Technology industry analysts Gartner and Ovum predict that the iPaaS market will grow quickly over the next few years, as more and more businesses adopt cloud applications. But what is iPaaS?

You’ve probably heard of Software as a Service, or SaaS. This refers to software that is hosted and accessed via the internet (‘cloud’) by the software vendor themself, rather than installed on your own computer or server.

iPaaS works in the same way. It stands for ‘Integration Platform as a Service’. In otherwords, it is an integration service or tool that is accessed via the internet.

‘iPaaS is fast emerging as a suitable alternative to traditional integration approaches’
Article: Global integration middleware market to hit $17.9 billion by 2018 – Ovum, March 1, 2013

The advantages of the ‘as a service’ model for small businesses include:

• You don’t need to invest as heavily in computer hardware because the software or platform is accessible from any internet enabled computer or device

• The applications or tools themselves are typically cheaper, because the software manufacturer has lower costs to deploy, distribute and support the software

• Your software and integration tools are easier to keep updated as you don’t need to uninstall and reinstall programs

• You can usually subscribe on a monthly basis, so you are not committed to use a program or platform for the long term

iPaaS providers began emerging in the past 10 years, though they were primarily focused on large enterprises that used big applications such as SAP and Oracle. As these enterprises began to use more and more cloud applications, they realized that data was being trapped in isolated silos. Alternatively, if they had integrations built specifically for their systems, it soon became extremely complex and costly to manage and maintain. They needed a faster, cheaper and more flexible way to manage their integrations.

Today, there are a number of iPaaS providers that cater exclusively to the small business (SME) market, including ConnectMyApps. These SME platforms differ from their big cousins in the enterprise world in terms of:

• The cost for SME platforms is obviously significantly lower than for enterprise versions

• Designed to be set up and managed by the end-user in minutes or hours rather than an IT department using days and weeks

• Shorter subscription periods, with most SME platforms based on a monthly subscription

Obviously, iPaaS tools for the enterprise market have greater flexibility in terms of what integrations can be built, to enable them to work with the more complex applications they connect. However, for the applications and processes found in most SMEs, this isn’t required, especially if your iPaaS provider has powerful customization options. You can read more about what to look for when choosing an iPaaS provider in this free ebook, ‘Small Business Software Integration For Dummies‘.