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June 30, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 2:07pm

11 ways to explain Software as a Service (SaaS) to a five-year-old

The definitive definition of Software as a Service (SaaS) from the experts for the kids (and adults, too).

By Duncan Macrae

Angela Eager, research director for TechMarketView

"SaaS is like borrowing a rabbit when you want to cuddle it. It’s always ready where you want it, when you want it, but you don’t have to feed it, clean it and look after it for the rest of the time. With SaaS the rabbit could be a computer game or music that you use your computer or mobile to reach out to."

Lee Norvall, CTO, Fusoin Media Networks

"Take a look at the rows of 10p sweet machines that you find when out shopping, where you can see the sweets through the glass bubble; you don’t own the sweet machine, you did not make the sweets, but you can rock up and buy and consume what you want, when you want without having to buy the whole thing. Yum!"

Martin Moran, EVP of Global Selling Services at ServiceSource

"Software as a Service (SaaS) is a way to access all the latest and best versions of games, apps and other software on your computer, smartphone or iPad simply by connecting over the internet. It is like having access to a single big computer in the cloud, where any changes or fixes can be made at one time and everybody gets to use that version. You don’t need disks or software in a box to always get the latest improved version of any title, you just need an internet connection."

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Jes Breslaw, director of Cloud Solutions, Accellion

"SaaS is just a different way to buy apps. Imagine you wanted an app for your iPhone. If you had £3 per week pocket money and the app cost £12 you would have to wait 4 weeks to have enough and have nothing left to spend on anything else while you saved. If instead, the app cost 50p every month, you could have it straight away and still have most of your pocket money left!"

John Coldicutt, head of KashFlow

"Software as a Service is similar to the way a library lends its books to people. Software, which tells the computer what to do, is borrowed by a person or a company in the same way that a book is taken out from a library. However, just like a library book the person doesn’t own it. Instead, they keep the software while they need it and then give it back or get more software when they have finished using it."

Dean Sadler, one of the founders of PlusNet and now a director at TribePad

"Imagine you wanted to play Connect 4 and you didn’t have the game. You could rent the game from someone who had a copy and pay to play. So every game you played you would have to pay. This is Software as a Service."


Chris Leigh-Currill, CEO of Ospero

"Remember at Christmas you wanted to have ALL the toys in the store and got upset when Daddy said we didn’t have enough room in the house, you couldn’t possibly play with them ALL, plus we don’t have the money to buy everything all at once?

"Well, how many toys do you think you could play with at once?

‘"42, Daddy!’

"That shop had lots more toys than you could play with at once didn’t it?

"’YES Daddy!’

"So, imagine we made a deal with the shop keeper that meant you could decide which toys to play with, for however long you wanted and when you were finished with them you just gave them back. You could have any toy from the store, for however long you wanted.

"’But what if I had a favourite toy that I didn’t want to give back? How about I said we had agreed a price for you to keep 42 toys ALL the time?

‘Mmmmmm, but what If I had a party and needed more toys?’

"Simple, son. We just tell the shopkeeper we’re having a party and he needs to send us more toys just for that day.

"’So, Dad, when are we going to see the shopkeeper?’"

Martin Ashall, CTO, CA Technologies UKI

Software-as-a-Service is a way of storing applications and information somewhere safe on the internet and delivering it to you as a service. You don’t need to worry about maintaining the applications or backing up the data. You can access it from anywhere with a Internet connection via a tablet, mobile or computer.

Stephen Mann, senior manager, product marketing at ServiceNow

"You know you get really happy when Mummy and Daddy buy you new toys, but then you are upset when the toys get old and dirty and you don’t want to play with them anymore? Well, imagine if the toy shop cleaned them, added in new fun things, or let you swap them for new toys when you wanted to play with something bigger or better."


Bert Schulze, senior director of Cloud Global Customer and Market Strategy, SAP

"When you walk into a room and turn on the light, do you think of the electric company producing the power? Do you reflect on how the power travelled to your house? Are you interested in the brand or quality of the light switch? Of course not. The only thing we worry about is ‘does the light turn on’? Software-as-a-Service works in a similar way, by providing information a service to the customer, without them having to worry about the detail and infrastructure behind it."

Dr Kevin Curran, senior member of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers)

"SaaS (Software as a service) provides end-users access to on-demand application software. There is no need to worry about installing or maintaining the software on a local PC. The service provider will do that for a flat monthly fee. Many people use SaaS everyday e.g. Google Apps such as Gmail or Microsoft Office 365."


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