "In the Cloud" "Cloud Services"

IT diagrams frequently used a "cloud" to show a portion of the configuration that contains important items and or services, but where the details are not particularly important because they are well established or are beyond the "10,000 foot view" that is necessary for the discussion at hand.  It kept viewers from getting bogged down in the details.  Early on, the cloud was most often used to represent the Internet without having to detail all of the routing, switching, and services the internet uses to actually accomplish the task.  In the example below, a small company network connects to the Internet (shown as a cloud).

The Cloud representing internet based services
The premise of a "cloud" to represent external resources, often "the Internet" without showing any detail

Since the advent of readily available internet connections, more and more services are provided, managed and supported as a service -- without the need for businesses to manage or even know the details.  Initially this was limited to services like email (yahoo!, gmail, hotmail, etc.); but as availability of high speed internet and our willingness to consume services without having to manage them (or add staff to manage them) expanded -- so did the services.  Today, the "Cloud" refers to a set of resources (processing power, data storage, network resources, infrastructure) that can be utilized to perform nearly any "computing" task.  The resources of a group of servers, storage arrays, and network resources are pooled to provide a better level of service than each could provide individually.  Cloud services are often flexible and expandable to meet the needs of today as well as prepare for tomorrow in a way that may not have been possible or cost effective in the past.

Server Virtualization has led to "Public Clouds" and "Private Clouds" -- these are simply designations as to who is allowed to run services on those particular resources.  Some examples of a Public Cloud might be Amazon's EC2 Cloud, or Microsoft's Windows Azure Cloud which allow users to buy the ability to "rent" access to a pool of resources owned and controled by the provider or to only pay for the resources you use.  Any company can setup their own private "cloud" that may be shared and accessed by different departments, business units, or customers under whatever arrangement they agree upon.

"SaaS" "saas" "Software as a Service"  (see more detail in the article "How SaaS Works" )


"DaaS" "Desktop as a Service"

 
Always the "Right Size" PDF

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Unmatched Flexibility PDF

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Cost Benefits of SaaS PDF

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How SaaS Works PDF

How does SaaS or Software as a Service work?

We tend to answer this by addressing how software was purchased and deployed in the past and how SaaS differs.  The truth is, you probably use SaaS or "Software as a Service" now without even realizing it.

 

    "Conventional" software has operated like this for decades:

  • Users buy a license for a software program or application from a vendor
  • Users may buy a boxed CD/DVD or download the software, or it may come bundled with a hardware purchase
  • Users install it on their own PC and are responsible for maintaining it and updating it themselves
  • Users may or may not purchase (or be required to purchase) a maintenance or upgrade package that provides support, patches and/or updates to the software as they are released by the developer


One of the key items here is that you do not OWN the software -- rather, you own a license to USE the software as permitted by the License Agreement.


SaaS or Software as a Service can offer a variety of changes to this model that may make it a better or more economical solution for many customers:

  • Companies RENT licenses or access to the software from a Service Provider or Managed Service Provider (MSP), that actually runs on servers or devices owned and maintained by the service provider
  • SaaS offerings are usually run from large datacenter facilities with redundant power, battery backup, climate controls, etc. that are often out of reach of small and midsized companies
  • Users may need to install something on their PC to allow the MSP to manage the software
  • The Managed Service Provider is generally responsible for maintaining and updating the software, and often includes some level of support for users in the monthly (Quarterly or Annual) fee.


This model has certain benefits for companies and end users of applications that can help smooth over some of the problems associated with maintaining software that is purchased under the "conventional" model:


  • SaaS allows MSPs to specialize in maintaining a specific application or suite of applications in a consistent and repeatable way, thus simplifying operations and efficiency for all users
  • SaaS allows MSPs to maintain their offerings consistently by automating testing, monitoring, maintenance and upgrades without sending out constant updates that need to be applied by end users
  • SaaS allows smaller firms or organizations with limited (or no) IT staff to benefit from economies of scale and efficiencies implemented by MSPs
  • SaaS allows SaaS applications or even a fully hosted desktop to be highly available, monitored and kept up-to-date with the latest versions of applications
  • SaaS allows companies to pay to USE the software they need, without making a huge investment in infrastructure such as servers, generators and climate control that is often recommended for "server rooms"
  • SaaS helps companies avoid the large up-front capital outlay for servers, software, etc. by "renting" access to what they need and paying monthly, quarterly or annually
  • Services are generally accessed via the internet.  As such, they are often available to users from the office as well as on the go


In its most basic form, webmail or online banking are examples of software as a service.  These services allow you to access information and interact with information without installing a software package to do so.  You simply log on and access the information you need as a service.

As high-speed internet has become more accessible to businesses, the Software as a Service model has helped businesses with stretched or limited IT resources take advantage of technology to help their business processes improve. The SaaS model has been used extensively for email, CRM, and even accounting packages.  The ability to access the software as a service helped speed the adoption of email and CRM over the last decade and a half.  The high level of complexity of managing each of these services as well as the need to "centralize" the information they contained made them ideal candidates for SaaS deployment.  By accessing a central mail server, most small businesses now have access to email -- without the trouble of hosting their own email server.

The IDO Group, Inc. is a managed service provider that works with companies that are looking to put the benefits of SaaS to work for their business.  IDO provides a variety of solutions for centralizing, hosting and maintaining the tools businesses need, from single application hosting to a full hosted desktop. We would enjoy an opportunity to learn about your business and see if SaaS might help you reach your goals, without straining your IT resources or your budget.

To learn more about our services, call us at 336-987-4335 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it