Software as a Service (SaaS) is the subscription-based delivery of applications over a Cloud model. It has gained quick popularity due to low cost of entry. For a nominal fee per user, organizations of varying sizes can quickly and easily deploy a wide range of applications.
Although there are still some concerns, many have found that the benefits far outweigh the costs under most circumstances. Today, an application which might cost hundreds of dollars can be used for a fraction of the price.
For those who are interested in building SaaS platforms, there have been a number of success stories in this regard as well.
Salesforce was among one of the first companies to deploy their applications to the Cloud. While today it is one in a sea of many, the brand has stuck and it remains a dominating link between businesses and clients.
Their strength lies in Customer RelationShip Management (CRM) and the move to SaaS was significant. In the past, CRM was expensive and usually available at enterprise scale due to cost and complexity of implementation.
Thanks to the SaaS model, Salesforce is available to anyone for at a stunning entry price of only $25.
Price: From $0 (Small teams); Standard package: From $6.67/mo
The name Slack quickly came to mind since it’s the communication application which the WHSR team uses. Amazingly, this nifty tool is available for free. You can use it for as long as you like at no cost – although there are some limitations.
It’s strength lies in the workspaces it allows users to create. In essence you can partition out spaces and allocate users to each of those spaces as necessary. Think of it as having pre-built meeting rooms where everyone is always present – as long as they’re online.
Perfect for small teams and even better for the modern office that encourages remote work or work from home. You can even perform voice and video calls with it.
Dropbox is one of the most popular Cloud storage services around. Part of the reason for its popularity is that it caters to both individual users as well as organizations. The key difference lies in the collaborative tools that business plans come with.
Aside from file storage in the Cloud, Dropbox also allows you to send files, sync with local folders, watermark documents for you, and more. Business users can appoint administrators who are able to define file permissions, just like over a local network.
Zendesk is a name that has become synonymous with customer support around the world. It is an example of a SaaS deployment that offers a rather generic service, but with fantastic customization options to support a variety of businesses.
It doesn’t matter if you’re running a web hosting company, eCommerce store, or even a commercial blog – Zendesk can provide support for anything. It includes vital customer assistance pipelines like phone, email, live chat, social media, online tickets, and more.
Best of all, you can scale up the service quickly and easily as needed. There’s no business too large or small for them.
HubSpot is similar to Zendesk except it has a broader front of capabilities. Where Zendesk used the SaaS model to primarily deliver support, HubSpot expands a little more towards being a more complete solution.
This means it integrates many features. Areas they cover includes marketing, CRM and sales, customer support, and lately, even a content management system. Each of these areas can be bought into as standalone applications. Alternatively, you can opt for a combined package deal as well.
All of this comes at a price though, and with a starting tag of $40, you just may start to feel a small pinch.
Google is a name you either love or hate but there’s no denying it builds some really great stuff. One of things they’ve done well is to implement a SaaS-based suite of business tools. G-Suite includes various applications and utilities that makes business life easier.
It includes Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, Google Drive, Sheets, Docs, Forms, Slides, Sites, Vault, and several other apps. The business version has quite a few more advantages as opposed to the free version of those apps most of us are familiar with.
These apps are 100% Cloud-based and only require a browser with Internet connection to use. There is no desktop version.
With much of the world digitizing it should come as no surprise that even your signature can be digitized. However, in order for this to work there needs to be an element of security. DocuSign offers that with its e-signature platform.
It allows users to store and use their signatures for ease of use at any locations, anytime. While this may seem a bit crazy to deploy as a solution, it can be ideal for businesses that require a lot of signatures. In that context, much time can be saved. Abuse of the SaaS model? Absolutely not. Innovation, in fact.
Those not born in the Internet age will remember well the nightmarish prices that video creation software makers used to charge. SaaS has allowed these prices to drop significantly as well and Lumen5 is a good example of this. The advantages here are twofold in fact.
Not only are you saving on the cost of the application but you can now create video on a very basic machine. All you need is a subscription to Lumen5 and a fast Internet connection. Everything else is done on their machines.
It also incorporates a bunch of nifty features such as automated video creation and workflow. To offer features like this it incorporates another relatively newer concept – AI.
For anyone who owns a website, blog, or simply needs some compelling visuals, Visme is your solution. Instead of needing a bunch of different applications and tools, Visme delivers an all-in-one package on a SaaS model.
You can build almost any kind of content using a Visme subscription. These range from content for social media and blog posts to even presentations. Best of all, it’s easy to use and in a pinch the graphics can be done by anyone. No more needing to pay for design fees!
The all-inclusive content helps you get started quickly and each subscription comes along with access to a massive amount of templates, widgets, media, icons, photos, and even flowcharts.
Canva (read our full review here) is similar to Visme and although not as expensive on paid plans, does have a few shortcomings. Still, this SaaS application is one that can help small business owners or social media managers immensely.
From creating business cards to laying out social posts, Canva has a template for almost everything. Although there are some freebies, it does charge for the nicer graphics and images in its library – irrespective of whether you're a free or Pro user.
Just like using site builders such as Weebly and Wix, getting started is easy, simply choose a template, customize it or just tweak it a little, then you can decide what to do with it. You can also produce content to a wide variety of resolutions, good enough for professional printing.
For the budding writer, Squibbler is an SaaS application that helps you build the story you want to tell. Deployable as an app on various devices, Squibbler helps you write faster thanks to the provision of pre-existing outlines.
You can also organize your ‘thoughts’ well thanks to the ability that the app gives you to simply drag and drop bits of your storyboard around. Squibler includes a correction feature that not just works with spelling, but can even help eliminate passive voice.
WebEx is normally more recognized in business use, although not many seem to know it has a free option good for individual use as well. A Cisco company, it offers a range of communication applications delivered using the SaaS model.
Among the features of WebEx are video calling and conferencing, online training management, remote support management, and more. In fact, having used it before I can testify to the flexibility that WebEx can give organizations of almost any size – if used correctly.
Buffer is a social media management platform you can use to level up your social marketing. It’s built around two key areas – publishing and analysis. Unfortunately, these features are priced separately so comprehensive use of it is more expensive than a number of competitors like HootSuite.
It is, nonetheless, effective and simple to use. Overall I’d say that it leans more towards business use, given the number of social accounts you can integrate (even on the cheapest plan) as well as how many posts you can schedule.
SaaS like Buffer are so popular that some have been known to be re-sold for significant amounts. For example, NinjaOutreach on Flippa is targeting a sales price of $3 million!
Bloggers, eCommerce site owners – in fact, most kinds of website owners will likely have heard of MailChimp. Email marketing has grown to be among one of the top weapons in the modern website’s arsenal and MailChimp is simply a champ at this.
Today it has a community of over 14 million users taking advantage of many features. This includes multi-channel marketing capability, CRM, surveys, customized email branding, templates, and much more.
MailChimp Pro, on the other hand, requires a flat fee of $199.00 (USD) and this allows users to access a suite of advanced features you can add to any MailChimp account.
Although some mistake box as a collaboration tool, it’s actually a very comprehensive workflow management application. Again, a product of this magnitude delivered over the SaaS model enables it to sport rock bottom prices that start as low as $5/mo.
Among the features included with Box are document sharing and collaboration, content management, real-time discussions on documents, and more. With workflow automation, you can use Box to streamline various departments like marketing, admin, human resource, and more.
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.