Managed Software as a Service (MSaaS) Explained

Cloud computing brought forth a new paradigm in how business and organizations run their operations. Instead of setting up their own data centres and computing infrastructure, they simply rent it from a cloud service provider. From the applications they use for their activities, to the storage of company data – it can all be done on the cloud, with the computer system resources being available on demand.

Cloud computing takes different forms, including:

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) – Acquiring computing capabilities via the web, such as networks, storage, processing power, all through to virtual private servers. Here, it's a pay as you go model, e.g., the amount of processing power that you use over a month.
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – You access the applications online, but the software itself is managed by the provider – like Office 365 from Microsoft.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) – This is like a hybrid of IaaS and SaaS. You access the cloud-based environment to build and deliver your applications, but don’t need to actually install and work with the expensive Integrated Development Environments (IDEs). These are the likes of the Google App Engine.
  • Mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) – Businesses and developers get hosted cloud computing architecture for their mobile applications and APIs. The service provider powers the backend services of the app, providing the technical infrastructure needed for it to work properly – like Amazon's AWS Amplify and Microsoft's Azure Mobile Apps.
  • DataCentre as a service (DCaaS) – Businesses get remote access to a data centre and its infrastructure through a Wide-Area Network, where they get to use its storage, server and networking resources. This takes the burden off their on-site data centres and yes, it has differences with IaaS
  • Information technology management as a service (ITMaaS) – To save on costs of maintaining a dedicated IT Management Office in the business, one turns to an ITMaaS to rent the remote service on demand, and take advantage of the vendor’s big data analytics and expertise.
  • Desktop as a service (DaaS) – Providing virtual desktop infrastructure complete with maintenance, updates, backup and data storage over the web with a per-user subscription e.g., Amazon WorkSpaces, Evolve IP and Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop.
  • Managed Software as a Service (MSaaS) – It's like SaaS, but customised for the end-user. Let's delve into it.

How Managed Software as a Service Works

The first step to understanding MSaaS is breaking down its predecessor – SaaS.

SaaS solutions are typically off-the-shelf software applications that you implement as-is, with minimal or no customisations. This makes them easy to use and more affordable, since you only get access to the application itself, and not the license associated with it.

Here are some common day-to-day SaaS applications you probably use:

  • Dropbox – Offers online cloud storage services
  • Adobe Creative Cloud – Gives you illustration, photo editing and design tools
  • Slack – Used for the collaboration and communication among business teams

However, like all one-size-fits-all solutions, they have one major limitation: little to no room to tune the application to your specific needs. Take the payroll software used by a small company for instance. Getting a SaaS at the start may be enough. However, as the business grows, and with the specific nature of the business processes including compliance reporting, a customized solution is needed. That’s where the Managed Software as a Service comes in.

MSaaS gives you more flexibility with the application being used. Here, one or more software personnel are involved in the service offering. The personnel either configure the core software, or custom build new features that are needed for your business. The end result is the user having complete visibility into the running of the software, analytics, machine learning, as well as making decisions on the solutions that are to be adopted in line with their business operations.

MSaaS vs SaaS

The differences between them come in four main areas:

What you're paying for

For SaaS, your subscription just provides remote access to the software, with packages varying in terms of the levels of features that one will be allowed to access. On the other hand, for the MSaaS you pay for the licence of the software, and the subscription gets you upgrades, ongoing support and training.

How much you're paying

Due to its product offering – from support to app management, MSaaS comes with a higher price tag compared to SaaS, which typically excludes them.

Level of configuration

SaaS gives you standardized software that is downloaded and used as it is, while with MSaaS you get software solutions that you can configure to your specific needs, even developing custom features that are particular to your account.

Implementation speed

SaaS applications are ready to use immediately they are downloaded and the subscription made. While the core MSaaS application can also be used as it is when it’s downloaded, it’s meant to be configured to the specific account before being implemented, to give you maximum value.

For instance, security firms can use MSaaS products to pin-point dormant digital assets and incorporate them into their security framework. Due to the integration of company data over time, some of it can get lost or simply forgotten. With Managed Software as a Service, you can aggregate all the data and bring it to a single dashboard, from where you continue serving your clients and add the product value – which is way more than you can get from the conventional SaaS system.

Moreover, with SaaS there comes the risk of missing out on un-utilized opportunities. On its own, an application obtained via the cloud won’t communicate with another. However, with a managed service you can identify opportunities that will enable you to integrate the software into different processes of the company and improve its operations. For instance, while one can have data collecting tools like webforms and a separate website chatting app, a managed service can enable you to link both applications together – that way your sales team can immediately begin to communicate with customers via the chat bobs the moment they input their details on the website form.

Pros and Cons Of MSaaS

Pros

  1. You get a comprehensive solution to enable you to integrate the software into your specific business operations.
  2. Subscriptions typically come with training and unlimited support and upgrades.
  3. The wider expert tool and data analytics from the vendors of the MSaaS – where the entire business is built on running the application and implementing it in the different niches, beats using an in-house team that would even force you to invest in their additional training to keep up with the tech curve, emerging threats and compliance laws.

Cons

  1. MSaaS solutions are more expensive than SaaS products, but the benefits from the applications and customising them for your business make up for it.
  2. There could be potential limitations when encountering new challenges or adding new services in your company offering. With your own in-house team, they're always up to speed. Here, you need to ensure that you’re dealing with a good MSaaS provider that maintains regular communication with you, staying informed on updates and changes you make to your business.

The choice between MSaaS and SaaS will depend on your particular business needs. You may be running an enterprise that simply needs the off-the-shelf software application, and here SaaS products will suit you. However, if your business needs the applications to be tailored to fit into your systems, then MSaaS comes forth as the better option.