SaaS: Pros, cons and leading vendors

Summary:Software as a Service (SaaS) is an increasingly popular delivery model for a wide range of business applications. We outline the benefits and drawbacks of SaaS, present a listing of vendors and consider which kinds of companies will benefit most from outsourcing software provision to the cloud.

Leading SaaS providers
There is now a multitude of SaaS providers, covering all major categories of business software. The selections below are intended to give a flavour of the available variety rather than make any claim to comprehensiveness.

Business Intelligence & Analytics
Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics software marshals disparate data on past and present business performance, delivers customisable reports and dashboards, and supports informed decision-making for the future. Traditionally deployed in-house (because that's where the relevant business data resided), BI is rapidly gaining a footprint in the cloud. Listed below is a selection of BI vendors. To find more, take a look at GetApp, which lists 83 SaaS BI & Analytics tools available on subscription at the time of writing.

Business intelligence
BIME, Birst, BIRT onDemand (Actuate), Cloud9 Analytics, EasyInsight, EdgeSpring, GoodData, Indicee, Information Builders, InsightSquared, Jaspersoft BI Professional for AWS Edition, Lattice, NetSuite (SuiteAnalytics), Pentaho, SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand, Sumall, Yellowfin, Yurbi, Zoho Reports

1010 Data, Datameer, Google Analytics, Kognitio, Kontagent, Microstrategy Cloud Express, Mixpanel, PivotLink, Precog, Rosslyn Analytics, SAS (Solutions OnDemand), SpatialKey, Tableau Software, Tibco Spotfire, Trackerbird

There are many ways of collaborating -- ranging from asynchronous document storage and sharing to real-time online video meetings, with many variations in between. That's why collaboration is one of the most heavily populated and fastest-changing SaaS categories. Listed below is a selection of collaboration vendors. To find more, take a look at GetApp, which lists 212 SaaS collaboration tools available on subscription at the time of writing.

Team collaboration
Campfire (37 Signals), Centroy, Confluence (Atlassian), Huddle, HyperOffice, IBM SmartCloud for Social Business, Jive, LogMeIn, Moxie, Podio (Citrix), Rebooth (formerly Teambox), SAP Jam (SuccessFactors), Zimbra (VMware), Zoho Collaboration Apps

Project management
Basecamp (37 Signals), Binfire, Clarizen, Daptiv, Jira (Atlassian), Liquid Planner, Projectplace

Web conferencing
AnyMeeting, Arkadin, Cisco WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting, iMeet, Fuzebox, TeamViewer

Video conferencing
BlueJeans Network, Vidtel, Vidyo

Content storage/sharing
Box, Dropbox, Egnyte

Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365

Miscellaneous (document/form sharing, signing, sending); Agreedo (meeting management); Asana (task management); Collabnet, Rally Software (agile software development); KnowledgeTree (sales document management); RunMyProcess (workflow)

Customer Relationship Management
CRM software, once confined to orchestrating in-house customer information and automating salesforce operations, now encompasses a wide range of social media interactions and other external information sources that help to shape the relationship between businesses and their customers. was the first big SaaS success story, and it continues to dominate its field. However, there are many other SaaS players in the CRM and related markets, and a lot of merger/acquisition activity. A selection is presented here. To find more, take a look at GetApp, which lists 273 SaaS Customer Management tools available on subscription at the time of writing (118 of which are defined as CRM).

BPMOnline, ClearSlide, HighRise (37 Signals), Infor, Infusionsoft, InsideView, JobNimbus, KANA, LivePerson, Maximizer CRM Live, Medallia, NetSuite CRM+, Parature, Pegasystems (Pega Customer Service Cloud), Really Simple Systems, RightNow (Oracle), Sage CRM, Salesboom,, SAP (Sales OnDemand), One, Workbooks, Zoho (CRM)

Hybrid (on-premise/cloud) CRM
Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Oracle CRM OnDemand, Oracle Fusion OnDemand, SugarCRM

Social CRM
Artesian Solutions, Coveo, Crowdtap, Get Satisfaction, Nimble

Clarabridge (sentiment analysis), Convio (constituent engagement for nonprofits), LiveOps (customer service), Steelwedge (sales and operations planning), SurveyMonkey (customer surveys), UserVoice (customer feedback and helpdesk), Xactly (sales performance management), Zendesk (customer service)

Demand Generation
Many SaaS providers offer tools to maximise a company's visibility among its potential customers, retain their attention when noticed and help turn leads into sales. Social media naturally play a big part here, along with more traditional tools like email campaigns and landing page optimisation. Here's a selection. To find more, take a look at GetApp, which lists 184 SaaS Marketing tools available on subscription at the time of writing.

Bizo, Bronto, ConstantContact, Eloqua (Oracle), eTrigue, ExactTarget, Genoo, Hubspot, iContact (Vocus), Kenshoo, Marin Software, Marketo, Moz, Pardot, Publictrac, Responsys, Silverpop, VerticalResponse, Vocus

Specialist services
Campaign Monitor (email marketing), Gagein (sales intelligence tracking), Infusionsoft (SMB demand-gen/CRM/e-commerce suite), MailChimp (email marketing), Unbounce (landing page testing), XYDO (third-party marketing content curation)

Document Management
The cloud is a natural place to store and track documents, and there are plenty of services available, offering traditional document management capabilities, as well as secure file sharing, file send, online backup and electronic signature functionality. Here's a selection.

Document management
Alfresco, Bitcasa, Box, CloudApp, Doctape, Documentree, Dropbox, Drupal, Netdocuments, OfficeDrop, SugarSync, Syncplicity (EMC), WordPress, Zoho Docs

Secure file sharing
ShareFile (Citrix), WatchDox

File send
SendThisFile, Yousendit

Online backup
Backupify, Carbonite, Mozy (EMC)

Electronic signature
DocuSign, EchoSign (Adobe)

Finance & Accounting
Finance and accounting are mainstays of the traditional enterprise software stack, and there are plenty of cloud-based offerings in these areas -- along with services that focus on particular areas such as revenue and expense management. A selection is presented here. To find more, take a look at GetApp, which lists 186 SaaS Finance & Accounting tools available on subscription at the time of writing.

Financial management
Acumatica, Adaptive Planning, Ariba (SAP), Kyriba, NetSuite (SuiteCommerce), SAP Financials OnDemand, Workday

Accounting, FreshBooks, Intacct, Intuit (QuickBooks Online), KashFlow, OpenERP, Saasu, SageOne, VerticaLive, Wave, Xero

Revenue management
Aria Systems,, Chargify, CheddarGetter, Metanga, Monexa, Recurly, Revstream, ServiceSource, Zuora

Expense management
Concur, Expensecloud, Expensify

Avalara (sales tax automation), Coupa (e-procurement), Statpro (portfolio analysis), Truaxis (loyalty reward services)

Human Resources
HR software is a fertile area for SaaS providers, encompassing traditional HR functionality, talent management, recruitment tools, workforce analytics and other niches. A selection is presented here. To find more, take a look at GetApp, which lists 194 SaaS Human Resources tools available on subscription at the time of writing.

BambooHR, Epicor, Ultimate Software, SuccessFactors (SAP), SAP Business ByDesign, Kenexa (IBM), Silkroad, euHReka (Northgate Arinso), Workday

Talent management
Cornerstone, Saba, UpMo, Halogen, Taleo (Oracle), Talent, Lumesse, SumTotal

Bullhorn, Wowzer, HireVue, Montage, Async Interview,, iMomentous, Entelo, TalentBin

Workforce analytics
Evolv, Talent Analytics, Talx (Equifax), Visier

RoundPegg (culture management), CloudPay (payroll), ZenPayroll (payroll), Echospan (performance management), (SAP/Rypple; performance management), SelectMinds (Oracle; social recruiting), Replicon (time & expense tracking), TeamSeer (holiday planning and absence management), WhosOff (staff leave planner)

Social Enterprise Tools
One of the buzziest of recent buzzwords, the 'social enterprise' has two major aspects: the use of Facebook-like tools within the enterprise for flexible knowledge sharing and collaboration (enterprise social networking); and the monitoring and management of customer interactions on a variety of public social networks (social media management). Leading examples of both types of service are presented below.

Enterprise social networking
BlueKiwi ZEN (Atos), Chatter (Salesforce), Sazneo (Access aCloud), Socialcast (VMware), Socialtext, Tibbr, Yammer (Microsoft)

Social media management
Alterian SM2, Brandwatch, Gigya, Hearsay Social, HootSuite, Lithium, Repute-Me, Salesforce Marketing Cloud (Buddy Media + Radian6), Simplify360, SocialAppsHQ, Socialware, Sysomos, ThoughtBuzz, Vitrue (Oracle), Wildfire (Google), Zuberance


Topics: Cloud


Hello, I'm the Reviews Editor at ZDNet UK. My experience with computers started at London's Imperial College, where I studied Zoology and then Environmental Technology. This was sufficiently long ago (mid-1970s) that Fortran, IBM punched-card machines and mainframes were involved, followed by green-screen terminals and eventually the pers... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.