SaaS, short for Software as a Service, describes the third service model of Clouds. Applications can be used directly via the Internet or via the browser. By purchasing licenses (usually in the form of subscriptions) for the use of the service via the web browser, the user only has to log in to the web application with his login data. Installations on your own Internet-enabled device and the purchase of additional hardware with increased computing power are no longer necessary. And the user does not have to perform the data backup and the insertion of current updates himself, as these tasks are taken over by the cloud provider itself.

At the same time, this means that companies usually charge a monthly or annual fee for use based on the number of users.

SaaS is available in many areas. These include, for example:

  • E‑mail
  • Office and Writing Programs
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Payroll
  • Sales, Human Resources and Financial Management
  • Content Management
  • Software for collaboration on documents

Pros and Cons of SaaS

At the same time, this service model again has decisive advantages and disadvantages. These are broken down by SaaS as follows:


  • Simple and flexible management and mobile work
  • Easy and affordable use of services over the Internet
  • latest updates
  • transparent prices


  • Licensing for multiple users quite expensive
  • Assignment of data, i.e. personal data within SaaS are often on US servers (problematic. GDPR, audits, etc.)
  • High reliance on cloud providers
  • No final legal certainty guaranteed

Key SaaS applications in comparison

When using SaaS, you can choose between commercial and open source software. In particular, two applications are used again and again: Office 365 from Microsoft and ownCloud in combination with other products as an open source alternative. Both will now be presented in more detail in this article.

Microsoft Office 365 – commercial software

Microsoft Office 365 combines various online services with traditional desktop office software. This means that the system is available to the user in different scopes of services. The web applications can finally be used via the browser via the Internet with any operating system. Included applications include writing program (Word), spreadsheets (Excel), presentations (PowerPoint), notes (OneNote), video conferencing (Skype), email (Outlook), file sharing (OneDrive), etc. In addition, additional services such as Sharepoint. How the system works in the browser is shown in the following figure. 1.

Figure. 1: Word in browser version
(Source: Lindner et al. 2020)

ownCloud – Open Source Solution

Even if for many users commercial software appears as the professional option. Instead, there are now many strong open source solutions on the market that no longer have to hide behind giants like Microsoft. One such free software, with open source code and free licenses, is ownCloud. Through on-premise installation and a number of administration and security features, organizations retain full control over their data while complying with the GDPR. In addition, entrepreneurs also have the option of booking enterprise support to ensure complete security in their own operations.

Like Office 365, ownCloud offers various components such as writing program, spreadsheets and presentations (Collabora or OpenOffice), notes (Joplin), meeting solutions (Kopano), email (Open XChange), file sharing (ownCloud) etc. These technologies can be combined as a so-called stackto form a specialized platform for specific applications (see Fig. 2).

Figure. 2: ownCloud in browser version
(Source: Lindner et al. 2020)

It is possible for the user to flexibly set up these functions as a SaaS or PaaS solution and integrate them into the existing open source infrastructure. Thus, the open source alternative offers an optimal SaaS solution for the use of the collaboration software. OwnCloud stands out not only with a high degree of flexibility, but also with data security and complete independence from cloud providers.


Finally, SaaS is a good cloud service. Since the SaaS software is mostly provided via the Internet, it offers companies the ability to access the software from any device and location. At the same time, no special IT knowledge is only necessary to use SaaS, which is why the effort for companies can be kept small. On the other hand, however, the software is difficult to adapt, which is why SaaS always pays a worthwhile time to use standard applications.

Tip: Read my new book: The way to the cloud at Springer Gabler or book me for a talk .


Lindner, D., Niebler, P., & Wenzel, M. (2020). The Way to the Cloud – A Guide for Entrepreneurs and Decision Makers. Heidelberg: Springer Gabler.

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