With SaaS , short for Software as a service , the third service model of clouds is now described at this point. Applications can be used directly via the Internet or via the browser. By purchasing licenses (mostly in the form of subscriptions) to use the service via the web browser, the user only has to log into the web application with his login data. Installation 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 back up data and install current updates himself, as these tasks are taken over by the cloud provider himself.

At the same time, this means that companies usually have to pay 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, HR and financial management
  • Content management
  • Document collaboration software

Advantages and disadvantages of SaaS

At the same time, there are also decisive advantages and disadvantages with this service model. With SaaS, these are broken down as follows:


  • simple and flexible administration as well as mobile working
  • easy and inexpensive use of services via the Internet
  • current updates
  • transparent prices


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

A comparison of important SaaS applications

When using SaaS, you can finally choose between commercial and open source software. Two applications in particular come into play 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.

Office 365 from Microsoft – commercial software

With Microsoft Office 365, various online services are combined with classic desktop office software. This means that the system is available to the user in a range of services. Finally, the web applications can be used with any operating system via the internet browser. Included applications are e.g. writing program (Word), tables (Excel), presentations (PowerPoint), notes (OneNote), video conference (Skype), e-mail (Outlook), file sharing (OneDrive) etc. . Sharepoint can be purchased. How the system works in the browser is shown in the following fig. 1 shown.

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

ownCloud – open source solution

Even if commercial software appears to be the professional option for many users. 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. With on-premise installation as well as a number of administration and security features, companies keep full control over their data and are at the same time compliant with the GDPR. In addition, entrepreneurs also have the option of booking enterprise support in order to ensure complete security in their own company.

Like Office 365, ownCloud offers various components such as writing programs, tables and presentations (Collabora or OpenOffice), notes (Joplin), meeting solutions (Kopano), e-mail (Open XChange), file sharing (ownCloud) etc. These technologies can be summarized as so-called Stack , form a specialized platform for certain applications (see Fig. 2).

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

The user can flexibly set up these functions as SaaS or PaaS solutions and integrate them into the existing open source infrastructure. The open source alternative thus offers an optimal SaaS solution for using 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.


In conclusion, it can be said that SaaS is a good cloud service. Since the SaaS software is usually provided via the Internet, it offers companies the option of accessing the software from any device and location. At the same time, no special IT knowledge is required, just using SaaS, which is why the effort for companies can be kept low. On the other hand, the software is difficult to adapt, which is why it is always worth using standard applications with SaaS.

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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I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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