Building a Software as a Product (SaaS) product is not easy. There are so many things to consider, the most important being the development architecture and all the challenges that determine the direction of the SaaS product.
Many seasoned developers simplify these challenges by picking the framework that would power the product. This seemingly minor decision essentially sets the boundaries and scope of the project and has a great influence on the features and capabilities of the SaaS product.
Over the years, Laravel has become the framework of choice for developing high-performance Laravel SaaS projects aimed at a large user pool and with several features that demand robust performance from the application backend.
In this article, I will start with a brief description of Laravel and the idea of SaaS. Next, I will discuss why Laravel is a great PHP framework for building SaaS applications, especially the fact that Laravel offers pre-built tools for managing SaaS subscription processes. In the end, I will mention an important factor that determines the success of Laravel-powered SaaS projects.
Let’s kick off with some definitions.
Software as a Product (SaaS)
SaaS is a software distribution model in which users interact and use the software directly over the internet (whether via a native app or a browser). In almost all cases, there is nothing to download and the users are able to extract full value just by accessing the online location of the product.
When it comes to SaaS pricing and revenue generation, very few SaaS products are single-sale. The majority of the products generate recurring revenue for the brand.
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For end-users, SaaS products offer simplified costing that fits all budgets. After an initial down payment (optional in some cases), the users only have to pay for per-use or a fixed volume of services consumed. Additional usage of services/products are available at nominal costs.
For developers, the SaaS model simplifies product development and deployment.
Deployment of the product is streamlined because of the distributed nature of the development model. Once the product has been developed, deployment follows the standard product deployment processes. In case of an update or a new feature, the new (or revised) component needs only to be deployed on the original server. The users just have to re-login to their accounts to use the new features.
What is Laravel
Laravel is an MVC framework built for web artisans. It provides a scalable structure to write elegant code which can be easily understandable. Laravel provides a system where developers do not need to worry about building the product from scratch. This is made possible by the pre-built functions and components that reduce development time.
When building apps, developers need to work on navigation, routing, authentication, security, password hastings, sessions and caching. Laravel removes the pain of reinventing the wheel because almost all the features can be built in just a few lines of code. Laravel is free, open-source and easily accessible for building awesome web apps.
Laravel provides peace of mind and tons of features that take care of database migrations, permissions, unit tests, and ecommerce modules.
Why Laravel is a Good Fit for SaaS
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are multi-user apps that deliver a wide range of features to the users. A use case of SaaS products is using existing products to create better applications that leverage the feature set of SaaS products to add value to online businesses.
Many people want to learn how to build a SaaS application perfectly, because it is not a straightforward process. Laravel is perfect for building these applications, as it is already equipped with all the components for building modules such as subscriptions, payments, and admin dashboards.
The framework simplifies the delivery of Laravel SaaS product functionalities such as free trials, full users and deal based offers. Additionally, Laravel is ideal for building products that serve thousands of users because of the robustness and extensibility of the Laravel framework.
Laravel Supports Modular App Structure
Being an MVC framework, Laravel allows developers to build modules (each with single or multiple features) that can be plugged into the main application.
Consider the example of an ecommerce store where you need to host a giveaway. For this, you can create a contest module that can be easily plugged into the main ecommerce application. Once the giveaway is over, the module can be disabled or plugged-out.
Laravel is (very) Customizable
Laravel simplifies application architecture and is ideal for large dev teams. Using a version control system such as Git, the development team can work on customizing the product features without worrying about code maintenance issues.
Given the MVC model, Laravel based applications have separate models, controllers, and views. Developers can work with these components in individual capacity without worrying about disturbing the application design and component connections.
Optimization is another dimension of customizability. Laravel comes pre-optimized with features like internal caching system, routes caching, autoload optimization, JIT compiler, minification, eager loading, and CDN. Developers can optimize all these components with custom code to add value to the SaaS product.
Third-party Tool Integration
When building Laravel SaaS apps, developers often want to connect third-party APIs (popular choices being payment gateways, image processing APIs, analytics) that must work together and produce data views for the users. Laravel has a simple API management process that is another reason why developers opt for Laravel for removing development complexities related to API connection and management.
Examples of SaaS Built on Laravel
Now that I have mentioned some reasons that make Laravel a great option for developing SaaS products, I would like to follow up with some real-world examples of Laravel powered SaaS products.
This Laravel package provides the much-needed scaffolding for essential SaaS product features such as billing, subscription, team management and invoicing. The best part – Laravel Spark also takes care of security features of the applications such as authentication, password resets, profile pictures and 2FA.
Cloudways is another great example of Laravel in action. The managed Laravel hosting platform simplifies cloud hosting for all users and ensures lightning-fast performance of all PHP powered applications.
On the Cloudways Platform, users can use several SaaS features such as invoicing, billing, payments while managing their Cloudways hosted apps.
Envoyer helps developers leverage all the benefits of continuous deployment for their projects. Simply connect the hosting servers to GitHub and then move files after commits. Envoyer is a perfect example of Laravel SssS applications.
Technologies to Create SaaS with Laravel
In general, a SaaS product comprises of three architectural components – the web stack, the frontend, and the backend. The business logic and the feature set is deployed on these three components. All this is generally invisible to the end-users who just see a dashboard and/or feature set that they can use for their business processes.
There are simply too many frontend and backend frameworks to recommend anything for building SaaS products. Add the number of libraries and packages that provide specialized services and the number of available options goes high enough to become a challenge for developers. The best thing about using Laravel is the native support of all industry-leading frameworks and packages.
Scalable applications often face optimization and performance issues. If the number of concurrent users starts increasing exponentially, the application can break down and/or the users can experience serious lag in application performance. In this context, SaaS product developers should explore Docker, Kubernetes and Cluster based solutions to deal with performance and uptime issues.
Single Window view for Laravel SaaS
To understand why Laravel and SaaS products are such a great mix, let’s consider a simple yet vital aspect shared by many SaaS products – dashboards.
Dashboards lie at the heart of the SaaS product design. All information from every touchpoint in the application architecture is displayed to the users through a dashboard. In many cases , all the user sees, is a dashboard that provides all the settings and options that the user needs to use the SaaS product.
If you are interested in exploring the idea of dashboards for SaaS products, Dan Schoenbaum has written a great piece on SaaS analytical dashboards.
Laravel & SaaS Revenues
Revenues are an important aspect of all SaaS product operations. According to a recent piece published in ZDNet, SaaS products are projected to earn in the neighborhood of $85 in 2019. If you are interested in a detailed breakdown of the SaaS revenue predictions, give this article a read!
Laravel can Support All SaaS Revenue Models
SaaS is great in that it supports a wide range of revenue models. From simple flat pricing to per user (and overall usage) resource consumption pricing models, SaaS-based products can support all revenue generation and collection ideas. If you wish to drill down deeper into the discussion of SaaS revenue models, this article is the first in a series of three on SaaS revenue models.
However, SaaS is all about recurring revenue generation. While there are products that prefer one-shot flat pricing, most SaaS products prefer a subscription-based revenue model that ensures sustained income and continuous user feedback that can be used to improve the product and move new ideas to the top of the execution pile.
Laravel Simplifies SaaS Revenue Processing
Laravel is the ideal framework for SaaS products, mainly because of the ease of adding payment collection and processing components to the platform. Meanwhile, you can certainly code your own payment collection module, why dedicate efforts to something that is already available in Laravel.
Laravel Cashier is a package that provides a powerful yet simple option for setting up subscription-based revenue collection product components. Based on Stripe, it is a great option for collecting recurring subscription-based revenues, coupons and general subscription management options. It is an end-to-end recurring revenue collection and process management component with digital invoicing and general user management capabilities. Using Laravel Cashier, SaaS products can create customized payment collection components that take care of both single-shot and recurring revenue models.
Hosting Solution For Laravel Powered SaaS Products
The solution that hosts SaaS products determines the long term success of the product. While selling the product in the first round is easy, the performance of the product ensures sustained revenues and an increasing market share.
As such, the hosting solution that powers the SaaS products demands careful consideration. Considering the cost to benefits (and features) ratio, cloud hosting offers the best solution for SaaS products. Shared hosting solutions do not provide the required features and the Dedicated servers simply cost way too much.
The Server Management Challenge
SaaS products live on servers and as such server management is a very important product development and maintenance activity. This is a common gripe of SaaS product developers all around the world, because server management distracts them from their core job – developing awesome SaaS products.
Once the product has been developed and tested in a sandbox, it is time to deploy it on a live server and open the doors for the users. This requires developers to match versions and eliminate package dependencies to ensure smooth operations.
Once the product is live, the issue of infrastructure management (in particular security and stack upgrades) continues to distract the team from focusing on product enhancements and feature improvements.
Managed Hosting to the Rescue
In this context, managed hosting is a lifesaver for SaaS product development teams. These solutions are built on top of industry-leading IaaS providers to ensure sustained optimal performance. The managed hosting provider adds a custom layer on top of the provisioned cloud server that takes care of the bulk of server management tasks.
Managed hosting providers offer a varying feature set that comprises of server provisioning, server management, stack upgrades and most importantly, the security of the server.
When SaaS developers opt for a managed cloud hosting solution, they only need to focus on their application layer and component integration, without worrying about server-level maintenance tasks.
Cloudways is the perfect hosting solution for Laravel SaaS-based applications. Its Laravel stack is pre-built with technologies like Nginx, Apache, Memcached, Redis, PHP7, and MySQL to provide the best environment for running large scale applications.
You can launch Laravel applications on one-click with a complete web stack, and then manage all the hosting matters directly from the platform. Lots of features that help you manage your SaaS apps like cloning, staging, CDN, SSL and remote connections can be set up with a few clicks.
SaaS is the way users are and will continue to use software products. To provide users with the best possible features, developers should select the best-of-the-breed technologies in the framework and feature delivery.
Laravel offers a diverse and very stable framework that simplifies development workflows and allows developers to create awesome features by leveraging the vast package library created and maintained by Laravel developers all over the world.
To deliver all the Laravel SaaS product features, developers have the option of using managed cloud hosting solutions during all stages of product development, delivery, and maintenance. With freedom from server management hassles, developers can continue to focus on development processes and let the managed cloud hosting provider take care of the rest!
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