Key Differences Between SaaS Platforms and Regular Software You Must Know Now

Differences Between SaaS Platforms and Regular Software

Software is an integral part of business operations and productivity today. With the rise of cloud computing, organizations now have more options when it comes to acquiring and using software. The two main categories are software as a service (SaaS) platforms and regular installed software. Understanding the key differences between these two models is crucial for making the right choice for your needs. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about SaaS platforms vs regular software.

What's In This Article?

Key Takeaways

  • SaaS platforms are cloud-based and use a subscription model while regular software is installed locally and uses one-time or perpetual licensing.
  • SaaS platforms offer automatic updates, scalability, and accessibility while regular software allows for more customization and control.
  • SaaS platforms have lower upfront costs but require monthly/annual fees while regular software has higher initial costs but no recurring fees.
  • SaaS is best for small businesses, startups, and remote collaboration while regular software suits large enterprises with specialized needs.
  • Consider connectivity, budget, security, customization needs when choosing between SaaS and regular software.

Characteristics of SaaS Platforms

SaaS or Software as a Service refers to cloud-based software that is hosted and managed remotely by the service provider. Some key traits of SaaS platforms include:


SaaS applications are accessed over the internet through a web browser. Users do not need to install any software locally. The software application and data are stored on servers maintained by the SaaS provider.

Subscription Pricing

SaaS platforms operate on a subscription-based pricing model where users pay a recurring fee, usually monthly or annually, to access the software. There are no large upfront license fees.


SaaS applications are designed to support multiple tenants simultaneously. Tenants refer to companies or users that share access to the same instance of the hosted application but have their data segregated.

Automatic Updates

The SaaS vendor handles all software maintenance and updates behind the scenes. Users get to enjoy the latest features and security patches automatically without any effort.


It is easy to scale up or down usage of a SaaS app as needs change. The cloud-based nature offers flexibility to adjust capacity and features based on real-time demand.


As SaaS platforms are web-based, users can access them from anywhere on any device with an internet connection. This enables working remotely and collaborating across locations.

Cloud-BasedAccessed over internet, no local installation
Subscription PricingPay recurring fee for access
Multi-TenancySupport multiple tenants/accounts
Automatic UpdatesVendor handles updates behind the scenes
ScalabilityEasy to scale usage up or down
AccessibilityAccessible from anywhere with internet connection

Characteristics of Regular Software

Regular software refers to applications installed and run locally on devices like desktops and laptops. Some typical features of regular software include:

Local Installation

Regular software programs need to be downloaded and installed on individual devices before they can be used. This requires manual installation effort.

Licensing Fees

Instead of a recurring subscription, regular software usually involves a one-time purchase fee or a perpetual license fee paid upfront.


Regular installed software can be highly customized to meet specialized needs, with personalized configurations, integrations, and coding changes.

Control over Updates

With regular software, users have control over if and when to install updates instead of forced automatic updates. However, manual updating increases maintenance.

Limited Scalability

Scaling use of regular software apps requires purchasing additional licenses and installing on more devices. The process is not as flexible as SaaS platforms.

Limited Accessibility

Regular software remains installed and accessible only on the devices it is installed on. Remote access and collaboration capabilities are restricted.

Local InstallationDownloaded and installed on devices
Licensing FeesOne-time or perpetual license purchase
CustomizationCan customize and configure code
Control over UpdatesManual control over updating
Limited ScalabilityScaling requires installing on more devices
Limited AccessibilityAccessible only on installed devices

Key Differences Between SaaS Platforms and Regular Software

While both SaaS and regular software have their merits, they have some fundamental differences across various factors:

Cost Structure

SaaS involves lower upfront costs but a recurring subscription fee. Regular software has a high initial license/purchase cost but no recurring fees.

Deployment and Installation

SaaS apps require zero installation while regular software needs to be installed locally before use.

Maintenance and Updates

SaaS platforms provide automatic updates while regular software requires manual patching and version upgrades.

Customization and Control

Regular software allows deep customization while SaaS has limited customization options.

Scalability and Accessibility

SaaS platforms are easily scalable and accessible from anywhere while regular software has limited scalability and accessibility.

FactorSaaS PlatformRegular Software
Cost StructureLower upfront cost, subscription feeHigh initial cost, no recurring fee
Deployment and InstallationNo installation requiredManual installation required
Maintenance and UpdatesAutomatic updatesManual updates
Customization and ControlLimited customizationHighly customizable
Scalability and AccessibilityHighly scalable, accessible from anywhereLimited scalability, accessibility from installed devices only

Advantages of SaaS Platforms

Here are some of the major benefits of using SaaS platforms over regular software:

Lower Upfront Costs

SaaS apps do not require large investments in license fees or infrastructure upfront. The subscription model spreads costs over time.

Automatic Updates and Maintenance

The SaaS vendor handles all behind-the-scenes updates and maintenance without requiring IT effort from the user organization.


You can scale your usage of SaaS apps easily on demand without disruptive installations and rollouts. This supports business agility and growth.


SaaS platforms enable employees to work from anywhere, on any device. This facilitates remote work and improves collaboration.


With SaaS apps, you share computing resources and costs across organizations which improves efficiency.

Some key advantages of using SaaS platforms are:

  • Lower upfront costs
  • Automatic updates and maintenance by vendor
  • Easy scalability on demand
  • Accessible from anywhere, enables remote work
  • Multi-tenancy improves efficiency

Advantages of Regular Software

While SaaS has many benefits, regular installed software also has some advantages:

Customization and Control

Regular software allows deep customization of features, interfaces, code, and integrations to tailor to specialized needs.

One-Time Purchase

Instead of recurring fees, you make a single one-time purchase for perpetual license. This avoids monthly costs.

No Reliance on Internet Connectivity

Regular software does not depend on internet connectivity once installed locally. This avoids disruptions due to network issues.

No Subscription Fees

There are no charges for continued use after the initial purchase, unlike SaaS subscription fees.

Some of the top advantages of using regular software include:

  • Highly customizable for specialized needs
  • One-time purchase avoids subscriptions
  • Doesn’t rely on internet connectivity
  • No recurring subscription fees

Use Cases for SaaS Platforms

SaaS platforms are ideal for:

Small Businesses

The subscription model and scalability of SaaS suit the needs and budgets of SMBs.


The low upfront costs and flexibility of SaaS platforms make them suitable for dynamic startups.

Remote Teams

The accessibility of SaaS supports collaboration across remote teams and workers.

Collaboration and Project Management

The real-time data and multi-user access of SaaS facilitates collaboration.

Customer Relationship Management

Web-based SaaS CRM tools provide mobile sales teams with customer data access.

Some top use cases well suited for SaaS platforms:

  • Small businesses and startups
  • Remote collaboration
  • CRM and project management
  • Sales teams requiring mobile access

Use Cases for Regular Software

Regular installed software works better for:

Large Enterprises

Large companies can justify the high upfront investment and specialized customization.

Strict Data Regulations

Some industries like defense and banking prefer regular software to meet strict on-premise data compliance needs.

Customized Systems

Developing specialized systems tailored to complex organizational processes justifies custom-built regular software.

Limited Internet Connectivity

Remote areas and developing countries with limited internet rely on regular software.

Some scenarios where regular software prevails over SaaS:

  • Large enterprises with resources for customization
  • Strong data regulations demanding on-premise systems
  • Specialized custom-built applications
  • Unreliable internet connectivity

Challenges of SaaS Platforms

Despite the benefits, SaaS platforms also come with some downsides:

Data Security Risks

Sensitive information on remote servers can have more exposure compared to local systems.

Reliance on Connectivity

SaaS apps require consistent, high-speed internet connectivity to function. Limited connectivity causes disruptions.

Limited Customization

SaaS platforms allow limited UI configuration and customization compared to regular software.

Subscription Costs Can Add Up

Although subscription costs are low monthly, they can accumulate over years of use for large organizations.

Some key challenges faced with SaaS platforms:

  • Heightened data security risks
  • Disruptions from unreliable connectivity
  • Restricted customization options
  • Long-term accumulation of subscription costs

Challenges of Regular Software

Similarly, regular software also has some disadvantages like:

High Upfront Costs

Large license fees and IT infrastructure costs make adoption expensive for smaller businesses.

Manual Maintenance

Regular software needs manual efforts for patches, updates, backups causing considerable IT overhead.

Limited Scalability

Scaling use by purchasing additional licenses and rolling out installations makes scaling costlier and slower.

Limited Accessibility

Access restricted to specific devices prevents remote access and mobility offered by SaaS apps.

Downsides to consider regarding regular software:

  • Expensive upfront license and infrastructure costs
  • Time-consuming manual maintenance and updates
  • Cumbersome and costly to scale usage
  • Lack of accessibility from anywhere


In summary, while both SaaS platforms and regular software have their own pros and cons, understanding their key differences is important to make the choice that aligns best with your business needs. Consider factors like costs, control, accessibility and weigh the trade-offs involved. Small businesses and startups are more likely to benefit from adopting SaaS solutions whereas large enterprises may find that regular software suits their customization and compliance needs better. The decision also depends on the use case, industry regulations, connectivity, growth projections, and IT capabilities.

As SaaS adoption continues rising exponentially, more organizations are now opting for its flexibility, mobility, and cost-effectiveness. However, regular software retains an edge in scenarios that demand specialized systems, customization control, and local installations. With their respective strengths and limitations in mind, both these software models will continue playing important roles supporting diverse modern business needs now and in the future.

SaaS (Software as a Service) FAQs

Q: What is SaaS?

A: SaaS stands for “Software as a Service” and refers to software that is delivered over the internet.

Q: How is SaaS different from regular software?

A: SaaS is typically subscription-based, cloud-hosted, and accessible from any device with an internet connection.

Q: What are some examples of SaaS platforms?

A: Examples include Salesforce, Dropbox, and Google Workspace.

Q: What are some advantages of using SaaS platforms?

A: SaaS platforms are often more affordable, scalable, and flexible than traditional software.

Q: What are some disadvantages of using SaaS platforms?

A: SaaS platforms may have limited customization options, security concerns, and dependency on internet connectivity.

Q: How do SaaS platforms handle updates and maintenance?

A: Updates and maintenance are typically handled by the SaaS provider, with little or no involvement from the user.

Q: Can SaaS platforms be used offline?

A: Some SaaS platforms offer offline access, but most require an internet connection.

Q: How do SaaS platforms handle data security?

A: SaaS providers are responsible for securing user data and may use encryption, firewalls, and other security measures.

Q: Can SaaS platforms be integrated with other software?

A: Yes, many SaaS platforms offer APIs and integrations with other software.

Q: Are SaaS platforms suitable for all types of businesses?

A: SaaS platforms can be beneficial for businesses of all sizes, but may not be suitable for highly specialized or complex software needs.

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