What is Software as a Service
SaaS is a method of delivering software over the internet to users. Unlike traditional on-premises or commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software, SaaS doesn’t require computer installation. Instead, users access SaaS through a browser or desktop application on any computer, phone or tablet that has internet.
The SaaS team refers to the steps of getting a SaaS tool, the “SaaS adoption process.”
Common SaaS examples
Many people are already subscribed to SaaS services and use them daily in both their professional and personal lives.
- Microsoft Teams
- Apple Music
Benefits of SaaS
SaaS vendors typically provide a variety of service tiers at different price points. This allows you to select the level of service and total budget that best aligns with your needs.
There are also fewer additional training, management and maintenance costs, as most SaaS vendors provide IT support and learning resources as part of your subscription.
SaaS tools are purchased as a subscription.
Depending on the tool you adopt and your budget, you may have the option to renew your subscription on a monthly or yearly basis. This helps spread out costs over time and lets you avoid large upfront commitments on new software or applications.
Most SaaS tools provide options that allow you to configure the functionality of the software. You can turn SaaS features on or off to create a unique experience that meets the needs of your team, department and organization. Some configuration examples include display preferences, integration options and keyboard shortcuts.
It’s important to ensure that the tool you choose has all the required functionality, as it’s typically not possible to add features into the tool that are not already present.
Faster setup than a custom build
After you have completed the SaaS adoption process, there’s no lengthy installation or setup process to start using the tool. Once you create a SaaS account, you can access it through any internet browser and begin using it right away.
SaaS can help simplify the process of collaborating on projects with your colleagues. Shared virtual workspaces allow for the connection of individual SaaS accounts, promoting effortless sharing of work, progress and feedback in real time. This is an important benefit for remote and hybrid working teams.
SaaS vendors perform all the upgrades and bug fixes on their software and applications, so you don’t have to. Changes are automatically implemented over the cloud to keep your SaaS tools up-to-date.
Cloud-based, flexible access
SaaS is cloud-based. This means you access SaaS tools from any device that has an internet connection and internet browser, without having to install them on your computer. Various types of devices, including laptops, tablets and smartphones, can access SaaS software. To provide additional functionality, some SaaS vendors also offer applications for your devices. For example, you may have an MS Teams application on your computer or smartphone.
SaaS vendors also make it easy for you to customize access permissions and monitor data usage, so you can manage who has access to the information you store in your SaaS tools.
SaaS is built on shared infrastructure. As a SaaS user, you’re given a dedicated workspace within a SaaS tool’s infrastructure to work with your data.
One key benefit of this type of architecture is that only the central infrastructure needs to be maintained. The SaaS vendor (the service provider) is responsible for maintenance. Any changes or upgrades they make to the infrastructure are automatically applied to your individual SaaS accounts and workspaces. This means security patches and bug repairs can be addressed as needed, and you don’t need to purchase a new version of the software to benefit from the newest features.
Limitations of SaaS
SaaS may not be a good option for you if:
- Your solution needs to integrate with many other applications or software
- Your use case is unique to your business area or team, and needs a highly specialized solution
- The software needs to be accessed in remote locations where internet connections are unreliable
- You’re working with data that has an information security classification of Protected C. Depending on your use case, some SaaS tools may also not be appropriate for Protected B data. Remember, your data will be hosted within a SaaS vendor’s infrastructure and it’s important the vendor’s security controls meet the Province’s privacy and security requirements
- You need the tool immediately or very soon. SaaS adoption that complies with the Province’s procurement, legal, privacy and security requirements can take anywhere from several months to a year
What to do if SaaS isn’t the right choice
If SaaS isn’t the right option for you, you may be interested in exploring on-premises software, also known as “on-prem” or “on-premises deployment.” This model involves installing software directly onto the organization’s local servers and hardware.
On-premises deployment can provide organizations with a high degree of control over their software and data, as well as more flexibility in terms of customization and integration with existing systems.
Contact your Information Management Branch or Ministry Information Security Officer for more information.
As a B.C. public service employee, you’re likely already logging in to SaaS products using your IDIR, BCeID or BC Services Card. This is done through single sign-on (SSO).
SSO allows users to use one set of login credentials to access multiple applications and websites securely. It also controls access permissions when users should no longer have access to data and services.
SSO integration for enterprise systems
SaaS must use the government’s shared identity services. Failure to integrate an enterprise system with the Province’s shared identity SSO service offerings violates our core policy and poses a significant security risk to the Province’s data and services.
Shared SSO integration options with IDIR