Glossary Definition: Software as a Service (SaaS)

What does SaaS stand for?

SaaS stands for software as a service. The meaning of SaaS, as defined by the Oxford Languages and Google dictionary, is “a method of software delivery and licensing in which software is accessible via a subscription, rather than bought and installed on individual computers.”

What is SaaS?

Software as a service (SaaS) is a method of delivering software applications over the internet. Instead of purchasing servers and installing software on-premise, people can use SaaS to access the systems they need via any device with an internet connection.

SaaS is often but not exclusively subscription-based. Paid SaaS subscriptions include access to the software as well as support and ongoing product updates.

There are various forms of SaaS, including software applications that serve individuals and those that serve businesses (including small, medium, and enterprise). SaaS built for businesses is known as business-to-business software as a service, or B2B SaaS.

Typically, organizations will use a range of various SaaS solutions to meet their needs. This may include a project management tool, web hosting service, email service provider, communication tool for employees, and beyond.

What are examples of SaaS?

Notable examples of SaaS include Netflix, Salesforce, Gmail, and Slack. For these and many other SaaS examples, users don’t “own” these software programs. Instead, they can access them via monthly or annual subscriptions.

Each subscription type usually comes with its own benefits. Typically, there are various tiers of subscription that may range from free (like a basic Gmail account) to different paid options. For example, with Netflix you can choose between three plan options, depending on your preferences for video quality and resolution.

Examples of B2B SaaS include:

  • Adobe
  • HubSpot
  • Microsoft
  • Shopify
  • Slack

These examples are just a handful of the SaaS companies dedicated to serving businesses.

What are other names for SaaS?

Although it’s most commonly known as software as a service, or SaaS for short, these other terms are often used interchangeably:

  • Cloud-based SaaS
  • Cloud SaaS
  • Cloud Software
  • Hosted software
  • On-demand software
  • Web-based software
  • Web-hosted software

What is SaaS in pharma?

Pharma SaaS encompasses a wide range of various platforms built to help optimize drug discovery and development. These solutions are available either as a fully cloud-based system, whereby everything is accessible online via the public cloud, or as a hybrid cloud solution whereby data is stored privately in the public cloud, and part of the system is maintained in private clouds.

Although SaaS systems are most frequently used in front-end operations, such as CRM and clinical trial management solutions, they’re also picking up traction in back-end operations for manufacturing and quality control.

What are examples of SaaS for pharma?

There are various examples of SaaS for pharma companies. These include: 

Why is Software as a Service important for Pharma?

SaaS is important in pharma because it helps organizations access data services that are difficult to use with on-prem solutions, such as data science and analytics capabilities. This allows pharma companies to more easily identify and resolve potential roadblocks such as supply chain issues or equipment maintenance — before they steamroll into larger problems.

Software as a service solutions allow pharma companies to:

  • Initiate tech transfers
  • Collaborate across sites and teams
  • Respond to changing market conditions
  • Accelerate drug development and manufacturing

In addition, SaaS makes it easier to connect a number of pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities together, which provides a holistic view of the entire network.