SaaS: Pros, cons and leading vendors

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 EditionLattice, NetSuite (SuiteAnalytics), PentahoSAP 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, iMeetFuzebox, 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, MozPardot, 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
DocuSignEchoSign (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: How to Do SaaS Right, Cloud


Charles has been in tech publishing since the late 1980s, starting with Reed's Practical Computing, then moving to Ziff-Davis to help launch the UK version of PC Magazine in 1992. ZDNet came looking for a Reviews Editor in 2000, and he's been here ever since.

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  • The power of SaaS

    yes indeed, amazing the number of things you can do with SaaS.

    If you have a need, there's probably a SaaS for it... or else it will be created soon.

    When it comes to collect onsite Data, conduct mobile studies/survey, get customer satisfaction or build email database, there's Datafield :
  • Interesting article

    Hi Charles,

    I really liked the analysis of the market and how it was developing. In the gold rush that is SaaS, sometimes it is hard to see the wood from the trees and getting some information on growths, players and segments is always good to get hold of. We look more at the accounting and business side and there are some very interesting non-US companies operating there - many from Scandinavia and one in particular from NZ.


    Centric Logic
  • Integration-as-a-Service - the new hot topic

    Charles - a fascinating article and brilliantly articulated! I'm particularly interested to follow the topic of Integration-as-a-Service. As companies dabble in the marketplace, many are “catching colds” with mainstream public cloud offerings due to their inability to integrate all their other applications. As you know, this is precisely where we specialise! We take the square peg, chisel away at it and fit it into the round hole! Keep me posted!
  • Great Article!

    Hi Charles, thanks for a thoughtful piece. SaaS offerings can deliver a whole host of benefits, but you rightly point out that potential customers must have a clear understanding of their business needs and ask the right questions before jumping in. Identity and access management services based in the cloud can be a net win with the right fit. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on our approach at N8 Identity:
  • Great Article! No totally up-to-date nevertheless

    Hello Charles,

    Good job!

    1) Could you add for expense Management SAP Travel OnDemand which is a T&Expense Management Application 100% integrated out of the box with SAP FI and SAP HCM ?
    2) Could you also add SAP JAM which is an Enterprise collaboration application totally integrated with both the SAP On-Premise and On-demand applications allowing business to collaborate "in-context"
    3) Could you add finally SAP Business ByDesign for the Financial/Accounting/Revenue bit?

    Thanks !


  • Which apps are best? Read the reviews!

    This is a great summary of lots of vendors to check out. If folks want a place to read some reviews and find out which apps rank best in terms of customer satisfaction (think Yelp for B2B SaaS apps) check out or
  • Importance of Customer Success and Content Marketing to SaaS

    nice article. SaaS is an area which has grown exponentially in the last 1 year. so it will be interesting to see how these trends have changed.

    one thing i wanted to add is the importance of Customer Success within the SaaS model, and how customer success can further feed into the Content Marketing strategy. check this article to know more ....

    Anupam Bonanthaya
  • Cloud Computing

    It’s easily understandable that when a company hires a third-party service provider to handle its data and business process, one of the many concerns is security. Other problems that may arise over time are access management, increased dependence and higher charges.
  • Great Article

    Thank you for a great article. I see that SaaS Solutions is the future for businesses. provides FREE cloud integrated SaaS solutions in one platform to help entrepreneurs, home-based, small- to medium-sized businesses be more efficient and competitive.