The term "Software-as-a-Service", or SaaS for short, is probably one of the trendiest buzzwords when it comes to software and IT environments. However, it is not always exactly clear what this term means, especially because it is sometimes misused. This article sheds light on why SaaS is the business model of the future.
SaaS applications like our Keyline print business management software are no longer installed on the company's own computers or servers, but run on secure and trusted servers in the cloud. They are mostly operated through the web browser and you pay a regular subscription fee or on a per-transaction basis to use them. So, as the name suggests, you pay for using the service, not for owning a piece of software.
"Cloud" has long been a non-word in print businesses, and many were still reluctant to approach the subject. But the industry has increasingly turned to this technology in recent years. Markus Müller, Managing Director of drucken123 in Aschaffenburg (Germany), recalls why it took a while to make friends with this model: "Because we just didn't know it any other way, according to the motto 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks'. Of course, we had to invest time and rethink processes – that can be a pain. But in the end it was more than worth it for us.
Software, says Müller, doesn't have to be bought expensively: "SaaS is simply cheaper to get and also in terms of maintenance costs. And it offers greater flexibility and increases efficiency – our prepress and clerical staff, for example, can access the central data quickly and effortlessly. This also works in the home office – during the lockdown, we were able to outsource some workstations without any problems at all, thus protecting our employees. We'll continue to do that in the future. It's a great story."
Ulrich Schätzl from Schätzl Druck & Medien GmbH in Donauwörth (Germany) also relies on SaaS software: "We want our core systems to run completely in the cloud – cause after all, we are not a software house. We want scalable systems that we can flexibly adapt to our requirements. It's also important to us to have an open interface through which we can build an ecosystem that allows us to comprehensively automate our operations." The SaaS approach also allows the Schätzl Druck team to easily network with other print shops to expand its scope of supply.
Schätzl Druck & Medien and drucken123 have described the advantages of SaaS software that are particularly important for their companies.
8 good reasons for using SaaS applications
1. Not an investment, but operating cost
Locally installed software usually represents a large investment that is depreciated over its period of use. These costs appear on the balance sheet. In contrast, a monthly or annually billable subscription for a cloud-based solution is an operating expense that is reported as a current expense in the income statement.
2. Billing based on usage
Today, no one can predict for years how the entire business or parts of it will develop. Here, too, SaaS applications can score with their usage-based billing. This can be based on various aspects such as the number of users accessing the app or the number of jobs processed.
3. Continuous and automatic updates
If you use locally installed software, you know the problem: When the software manufacturer publishes an update, you are spoiled for choice. Option 1: You rush into the adventure and install the update. This usually involves quite a lot of effort, on the one hand for updating the workstations, and on the other hand for training. Such updates appear rather infrequently – often only once or twice a year – and then contain many new functions in one fell swoop. Option 2 is to forego the update and thus, under certain circumstances, also forego innovations that one would actually find useful.
SaaS software is different – it is continuously updated by the manufacturer and new features are provided centrally for all users immediately. Instead of one update a year, there are a hundred and more small updates. The effort for customers thus tends towards zero, as continuous improvement and familiarization are guaranteed. Another advantage is that if any problems occur with the software, they can be solved during operation, because all users are working on the same system.
4. Hassle-free scalability
If many employees are to use conventional software, then this can really cost money – after all, additional licenses have to be purchased (not to mention the fact that the software often also makes demands on the hardware and new PCs may have to be purchased). All of this then puts a strain on the business figures when fewer licenses are needed later on.
SaaS software is quite different: The volume of the subscription can be flexibly adapted to current needs, which is usually done in a few clicks. Cancellation is also usually possible within modest timeframes. This allows companies to expand their subscriptions during peak periods and adjust them downward during periods of low utilization. You usually only pay for what you actually use.
Speaking of scaling – with many SaaS applications, you can start with a limited range of features and book further expansion levels later. Interfaces to other applications can also often be added as needed.
5. Minimal maintenance effort, high data security.
Another major advantage of SaaS software is the minimal maintenance required. Once subscribed, the software is immediately fully operational – and no own server systems are required. Even during ongoing operation, users do not have to worry about maintenance and troubleshooting if necessary – this is covered by the subscription fee and is therefore the responsibility of the software provider.
The issue of data security is also guaranteed with SaaS applications, because the programs usually run on highly available, professionally managed servers in data centers of established providers – think, in contrary, of a server under the desk of the managing director, which can only be operated and maintained by one person in the company.
6. Across all platforms
SaaS applications are used via common web browsers. This means they can be used regardless of the platform and can directly without installation. This applies not only to Windows computers and Macs, but usually also to tablets or even smartphones.
Whether web store, MIS, ERP or CRM – SaaS applications usually follow a common mantra and provide interfaces that enable linking with each other. This lays the foundation for the integration of a wide variety of applications. The systems can thus exchange data with each other and automate processes via event systems.
This also applies to Keyline, which brings data from different systems onto one track and enables the bundling of all services in one software.
In conjunction with modern platforms such as Zaikio, processes can be automated not only within the print shop but also with all partners within the value chain. It doesn't matter whether these are suppliers, press manufacturers, customers or other software providers.
8. Remote working
Another advantage of SaaS software has become apparent in the current pandemic situation. Cloud-based programs can be used from anywhere: not only in the office and in the pressroom, but also in the home office and on the road.
Even cross-location working is no longer a problem for companies with multiple subsidiaries. Consolidated companies do not have to work on different IT infrastructures, but work together with the same software, as if they were sitting just one office away.
Mobile access to the software is also useful and sensible when advising customers on site, in order to have the desired information at hand directly at the customer's premises, to calculate quotations or to provide an insight into production.
Lower costs, unlimited scaling, minimal maintenance and future-oriented interfaces are key characteristics of SaaS applications – so it's no wonder that more and more companies now prefer to rent their software rather than to buy it. The approach opens up new potential also for the printing industry in terms of efficiency and flexibility.