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Software as a Service (or 'SasS') is a software distribution model in which a third-party provider hosts applications and makes them available to customers over the Internet. SaaS is one of three main categories of cloud computing, alongside infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). Further, SaaS describes any cloud service where consumers are able to access software applications over the Internet; typically a SaaS is accessed through a web browser with users logging onto systems using their personal username and password. The SaaS concept can be defined as providing robust "web-based, on-demand software, storage and various applications" to organizations. The SaaS model has emerged as an alternative to traditional one-time licensing for providing and maintaining the software needed by knowledge workers within organizations. Typically, the model of software-as-a-service deployment involves a provider who negotiates software licenses with their customers for the use of the service with full support, and usually on demand over the web. SaaS vendors often host the software in the cloud (see cloud computing) on their servers; other service models include facilitating the downloading of software on the go to consumer devices and phones which will be disabled after the on-demand contract expires. On-demand functions can be handled internally or by third-party providers.
Benefits of a SaaS
Traditional software programs are usually sold one as a perpetual license and with up-front costs (occasionally, an optional ongoing support fee). SaaS providers generally price applications according to e subscription model and monthly or annual fees. Initial setup costs for SaaSes are typically lower than the equivalent enterprise software. Vendors typically price their applications based on usage parameters, such as the number of users using the application. In some instances data generated by the enterprise resides with the SaaS vendor, and there are opportunities to the vendor to charge for transactions, units of value and numbers of processers required.
Some of the benefits to organizations of the SaaS model are:
The traditional model of software distribution, in which software is purchased for and installed on personal computers, is sometimes referred to as software as a product.
Libraries' use of SaaS
In 2011, the library automation vendor Ex Libris announced Alma, a next-generation integrated library system. Alma offers traditional ILS services and says that it will provide a range of library operations not supported by any other ILS. While its functional offerings are potentially revolutionary, it is already groundbreaking in the way it is deployed. Ex Libris Alma is one of a growing number of library-specific vendor offerings that takes advantage of a cloud-based architecture. In the current lexicon, this is also known as “in the cloud.”
Alma is not the first cloud-based library-specific service. Other vendors are offering cloud solutions, and libraries are increasingly turning to the cloud to provide functions that have traditionally been provided by software installed on in-house hardware. In fact, libraries’ shift from operating their own installations to making use of hosted services is a big trend: “Almost all new products launched in recent years have been designed for delivery through Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and many of the legacy products have options for vendor hosting, often labeled as SaaS.”