What is SaaS?
At this point, we’ve probably all used a piece of software that’s sold on a subscription basis. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has taken the world by storm since the term was coined in the early 2000s, propelled by the growth of SaaS Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, the largest segment within the industry.
Not All Subscription Software is SaaS!
Often people assume that any company that prices their software on a subscription basis is a SaaS offering. That’s not quite true as the business model and how the software is sold is only one part of the definition. If you’re wondering if a vendor is “truly SaaS” we’ve written up a quick list of questions to help you get ascertain just how “SaaSy” they are - you can download it below!
Here are the characteristics that are often present in a true SaaS offering that training organisations should look for when evaluating a training management solution (or any SaaS solution).
Multi-tenant, Elastic, Highly Fault Tolerant Architecture
A fancy term that simply means there is only one version of the software running at any given time, for all clients. When a new client (tenant) is added, the vendor is simply giving access to that client, they don’t have to deploy or provision any new infrastructure specifically for that new customer. Just like a landlord doesn't perform any construction when a new tenant moves into an apartment, SaaS companies won’t be adding new servers when new clients begin to access their new purchase.
Multi-tenant architectures are important because they make it easier for SaaS companies to build fault tolerant technical infrastructure that is more resilient, can be designed to be highly redundant with no single points of failure, and is easier to scale as the needs of the customer base increase. For example, at Administrate, we operate multiple load balancers, job servers, application servers, and data stores - all of which are geographically fully redundant. Often when failures happen, our users and team don’t even notice as these failed resources are detected and pulled out of our infrastructure automatically, usually within a matter of minutes or seconds. This means less headache for everyone and also means less ongoing investment in time, money, and energy. You can learn more about how we’ve built our infrastructure on our Trust Page.
Accelerated Feature Delivery
Another benefit of a true multi-tenant infrastructure is that because SaaS offerings only have one copy of the software running at any given time, they can release updates much more frequently (weekly or monthly releases are common). This is possible because:
- The SaaS provider can execute the release themselves, instead of waiting for all customers to update. Ever seen someone with an iPhone that has 35 apps waiting to update? That’s pretty typical for most companies as they don’t update their internal tools quickly, and this slows down the pace of adoption across the customer base.
- Testing is eased significantly because there is only a single version at any given time that needs to be tested.
- The vendor doesn’t have to maintain older versions of software while it waits for customers to update to the latest version. Larger vendors who provide a traditional solution can find themselves having to support and test hundreds of legacy versions!
- User behaviour can be easily gathered and analysed, making product decisions easier and more effective.
The combination of these factors mean software can be designed, constructed, and delivered far more easily and cheaply than traditional “on premise” software, and customers can ultimately benefit! Here at Administrate, we have a release every Monday, and in Q1 of this year we released more than 60 enhancements to our product! That pace of improvement simply isn’t possible in a non-SaaS environment.
Configuration vs. Customisation
Another difference between traditional software products and SaaS is that there is often very little (or no) customisation of a SaaS product, because everyone is running on the same platform. Instead, customisations are achieved by configuring the product (enabling or disabling features, pieces, etc.) to suit the needs of a customer. Other customisations can be achieved (either by the vendor or by the customer) by using an Application Programming Interface to build interfaces or control functions and features via other pieces of software.
Why Does SaaS Matter to Training Companies?
SaaS matters to training companies for the following reasons:
- SaaS is less risky to your ongoing operations due to the multi-tenant infrastructure, automatic backups, and fault tolerance.
- The world of training, learning, and education is rapidly changing, and training companies need a vendor that can quickly adapt to the realities of the market, technology, and your requirements. Regular software updates, enhancements, and fixes are critical to any training business.
- Training companies shouldn’t be spending their precious resources on maintaining an IT department whose job is looking after servers, software, and other technical chores. Instead, focus technical resources on delivering better training, eLearning, or your website.
- The world is rapidly and increasingly moving towards SaaS in all areas. SaaS products integrate well with other SaaS products, and tend to struggle with integrations with custom or self-hosted applications.
- SaaS software has a lower Total Cost of Ownership for customers due to fewer upfront fees and not needing to build and support costly infrastructure.
- Training companies can often experience prolonged periods of rapid growth. A SaaS vendor can easily scale their infrastructure to meet this growth and scale with a customer’s needs.
As with any technical decision, there are trade-offs when choosing whether to embrace a SaaS solution, but we believe that for training companies (both large and small), the evidence is clear - a SaaS Training Management Platform is the only viable solution. Some of the largest, most respected brands in the world agree and today choose to run their training operations with Administrate. We’d love to discuss how we might help you join the ranks of SaaS powered training companies!