As a business owner, there’s a good chance that you are already using software as a service (SaaS) in your daily life. Maybe you manage customer inquiries through Zendesk or communicate with your remote team on Slack. Sound familiar? This type of software is extremely widespread and one of the main types of cloud computing.
And for good reason! There are a lot of benefits of SaaS, both for the vendor and end user. If you’re aware of these advantages, you may even be considering developing a SaaS application of your own. Cloud computing offers incredible opportunities to scale your business, so you wouldn’t be wrong to think of it.
But before diving headfirst into SaaS development, let’s get some things straight. While this software distribution model holds enormous possibilities, it has its fair share of challenges as well. Here we’ll take a deeper look into the cloud computing market, highlight the benefits and disadvantages, and break down the steps to building a SaaS product. Are you here for it? Let’s do this!
A cloud-based application is unique in its method of delivery. Rather than requiring a user to download the software and run it locally on their device, a cloud-based application can be accessed anywhere through the internet. It is centrally hosted by a third-party provider and available to approved end users that either sign up for a free account or pay a monthly or annual fee.
There are three major categories of cloud-based applications: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and, of course, software as a service (SaaS). For the purpose of this article, we’ll be focusing solely on SaaS.
The benefits of software as a service aren’t a secret – if they were, the market would be miniscule and that’s certainly not the case. The global public SaaS market has nearly doubled since 2014 and it is expected to reach $157 billion (USD) in 2020. So why is this cloud-based application so popular? Here are a few reasons.
With SaaS application development, the vendor typically creates a single copy of their software that is intended to be used by multiple different customers (also known as multi-tenant architecture). Users obtain a license to the software through a subscription rather than a one-time outright purchase. With a SaaS application, the source code is the same for every subscriber so when a vendor updates their software, they simply release the new feature to everyone. This is definitely one of the big benefits of SaaS – companies can easily scale and create recurring revenue.
Accessibility is another big selling point for SaaS. Not at home? No problem. As long as you have a WiFi connection, you can log on to the software from any browser. This is a huge evolution from the past when we had to download a piece of software to a specific device and couldn’t access it elsewhere. Being mobile-friendly is one of the SaaS development best practices so in most cases, you can even access the software from your smartphone.
The subscription model offers different ways to pay so SaaS doesn’t price out potential customers with big upfront costs. Most companies let customers choose to pay monthly or annually, so they can easily work within their budget as well. Since users don’t own the software, they can also cancel at any time. Since this then becomes a pretty low commitment purchase, users are less afraid to take the leap and try a new SaaS program. The payment structure is definitely one of the benefits of SaaS from a user standpoint, but a subscription model is also very attractive for vendors since it means more predictable recurring revenue.
While there are clearly some very persuasive benefits of SaaS, it’s not all rainbows and ponies in this world. We can’t continue without sharing a few of the disadvantages and development difficulties you might encounter. Whether you decide to hire in-house or outsource your SaaS development to a team, here are a couple of things that may come up along the way.
One of the main concerns of cloud-based applications is security. When you're accessing anything over the internet, you’re vulnerable to fraud and attacks – and software is no different. If you’re going to build a SaaS application, it will have to be secure. You can protect your users’ data by using TLS and SSL encryption technologies. This is the standard security protocol but there are different SaaS development best practices depending on which category your app falls into. For example, if you were to develop a healthcare app in America, you would also need to be HIPAA compliant. Do your research to make sure you’re taking any necessary measures to ensure your database is secure.
SaaS application development requires integration with third-party services. You could build everything from scratch yourself, but why would you? There are plenty of affordable, perfectly functioning options already out there. You can use the API from payment systems like Stripe and location services such as Google Maps when you create a SaaS application. You should determine which third-party integration you plan to use before starting your SaaS application development so that you can make sure your work is compatible.
While being able to access an application over the internet is one of the benefits of software as a service, it’s also one of the disadvantages. If you can’t get a good connection, you may be unable to work or get the data that you need. While it is rare to be without WiFi these days, it’s definitely something that should be mentioned here.
Because the vendor is creating a single copy of their software designed for a multi-tenant architecture there isn’t too much wiggle room when it comes to customization. SaaS applications architecture limits you to certain features and functionalities. This could be fine, but for some, this could cause conflict with their unique goals or needs.
If you wanted to create a SaaS application before, the numbers we mentioned earlier probably set you over the edge. $157 billion?!? We totally get it. This is an alluring market and it’s hard to not have dollar signs in your eyes while reading about it.
So let’s get into the nitty-gritty and give you some insight into what SaaS application development really looks like. As developers, we know a thing or two about how to build a SaaS app and we’d be happy to share the steps with you. Let’s get started.
Like with any new business, you have to do your research before actually starting to create a SaaS application. Your research should prove the validity of your idea by answering a few questions.
Is there a demand for this type of app?
Who is your target audience?
What companies (competition) currently exist in this space?
How will your offering be different than the available alternatives?
By doing the right research before starting your SaaS development, you're less likely to exhaust your resources by creating software that has no demand or already exists.
Once you have an understanding of what your application will do and who it is for, you can move on to what SaaS development tools you will need. Typically this will include functional tools, analytical tools, and a management system.
The next steps to building a SaaS product fall into the hands of a development team. The size of your development team will depend on how complex your idea is. You can expect your team to include a Project Manager, Business Analyst, UX/UI Designer, Backend Developer, Frontend or Mobile Developer, and QA (Quality Assurance) tester. Some larger companies may choose to hire these roles in-house but it’s more common to outsource SaaS software development to a professional IT company.
Once the design and development stages have been completed, the appropriate team members will test an outcome of each iteration to ensure your application is performing correctly. You don’t want to create a SaaS application that is buggy and frustrates users resulting in negative reviews. Testing is a very important step.
This last step continues forever and ensures that once your app is up and running, it stays that way. The maintenance stage of development includes updates to improve the application. This could be new features your company decides to release or updates that maintain your app’s compatibility with devices. Either way, your development team likely has a strategy for doing routine maintenance on your new app.
If you’d like to discuss the steps to building a SaaS product, we’re here to chat. At RaiseTech, we know how to navigate the complex layers associated with SaaS development and work to build innovative solutions that drive traffic, boost sales, and delight users. Just fill out this short form and we’ll be in touch.