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Software-as-a-Service ( SaaS )

What Is Software as a Service?

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) refers to cloud architecture that allows you to access an application on an internet browser instead of downloading it on your device. In this definition of SaaS, the applications available range from Structured Query Language (SQL) and computer-aided design (CAD) programs to unified communications to office management software.

SaaS offers the possibility of lower upfront costs, fewer compatibility issues, and more freedom for users. Because SaaS makes a wider range of applications available at a lower cost, smaller organizations can use them to disrupt otherwise impenetrable markets.

How Does Software as a Service Work?

The term “as a service” refers to a service someone pays someone else to provide instead of doing it themselves. A simple example is when you hire a private chef. While you can cook a meal yourself, hiring a private chef provides you with the meal you want. They will buy the ingredients for you, don the apron, and fire up the stove. Additionally, you do not have to worry about some of the auxiliary concerns that come with cooking, such as preparation and cleanup.

Similarly, SaaS gives you software, as well as auxiliary benefits that you may have to consider if you purchase and facilitate the implementation of the software yourself, such as securing the environment in which the software runs and making sure you have the latest updates installed.

What Is "The Cloud and the 3 Main Cloud Service Models"?

The cloud consists of servers housed in remote locations within data centers used for running application code and hosting databases. SaaS, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) are all cloud-based services. When considering IaaS vs. SaaS vs. PaaS, the service’s limitations may make it a less-than-ideal solution.


Perhaps the most utilized of the three, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a cloud service model in which a company delivers its software to users via the internet. The user does not need to download, manage, or keep updating software locally in a hard drive in order to use it. All a user needs is a web browser and an internet connection.


Used by an organization's software development team, PaaS allows teams of engineers to write, test, deploy, update, and manage software in the cloud. PaaS includes a variety of built-in services that help development teams write code more quickly. It can be used to create the smallest of applications or those that will be deployed enterprise wide.


Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) delivers to organizations a complete cloud computing infrastructure, including servers, networks, operating systems, and storage. Enterprises that choose IaaS do not need to buy any additional hardware or equipment. Everything is delivered virtually through the cloud, and there is nothing physical to maintain.

What are the Advantages of of SaaS?

Scalable Use

With SaaS, you have the ability to access bigger infrastructures that enable you to scale whenever you see fit. This way, you can increase the size of your operation without having to shoulder a corresponding increase in cost.

Flexibility in Payments

With SaaS, you can pay on a monthly basis instead of making one large purchase upfront.

Accessibility and Persistence

You can access SaaS resources from anywhere you have internet service because they are hosted in the cloud. Some services allow you to use them on a limited basis even without internet service.

Automatic Updates

Because updates are handled by SaaS companies, there is no need to worry about whether or not you have the latest version of the software.

Easy Access to Sophisticated Applications

Some complex applications come with a hefty price tag. With SaaS, organizations with smaller budgets can still take advantage of these applications. The software is also deployed for them so they do not have to worry about maintaining infrastructure sufficient to run their programs.

Access on Mobile Devices

Because SaaS is a cloud-based service, users who only have a mobile device can still take advantage of SaaS resources. Cloud security specific to mobile access is also handled by the SaaS provider, alleviating the responsibility for mobile users. This can help limit malware, phishing attacks, and other cyber threats.

Standardized Client Software

Users do not need to purchase and download special software to take advantage of SaaS offerings. All they need is a device with an internet connection.

What are the Challenges and Risks of SaaS?

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting, because it is far away, can sometimes result in latency issues.

Data Access and Integration

Large amounts of data or data that is sensitive may require extra expense. Also, users may fall out of compliance regarding the sharing of certain types of data if they use SaaS, which is one of the major SaaS risks.

Switching SaaS Vendors

If you become dissatisfied with your SaaS vendor or have to leave for another reason, it can be difficult and time-consuming to transfer large data files to the new provider.

Loss of Access

If the SaaS vendor goes offline or out of business, you lose access to your files and data, at least until you find a way to migrate your services and data.

Internet Reliance

If your internet connection is weak or unpredictable, you may suffer significant performance issues. SaaS usage that requires large downloads or uploads of data can hamper usability.

Multitenant Architectures

A SaaS provider must accommodate the needs of multiple tenants. Therefore, they may not be able to accommodate requests to customize aspects of their services because it can negatively impact another client's usage.

Assumed Honesty

Users have to assume the service provider is honest, particularly because they often have full access to their resources and data. This can present significant security issues, especially when it comes to proprietary software processes and data.

Forced Adoption

In some cases, once you are using SaaS, you may be forced to adopt new versions. This can result in extra costs associated with training, user error, or a lack of stability.

How Fortinet Can Help

The Fortinet FortiCASB cloud security solution supports major SaaS providers. With FortiCASB, you gain insights into users, their behaviors, your resources, and data that is stored in cloud computing environments. FortiCASB also comes with reporting tools that allow you to provide evidence of the effectiveness of the system, as well as evaluate ways in which it can be tweaked.


What is SaaS?

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) refers to cloud architecture that allows you to access software applications on an internet browser instead of having to download them on your device.

What are examples of SaaS?

Examples of SaaS include Google applications, BigCommerce, Zendesk, Salesforce, and Dropbox.

How secure is SaaS?

SaaS solutions are often more secure than normal computing environments because they are typically protected by a suite of firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and access controls.

How can we protect SaaS?

In addition to carefully managing user access and passwords, you should make sure users are careful with how they share data and that the SaaS provider has adequate security measures in place.

What is SaaS security?

SaaS security consists of strategies, software, and hardware designed to protect corporate data and user privacy for those who subscribe to the service.