Software as a service, referred to as SaaS, is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted it is sometimes referred to as “on-demand software”.
-Definition courtesy of Wikipedia

Handshake, the number one ranked sales order app (in the app store), states: “In effect, SaaS is leased software maintained by its creator and not hosted on your premises. SaaS apps run in the cloud.”

Why is SaaS so powerful for many small businesses? Why do so many startups claim that they can’t live without certain SaaS tools? Why are Saas companies getting massive amounts of investments, often instantly creating billion dollar-plus valuations?

The answer is simple: because the model works.

For many businesses, investing in software, hardware and other technology needs is overwhelming. Complex installs, expensive out of pocket expenditures and a hope that everything works to their liking can cripple a business. Let’s explore some of these benefits in more detail.

Lower Cost of Entry
Some software tools can cost thousands of dollars to purchase. But how do you know that a specific tool is exactly what you need? Why not pay a monthly fee, or even secure a free trial? Wouldn’t it be better to “rent before you buy” to make sure you’re making the right decision? That’s one of the main opportunities that Saas presents to you. While you will pay more over the course of your subscription, the value is very clear up front.

Work Anywhere
Most Saas tools are app or web based, meaning you can work wherever and whenever you have access to the tool. In some cases, Internet access isn’t even necessary. This increases productivity, and access to needed tools, to help companies scale and grow.

New Features
Because the app is hosted in the cloud, and maintained by the designer (who wants to keep you hooked into paying your subscription), you get all new features. And since all users can give real time feedback, rapid improvements are possible. Patches are quickly available. Upgrades are often and effective. Everyone wins.

Our Saas Favorites
We only write about these things because we are SaaS power users. We love the tools we’ve found, and we can easily show how they have transformed our business.

asana-logoA San Francisco company called Asana, which was created by one of Facebook’s co-founders, is trying to end the dominance that e-mail holds over our lives, especially in the workplace. Asana considers tasks that can be assigned and completed—rather than things such as e-mails, meetings, shared documents, and to-do lists—as the organizing principle to workplace communication. We utilize this tool as our project management tool, which has drastically reduced internal meetings, the demand on emails, the pointless phone calls seeking a project update and more.

insightly-logoInsightly, which claims to be “built for the web, made for small business”, is our CRM tool of choice. The company boasts that they designed Insightly as a simple to use yet powerful CRM system for small business. With integrations to Google Apps, Office 365, MailChimp, and major social media sites; great mobile apps for tablets and smart phones; and easy access to a REST API for custom integration, Insightly is a leading small business CRM. They believe, and we concur, that web-based SaaS is the best choice for smaller businesses, because you don’t have to worry about anything technical like server upgrades or security fixes. They take care of all the IT stuff like backups, upgrades, and security so you can concentrate on what matters – running your business and closing business.

zenefits-logoIf you’ve been living under a rock lately, you might not have heard about Zenefits; however, if you’re like us and constantly are reading about cool companies making cool tools, then you have heard how this company is shaking up the HR industry. Zenefits is a cloud-based SaaS human resources platform that allows businesses to manage multiple human resources services from a single cloud-based dashboard. It’s designed to streamline the process of onboarding new employees and getting them set up with payroll and benefits, as well as potentially removing them from a company later on. Zenefits is free for businesses and makes revenue by taking a commission as an insurance broker if clients end up changing their plans after signing with Zenefits. While we’re not yet using this tool, we’re seriously considering it because it has the potential to be a game changer.