SaaS applications level the information sharing field

     From the business world to government and public safety, hosted software solutions are changing the paradigm for how software is purchased and used. Hosted software solutions, otherwise known as Software as a Service (SaaS), offer a level of...


     From the business world to government and public safety, hosted software solutions are changing the paradigm for how software is purchased and used. Hosted software solutions, otherwise known as Software as a Service (SaaS), offer a level of flexibility and economy with which commercially licensed, internally operated software systems can't compete.

     SaaS is a software application delivery model where a vendor develops a Web-native application and hosts and operates (either independently or through a third party) the application for use by its customers over the Internet. Customers pay not for owning the software itself but for using it.

     The main benefit here is that while internally operated software requires a huge initial investment for installation and usually involves a level of complexity which demands extensive IT support, SaaS models allow the user to pay as they go without any of the hassles associated with installation or maintenance. All the user needs is Web access to have a range of sophisticated technologies at his fingertips.

     While many of the original SaaS applications were basic office tools (i.e. accounting and document sharing programs), today's generation of SaaS applications offer a range of sophisticated enterprise tools that allow for an unprecedented level of data capture, management and sharing.

     SaaS applications offer a solution to many of the hang-ups associated with the implementation of IT systems for public sector entities. Government agencies are much more conservative when it comes to making IT purchasing decisions and are notoriously slow when it comes to installation and implementation of new technologies. It is an ironic truth that a recurring theme within the public sector is that by the time a "new" technology is implemented and staff brought up to speed, the system has already become a legacy model — and a new generation of technologies with more sophisticated features are already available on the market.

     SaaS applications render installation time, costs and learning curves obsolete because the third-party vendor that hosts the software application is responsible for maintaining and updating the system. All the end-user needs in order to take full advantage of application features is an Internet connection and browser — no installation process, associated fees, or upkeep are required.

     Furthermore, the flexibility and ease-of-use of SaaS applications are what made the model attractive to the business community in the first place. Many SaaS vendors design products to be easy to use, minimizing the learning curve for even the most complex of programs.

Fusion centers and SaaS applications

     The National Information Management System (NIMS) specifies a set of processes, protocols and procedures that all first responders must use to coordinate and conduct response actions. This has fostered the birth of fusion centers designed to maximize interoperability and information sharing between emergency professionals at all levels. The architecture and infrastructure of fusion centers is much like that of SaaS applications: fusion centers include a third-party/remote server that houses and coordinates the flow of information from various law enforcement agencies within a given network.

     The principal role of fusion centers is to compile, analyze and disseminate criminal and terrorist information and intelligence. By aggregating information from disparate databases and records systems, fusion centers create a single view of information that can be used for crime trend analysis or for centralized control of dispatch in crisis scenarios.

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