“iSaaS” stands for Integration Software as a Service. iSaaS solutions are cloud tools that offer methods and configurations that businesses can use to create digital paths – known as “flows” – for their data to move along as it travels between databases and applications.
One great thing about iSaaS tools is that even the most complex configurations and tweaking of these flows can be done by someone who doesn’t have much tech know-how. Citizen integrators – data analysts and experts who know the business process from start to end and have basic spreadsheet and database experience – can help their businesses exploit their data in novel and more proficient ways.
Here is our list of the five best iSaaS tools:
- Zapier – a popular integration tool that makes it possible to connect almost any cloud application with another one. It comes with many options for any given task.
- Oracle Self-Service Integration – an integration tool that comes from a company that knows what is needed to smoothly run servers and data transfers. Its iSaaS is part of its cloud platform.
- IBM App Connect – here we have an iSaaS tool that has more methods than most comparable tools. Helped with the IBM Cloud it becomes a powerful tool.
- Microsoft Power Automate (Formerly Flow) – another product from a leading tech company that helps make it easy for anyone to work with it; the familiarity helps its popularity.
- Blendr.io – a purely cloud-based integration tool that is fun to work with and is impressive with its connectivity.
The citizen integrators can also design new data flows to help colleagues and clients tackle application and data integration issues.
On the other hand, the citizen integrators may choose to turn to an iSaaS solution simply because they find that they are doing a task repetitively without adding any value to the end product or service. The new paths can take over the flow of data while they move on to getting some actual work done.
And since these citizen integrators almost always have no idea how to write complex programs, they choose a “flow system” design that lets them drag and drop the processes into a data integration configuration without having to write a single piece of code. This flow system designing forms the basis of an iSaaS.
What is iSaaS?
So, how do we define an Integration Software as a Service or iSaaS? Here is how:
An Integration Software as a Service, or iSaaS, is a cloud-hosted integration tool that can be used to create flows or paths between SaaS (Software as a Service) or local systems that face the Internet. The iSaaS tools offer templates that make it easy for citizen integrators to address any data input and output issues between applications and databases. They also come with numerous features that enhance these capabilities for more complex requirements.
The main characteristics of an iSaaS would be:
- Cloud-based: the tool’s platform is hosted in the cloud and users can “pull” the services to use on their applications and databases
- Connector: the applications and databases could be locally hosted (requiring cloud-to-ground endpoint integrations), purely third-party SaaS services running in the cloud (requiring cloud-to-cloud endpoint integrations) or a hybrid combination of both architectures
- Triggered: the data flows can be configured to run on a schedule, when preset conditions are met or at the click of a button
It should also be noted that the triggers can be:
- Automated: a flow triggered automatically by an event, like an email arriving or a file changing
- Button: a flow triggered manually by a clicked button
- Scheduled: a flow that runs at a set time – either once or as a recurring action
Finally, consider this question; what would be better than using multiple SaaS solutions and applications?
Answer: a collection of SaaS solutions and applications that are integrated and come together to produce accurate, concise, and precise end-results based on the cumulative data extracted from their collective outputs. This would be a major improvement on using multiple, disparate SaaS solutions that don’t talk to one another.
The Five Best iSaaS Tools
Now, let us go ahead and have a detailed look at each one of the five best iSaaS tools:
Zapier is arguably one of the more popular iSaaS tools out there. Anyone that has had to interface data and datasets between two disparate systems – especially if they reside in the cloud – will have probably used this tool at one time or another.
Zapier is an excellent cloud application service that lets you create automated actions to connect unrelated business and productivity apps or databases – without any programming knowledge.
Looking at some of Zapier’s features we have:
- Zapier’s main selling point is that it is pretty straight forward and easy to use – and yet, the tool can be used to create complex workflows called “Zaps”.
- There is also the fact that it can connect – it seems – almost any two applications or databases that accept inputs, have outputs (or both), simply because of its ability to create a chain-link of intermediary actions and applications in between them making them “multi-app Zaps” of which there are 2,000 choices to pick from.
- Of course, things might get a bit complicated when reiterative updates are required as Zapier only allows one-way syncing; but, Zapier Paths can help with multiple conditions in a single flow. It is a new feature that lets you define conditional logic between the steps in a Zap.
- There is no need to worry about tasks not running on schedule due to unforeseen circumstances (like an unavailable third-party API, for example) – Zapier’s Autoreplay can be configured to rerun unsuccessfully released jobs at preset intervals.
- Zapier’s support isn’t just limited to their own platform; they offer 24-hour support that covers all the third-party applications that use their flows – this means users are covered from end-to-end.
Unfortunately, Zapier does not allow for automation using a mobile app – on any platform – and that is the only drawback with this iSaaS.
Oracle Corporation is a tech giant that is better known for its databases, middleware, and server operating systems. It is among the top operating systems of choice for the cloud. It is the makers of Oracle Cloud Platform – its flagship PaaS (Platform as a Service).
The PaaS includes Oracle Self-Service Integration, an iSaaS to help with the automation of tasks that run between cloud applications as well as on-site LAN deployments.
Delving into its features, we have:
- This iSaaS works with many of the products from the other technology giants: SAP, Facebook, Microsoft SQL Server are a few among the numerous apps found on Oracle Marketplace that can be used.
- It can also be used to integrate a wide array of data types, as well as processing it as wanted: bidirectional replication, providing data services and ensuring data quality – or parsing – for use further down the line.
- It has a designed dashboard that is easy to navigate, and work with, as users design their flows – and yet, it allows for complex designs, administration, and maintenance of flows.
- Designing even the most complex of flows can be done by simply clicking and typing; no coding is required – just a mastery of the mouse and knowledge of the business processes’ requirements.
- Typical of their cloud database systems, Oracle’s Self-Service Integration is also fast and robust – a characteristic that is common throughout its cloud products and services.
- All the flows that have been built or created need only be built once – in case there is a need to scale up, or the same flow models are needed elsewhere, they can simply be redeployed.
- Add to the fact that Oracle itself has an outstanding portfolio of enterprise applications for ERP and HCM, for example, it means businesses can enjoy even more enhancements and customizations on top of these quality products.
If there is any drawback to using this iSaaS tool, we haven’t seen it. What might need to be considered, though, is that businesses would have to adopt the Oracle Cloud Platform, infrastructure – at least partially – and environment for the advanced flows using its closed systems – which isn’t bad considering they have quality products to offer.
Here is an iSaaS from IBM, another major technology company. It is also among the leaders in cloud computing technology. Its IBM App Connect is a popular iSaaS tool that won’t disappoint in its delivery.
Let’s have a look at a few features and find out why:
- This tool automatically copies and syncs data between on-premises and cloud-based applications, without the need to worry about mismatched sources, formats, and standards; IBM App Connect integrates a wide array of applications using REST APIs that expose data seamlessly, in a speedy manner, and allow for powerful integration methods.
- It can be used to connect legacy applications or systems to modern technologies using various integration styles — including the older service-oriented architectures as well as more modern, agile, and event-driven ones — thus, making any data virtually available irrespective of where it resides.
- The same seamless integration works between cloud and on-premises applications – users can achieve full connectivity using powerful, out-of-the-box connectors to bring the cloud and on-premises applications to work together.
- In case of custom data requirements, users can create their own flows that convert, enhance, and evaluate data as it passes between two end-points; in fact, advanced users can manipulate a chunk of data – by splitting it – or by iterating through rows using WHILE or FOR-EACH loops.
- Things couldn’t be easier for citizen integrators as they use comprehensive GUI mapping tools to work with data flows while the overall management and monitoring of all integrations can be done using a detailed dashboard.
IBM App Connect offers a free plan for “1,000 flow runs per month,” as well as other paid packages.
Once again, we have an iSaaS tool that comes from another one of the biggest technology companies on the planet. Obviously, the first and foremost advantage of using Microsoft Power Automate (formerly known as Microsoft Flow) is that it comes from the makers of the Windows operating system – the world’s most widely-used OS – which means the user interface (UI) will already be familiar to most users.
But, there are some more great features, including:
- Power Automate has hundreds of templates that are ready to use or can easily be modified to immediately start creating automation; what’s more, there is a template for almost any conceivable flow scenario in a business process – from easiest to the most complex.
- For those that need to address unique flow issues, they can go ahead and create new architectures from scratch; in fact, Power Automate lets anyone build secure workflows without the need for code, while also making it easy to share ownership of flows and give users the administrative privileges to edit and run them.
- Although Automate is a Microsoft product, it isn’t limited to the Windows operating system, it can connect any two data access end-points – including cloud and mobile apps – that can expose their data.
- There are connectors that can bring together almost all of the most popular social media platforms, communication applications, and productivity tools any business would normally use: Outlook, SharePoint, Cisco WebEx Meetings, and more.
- It can collect data, synchronize files, and send out notifications and alerts; and not just regular alerts – flow can be configured to use the Cognitive Services Text Analytics API to return an alert every time there is a negative comment on Twitter, for example.
- Power Automate can connect multiple workflows bringing together any number (and types) of data sources – using Common Data Service and a library of connectors – to create a unified view or source of data.
What’s really great about this iSaaS tool is that the free version is almost enough for most small-to-medium businesses’ automation. It allows for an unlimited number of flows – but they only get 750 runs per month while checks and reruns can only happen every 15 minutes.
Alternatively, a free trial and pricing information is available here.
This is the “Porsche” of iSaaS tools – it was made for businesses that have fully embraced the cloud and SaaS technology: Blendr.io is powerful and is chock-full of features. It is not the cheapest tool in this list, yet it can a solid ally and many network admins find it to be worth the investment.
Let’s look at some of the features to see why:
- Blendr.io is the full package with a robust integration layer that allows for complex data manipulation with no coding required, of course; it performs batch processing, loops, conditions, variables, custom scripts, and integration between over 500 applications.
- It integrates CRM, marketing automation solutions, ERP software, accounting systems, e-commerce platforms, and many other enterprise cloud solutions.
- This tool has a clean-cut dashboard that controls all flows in one central place and allows users to perform full-fledged data manipulation or ETL (Extract, Transform, Load), from multiple data sources.
- It also helps control the front end and the creation of UIs (user interfaces) that help prevent errors; this in turn creates a better UX (user experience) for the end-users who run the integration jobs.
- The beauty of it all is that it is platform-independent – meaning businesses can simply use Blendr.io directly from the cloud.
- This also means Blendr.io can handle and process Big Data and store it on AWS (Amazon Web Services) – this guarantees secure data storage both temporarily and permanently.
Blendr.io offers a free trial before you commit to a subscription.
Advantages of iSaaS Tools in processing
Let’s now have a look at the advantages of having an iSaaS tool running in your business:
- Focus on main processes: businesses can focus on their core business processes and let iSaaS tools handle the mundane, repetitive tasks. It saves time, avoids human error, and is cheap – if not totally free.
- Effective personnel: iSaaS takes the business process to the cloud which frees up man-hours that would otherwise be wasted; it also enables citizen integrators to contribute to business growth.
- Easy to use: the tools enable end-users to configure, run, and manage their own processes or reports without support from IT.
- Discover new processes: businesses can discover new ways of consuming their data by creating a combination of flows and re-mapping endpoints for new ways of extracting information. A business can use these additional data flows to come up with new products or services.
- Bring legacy systems back to life: legacy systems that couldn’t be part of the cloud architecture can become productive again with the help of an iSaaS flow that takes their data and serves it in the correct format and platform. Data can also be sent back to the legacy systems to keep them up-to-date.
- Keep updating databases: iSaaS can further enable current systems with access to more data resulting in more comprehensive and accurate data processing.
- Achieve compliance: businesses can attain regulation compliance – e.g. HIPAA – by directing data flows into secure paths to increasing the safety of the data that passes through.
- Reduced response times: iSaaS tools help in making timely decisions and actions via alerts – whether it is system failures or customers’ complaints on social media platforms, they can be resolved in a short amount of time.
iSaaS tools can take your business to the next level
Your iSaaS tools can help your business grow. Here’s how:
- Scalability: when a business’s traffic and data rise it needs to grow its hardware and bandwidth; this could prove expensive. Using iSaaS tools can alleviate this problem by moving data to the cloud and using processes to automate it.
- Cost-cutting: businesses can eventually get rid of much (if not all) of their hardware needs by moving data to the cloud and using iSaaS tools to help use it in the office.
- Universal access: with the data in the cloud there is no longer a need for employees to be in one office; they can work on it from anywhere in the world.
- Better performance: cloud data storage means the best infrastructure is made available to them; this improves the overall performance of the business as a whole.
- Security: online data storage providers take care of the security of the data, and they are serious about it; their clients can guarantee secure storage of their clients’ and their own data.