Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are simply software available on the internet. Instead of downloading and installing an application on your computer, you get on your favorite web browser and use the software by going to its website.

The SaaS umbrella covers websites that are not just a brochure. The types of applications that live under the SaaS umbrella are as diverse as you can imagine. A few examples would be your grocery store's online ordering system, your tax or accounting software like NerdWallet or Quickbooks, or your social media of choice. If you can log in, it's probably SaaS.

Why use Laravel for SaaS Applications

When considering building a SaaS web application, there are a few things to consider:

  1. How many users do you expect to have

  2. How complex is the functionality you are planning 

  3. What is your budget to get an MVP (more on this later) into customers' hands

  4. Do you plan to charge for access

Let's break each of these down.

How many users do you expect to have? The volume of users you are hoping for plays a significant role in choosing the underlying server stack. Some applications target a smaller audience; others target the general public. Selecting an audience size is the first part, but then determining how many users you expect from that audience can help define the potential user count for your web application.   

How deep is the functionality you are planning? The scope of your application, and the features you plan to offer, will help define the type of server stack you need. If the application you are planning to build has a very narrow set of features, there may be a more straightforward way to achieve your goals without managing a custom web application. If there are a reasonable number of features or the plan is to have a very feature-rich application, it will be essential to ensure the underlying server and backend frameworks can handle it.

Do you plan to charge for access? While this is not the most significant consideration, it is essential to ensure that there is support for payment gateways and managing subscriptions, running single charges, and keeping it well structured in the database. You also need to make sure that you are maintaining billing information secure.

What is your budget for your MVP? This question relates to the previous few questions in asking how deep your feature set is and whether you are planning to charge for access. A Minimally Viable Product (MVP) is a term used to describe the simplest form of your application you could take to market or open up to a beta test. Getting to an MVP as quickly as possible is crucial in SaaS development. Your users will tell you what they need, and if you get it in their hands faster, you will learn, iterate and offer a superior product.

So why is Laravel so great for SaaS applications?

There are a few answers to that question, but here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Endless customization

  2. Authentication and Authorization

  3. Great Security

  4. Official Packages

  5. Scalability

  6. Templating engine

First up: customization. Laravel is just the framework. It is the underlying foundation of your application. Laravel gets out of your way and lets you build something unique. Using the Model, View, and Controller architecture allows for the development of the application in sections. There are very few limitations to what the MVC architecture can let you do.

Authentication and Authorization. The wheel was invented around six thousand years ago; we don't need to reinvent it. The same goes for authentication and authorization. Authentication is having a logged-in and logged-out state for your application. If you have ever signed into a website, you understand this concept. Authorization refers to what someone logged in should be able to do.

A simple example is that if our application is a blogging platform, I should not be able to edit your blog posts. And you should not be able to edit mine. If I am the author, then only I should be able to edit it. Another example would be that I don't want a random stranger using my social media accounts.    

Laravel has a fantastic authorization structure built-in. It is ready to apply rules to your application that will have your users doing what they should be able to do, not what they shouldn't.

Security is critical in all SaaS applications. Laravel uses AES 256 and AES 128 encryption out of the box. Additionally, it provides methods to help encrypt any data in the database. Laravel's encryption allows for the at-rest encryption of data. 

Security connects closely with authentication and authorization in that a secure system encrypts some of its data and limits access to things that must be kept hidden.

Official Packages are one of the best parts of Laravel. While the core of Laravel is feature-rich, the Laravel core team has built some great packages to help make development even faster. Some of our favorite packages include:

  1. Cashier - Cashier makes connecting to a payment processor simple. It helps with managing subscriptions and one-off payments. The methods that Cashier supplies to the developer make adding these features very straightforward and quick to get up and running.

  2. Sanctum - Sanctum helps with API and mobile application authentication. Your SaaS application often needs to talk to your mobile app and vice versa. Sanctum makes the authentication portion of this process simple.

  3. Socialite - Socialite makes social authentication a sinch. Log in to your application with Facebook, Twitter, Linked and more.

There are more official packages, and each one simplifies a specific type of feature development.

Scalability is a consideration for some SaaS applications. Truthfully it is only a consideration for some web applications. When we are talking about thousands of users, there will be some scaling considerations; if we are talking about millions of users, there is an entirely different set of things to be considered.  

There are a few features that Laravel brings to the table that support scaling. The Octane Package, Serverless solutions, and queuing. Each of these items handles a specific portion of how to scale your application effectively.  

The other area of focus for scaling a SaaS web application is coding. Performant code is essential, and skillfully using tools like Eloquent can make your web application extremely fast.

Front-end, templating, and design. The ability to create clean and DRY (don't repeat yourself) components make building out the front end of a web application much more effortless. Laravel is excellent in this part of the application. You can use any number of JS frameworks like Vue or React or the Laravel Blade templating setup with components.

Wrapping up

There are a lot of options out there for building your Saas application. And one of the critical areas to be considered is how hard it is to find help if your development team gets hit by a bus. Laravel was built on PHP, a solid programing language that has been around for a long time and has a very active community. While only some PHP developers are Laravel developers, they would have an easier time getting up to speed than someone from a different language. 

Consider your options, but Laravel is one of the best for building SaaS web applications.  We at Ravenna have certified Laravel developers who can help bring your idea to life.

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