November 09, 2022

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Answering your FAQs about software as a service (SaaS)

You might have heard about software as a service, or SaaS, used in conjunction with other trending tech terms like digital transformation, cloud computing and IT modernization.

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Samantha Perkins

Content Marketing Specialist

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SaaS has been around since 1999 and has experienced astronomical growth as a business enabler. Ever since the world began depending on the internet — and through it, smartphones and other devices that connect people and things around the world — organizations have needed a platform to bring everything together.

But what does SaaS mean for businesses today?

What is software as a service (SaaS)?

Software as a service (or SaaS) is a model in which users can license software applications over the Internet as a service. In a nutshell, SaaS takes your enterprise’s software applications (as well as your solution installation, security and maintenance functions) and hosts them on a server in a cloud environment.

Instead of installing and maintaining software yourself, you access it via the cloud, which means the user doesn’t have to manage, maintain or update complex software and hardware. SaaS can scale up to accommodate growth, secure critical data, guarantee high uptime and streamline software management.

What are the key features of SaaS?

Some of the key features of SaaS can include deployment automation, single sign-on (SSO), flexible billing models and high uptime.

Here’s how SaaS delivers these features, and why they’re valuable for business:

Automated provisioning

With automated provisioning, a company can create users just by invoking web services and providing the appropriate credentials. As a result, users can access SaaS applications in real time as needed.


SaaS enables the user to log in once for access across all cloud-hosted applications. This not only improves user experience but also decreases demand on your IT team, who no longer have to store and maintain multiple credentials per system.

Subscription-based billing

Instead of complex license and upgrade costs, SaaS generally follows seat-based billing in monthly, quarterly or annual cycles.

High availability

Because SaaS providers know many customers are relying on their servers for 24/7 access, high degrees of uptime are required. Additionally, enterprises can request monitoring and health diagnostic reports to check their availability factor.


SaaS applications can include policies and procedures in place to automatically grow or shrink infrastructure resources depending on usage. One example is microservice architecture, or the use of small individual models linked together through APIs that can come together to launch a small app without requiring extensive time, coding or attention.

Data and application security

Strong role-based access controls are crucial for protecting critical data in SaaS. Some of the safeguards that SaaS can utilize are multifactor authentication (MFA), and protection against denial-of-service (DoS) and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) — all by way of cloud deployment.

Your organization can fine-tune software as a service with different functionality to meet your unique needs.

What are some examples of SaaS? 

SaaS offerings are commonly used in businesses, schools and for personal use to conduct everyday work, such as sending and receiving email, word processing, video conferencing and countless other applications that run via the internet.

Examples of SaaS applications include Office 365, Salesforce and Adobe Creative Cloud. The Hyland Cloud is a SaaS offering.

The most common types of SaaS solutions are customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), content management system (CMS), project management software and e-commerce platforms.

Customer relationship management

A CRM is a software system that helps businesses track all interactions with current and potential customers. Enabled by SaaS, CRM users can access client data straight from the web and focus on customer engagement and experience instead of software maintenance.

Well-known CRMs: Salesforce, HubSpot and Zendesk.

Enterprise resource planning

An ERP is the integrated management of day-to-day business processes, like accounting, HR, procurement and logistics. SaaS can digitize and standardize business transactions and records, enabling collaboration across departments and accelerating the speed of business.

Well-known ERPs: SAP, NetSuite and Acumatica.

Content management system

A CMS is an app that helps users create, manage and modify web content without the need for custom coding. With SaaS, CMS content can be accessed online without installing, updating or maintaining anything; all hardware setup, server management, storage and virtualization is handled by the SaaS vendor.

Well-known content management systems: Sitecore, Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Brightspot.

Project management software

This software is used for planning, scheduling, resource allocation and change management as well as communication between project stakeholders. Utilizing SaaS, project stakeholders can collaborate on work together in real time, all around the world, from one centralized repository of project assets and information.

Well-known project management softwares: Asana, Smartsheet and

E-commerce platforms

Electronic commerce is the buying of selling of goods on the internet. SaaS benefits e-commerce by providing easy-to-use website design templates, promotional pricing and support for different buying paths all from one location.

Well-known e-commerce platforms: Shopify, Ecwid and BigCommerce.

Are there other "as a service" offerings? 

Yes, software as a service is one of three primary tiers of cloud computing. The other two are platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Let’s discuss the differences between SaaS, PaaS and IaaS.

  • As we’ve discussed, software as a service lets you use software on-demand without worrying about installing, upgrading or maintaining that software or the infrastructure.
  • PaaS gives developers a ready-to-use platform for building applications, including infrastructure. A PaaS platform lets developers create complex applications and manage data, but offload maintenance tasks and infrastructure.
  • IaaS provides fundamental computing infrastructure such as servers, networking tools and processing power that you can purchase and use on-demand from a vendor.

Whether you choose a SaaS, PaaS or IaaS solution will depend on your organization’s goals, requirements and resources. Regardless of the choice, all three models can help free your IT team to focus on the core business rather than on infrastructure.

Is my data secure with SaaS?

Yes, security is a key feature of SaaS. A SaaS solution can strengthen security with “defense in depth.” This approach addresses security at a numerous levels from security policies, to monitoring facilities and online activity, to ensuring software is always current and patched. Backups and redundancies can allow business to continue even when unexpected events impact business facilities or data centers.

Software providers know that clients can be skeptical about cloud data security. That’s why vendors work diligently to prove how safe data is in their servers. For example, Hyland’s cloud offerings have a 99.99% historical uptime.

For most companies, data is at more risk on-premises, where there’s less budget dedicated to IT security and where people can unintentionally leak data or introduce gaps in security. Gartner predicts that through 2023, at least 99% of cloud security failures will be the user’s fault.

Who owns my data in the SaaS model?

In nearly all cases, if you’re a SaaS customer, your company still owns the data. You own the data located on the vendor’s servers and can retrieve the data at any time. Most SaaS vendors will let you export the data and back it up locally if you want. No matter where it is hosted, you’ll want to read the service licensing agreement carefully to ensure you’re protected and secure.

Likewise, if you’re a consumer, you own your personal data in many cases. Thanks to data privacy regulations like the GDPR, consumers can opt out of cookie tracking and other data collection methods.


Demo: Hyland Cloud — 7 Layers of defense

This video provides an overview of Hyland Cloud's layers of defense.

What is the future of SaaS?

As is everything that pertains to the cloud, models and functionality are still evolving. How it will all take shape in business and beyond still remains to be seen. But considering the tech industry is powered by some of the world’s best and brightest innovators, the future of SaaS is sure to be promising.

Chris Mackreel, Salesforce’s head of technology, said the future of SaaS will be doing more with less.

“Today, technology is proactive, but tomorrow technology will be predictive. Interestingly, 90% of all data has been generated in the past two years. I like to think about artificial intelligence and machine learning, not as a product but as electricity that will power future tech.”

At Hyland, some of our most powerful platforms — like OnBase, Hyland's Alfresco and Nuxeo platform as well as Perceptive Content — are available as SaaS solutions hosted in the cloud. We look forward to innovating ever-more capable, safe and empowering software that suits the needs of the digital future.

Learn more about Hyland in the cloud 

Hyland is listed on the AWS Marketplace. Learn more about the benefits of purchasing there, including the ability to:

  • Streamline procurement
  • Implement controls and automate provisioning
  • Manage software budgets with cost transparency

Explore the Hyland Cloud and AWS