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Cloud basics
Software as a Service
Software as a Service (SaaS) makes use of a cloud computing infrastructure to deliver one application to many users, regardless of their location, rather than the traditional model of one application per desktop. It allows activities to be managed from central locations in a one-to-many model, including architecture, pricing, partnering, and management characteristics.

Software and services on demand debuted in fourth place on the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) 2010 list of top 10 policy and technology priorities for state CIOs—and it wasn’t even on the list a year earlier.

Five reasons to consider SaaS
  1. You want to lower expenses associated with software acquisitions in the near term.
  2. You want to shift some of your IT budget from capital expense to operational expense.
  3. You have limited IT resources to deploy and maintain needed hardware and software.
  4. You need to refocus your IT staff from deployment and maintenance to high-priority projects.
  5. You want to reduce energy consumption and expense.
SaaS can help agencies with:
  • Email and instant messaging.
  • Desktop productivity, such as document creation and sharing.
  • Collaboration and presence.
  • Payment processing.
  • Identity and relationship management.
  • Citizen services delivered through the web, also known as e-government projects.

Seven tips to help you get started
  1. Compare the up-front cost savings to long-term subscription usage, because fees don’t necessarily decline over time.
  2. Look for the ability to customize or configure the application for your environment. Not all SaaS providers allow configuration.
  3. Make sure a SaaS solution has all the features you want. Some hosted versions are not identical to their desktop counterparts.
  4. Ensure the possibility of sharing your solution with other agencies.
  5. Don’t focus solely on costs—look for ways to improve your business. For example, can on-demand resources free your time to offer more mission-critical services to workers or citizens, to reduce time spent on more mundane IT chores, or to get features into use more quickly?
  6. Realize that applications have been running in the cloud for years, but a variety of approaches exist. Look for service-oriented architectures (SOA), web services standards, and web application frameworks—they’re easier to integrate.
  7. Make sure you own your data. Your service agreement with a provider should explicitly specify that the client owns the data—without a time limit.
Cloudsourcing checklist
Gartner uses the term cloudsourcing to refer to the way that organizations will provision services. Whether you want office productivity software offered as a hosted service or a cloud-based messaging infrastructure, you must cloudsource carefully.
  • Know your security and compliance needs. Can the provider meet them? Transparency, compliance controls, certifications, and auditability are some of the key criteria to evaluate.
  • Compare vendor offerings—not just for features and costs but also for uptime, security, and flexibility.
  • Ask whether service levels are negotiable. And what happens if the vendor falls short—are there meaningful penalties?

Learn more about SaaS
SaaS in action

Microsoft offerings for SaaS
Microsoft offers a variety of online services to address your agency’s most pressing needs:

Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite delivers a suite of services for hosted communication and collaboration. Dedicated cloud offerings for U.S. government organizations can deliver integrated communications with high availability, comprehensive security, and simplified IT management.

Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services are attached services that include filtering, archiving, encryption, and continuity.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, with minimal configuration, offers constituent relationship management (CRM) and other extended CRM solutions to help you automate workflow and centralize information.

Windows Live services help developers connect their applications, experiences, and customers to more than 500 million Windows Live users.

Entering the cloud

Get the basic information that agencies need to consider for cloud computing.

Government benefits in the cloud

Learn how agencies can benefit from moving into the cloud.

Security in the cloud

Explore security issues around cloud computing and ways to avert them.


Deliver applications and services to users—regardless of their location—with Software as a Service (SaaS).


Benefit from a cloud operating environment where you don’t have to manage the infrastructure, with Platform as a Service (PaaS).


Rent data center capacity as needed, rather than owning and running hardware, with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Private cloud

Discover if a private cloud—with dedicated resources, additional control, and customization—is right for you.