The best Software as a Service (SaaS) companies of the 2010s decade

Thousands of SaaS companies provide cloud services to customers all over the world, but some stood out from the crowd during the decade that started with 2010.

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The widespread adoption of cloud-based computing services by businesses and organizations around the world continues to accelerate at a remarkable clip. According to Gartner, total worldwide cloud revenue will reach $214.3 billion by the end of 2019. Contrast that amount with TechJury's estimate that the same worldwide cloud revenue amount was only $24.65 billon in 2010. Nearly a complete order of magnitude better in 10 years.

Drilling down on Gartner's statistics, one can see that the Software as a Service (SaaS) market is expected to reach nearly $100 billion in 2019. Obviously, the growth of the SaaS market during the 2010 decade has contributed substantially to the overall growth of cloud computing services. But of the 12,000 or so SaaS companies offering services, which few stood out during the decade?

SEE: Top cloud providers 2019: A leader's guide to the major players (TechRepublic Premium)

Best SaaS companies of the decade

Before we start naming names, let me state for the record that this list of best SaaS companies is purely a personal choice and not based on any firm set of measurable criteria. There are literally tens of thousands of SaaS companies providing exceptional services to customers all over the world. If your favorite is not listed here, feel free to tell us why it should be in the discussion below.

For the purposes of this list we are also going to skip over the obvious big three players in the cloud computing services space—Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. In this article, we will consider those companies' collective offerings to fall into the Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) categories.

Salesforce

You would be hard-pressed to find a company that epitomizes the SaaS category over the past decade as well as Salesforce. Since its inception in 1999, Salesforce has been on a mission to provide quality CRM services for its customers and has seen its revenue grow from $1.4 billion in 2010 to $13.28 billion in 2019.

Perhaps even more noteworthy is Salesforce's commitment to cloud computing as a service that can transform also-ran businesses and organizations into industry leaders. In many ways, Salesforce has been the decade's primary cheerleader for the benefits of the SaaS and cloud services industry.

Microsoft Office 365

When CEO Satya Nadella took over at Microsoft, he committed the company's product line and services to the business enterprise and the cloud. That transition and refocusing of resources has paid off in many ways, including the aforementioned Azure and the venerable productivity suite Office 365.

By making the primary components of Office cloud-based services, which are accessed on a per user subscription model, Microsoft has been able to maintain and even grow its market share in the productivity space. The cloud nature of Office 365 means that the productivity suite can be updated with new features and security patches at will—a model businesses have come to expect from all cloud-based services.

As a cloud-based system, Office 365 can tap into the growing mobile workforce trends of the 2010s. For example, collaboration through cloud services like text, video conferencing, email, shared documents, etc., are now, after a decade of transition, standard operating procedure for many enterprises. Microsoft Office 365 caters to these trends and can therefore maintain its relevancy.

SEE: Office 365: A guide for tech and business leaders (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Slack

While an established tech company like Microsoft had to transition to the cloud, Slack's trajectory was organic and powered by a perceived need. Slack grew from a small, internal grass-roots idea of making a better collaboration tool to a major cloud-service company in the span of about seven years.

Launched in August 2013, Slack and the products and services it developed have defined an entire new genre of business software—the collaboration hub. The success of Slack is part of the reason there is such a thing as Office 365. Slack became a publicly traded billon-dollar company in 2019 and is now a primary player in the all-important team collaboration space.

Zoom Video Communications

Like Slack, Zoom Video Communications burst on the scene in 2011 to change the way businesses and collaborating teams hold meetings, especially video conference meetings. Zoom provides remote conferencing services using the power of cloud computing.

Before Zoom, video conference systems were expensive, clunky, and often failed to work as advertised. By removing that bulky and unreliable infrastructure from the equation, Zoom has been able to make video conferencing a productive reality for many businesses that could not afford such niceties before.

By adding additional collaboration, scheduling, and educational tools, Zoom has become an integral part of the team collaboration space. Many Zoom services can be accessed for free, with the basic business package available for about $15 a month.

SEE: More Decade in Review coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

Dropbox

Another company operating in the collaboration marketplace is Dropbox. The company was founded in 2007 but earned its prominent standing in cloud-based SaaS circles during the 2010s. Dropbox went public in 2018 and has more than 14 million paying customers as of November 2019. The standard plan sells for $12.50/month/user.

Dropbox provides a shareable cloud-based file storage system that is simple to use and is not reliant on the IT infrastructure of the customers it serves. If a user can access the Internet, they can access their Dropbox stored files. A team that can access the same document at the same time can collaborate on the contents of that document. A simple, but important, concept with a simple solution.

Adobe

The success of the subscription payment model for so many cloud-based SaaS companies has led many "old-tech" companies to change the way they do business. Adobe, for example, now offers its familiar set of business products online, with access granted by subscription. This change of pricing philosophy took place in the latter half of the 2010s decade and can be attributed to Adobe's renewed success.

By offering Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat for about $30 a month instead of requiring thousands of dollars up front, Adobe has become affordable to more users, raising profits, and raising the profile of the company. The prominence of collaboration as a standard business practice has also inspired the company to create new products for a new generation of users.

Oracle Corporation

Another old-tech company to find renewed success in the 2010s by embracing the cloud is the Oracle Corporation. While still concentrating on large business enterprises and their need for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and databases, Oracle has modified its approach away from expensive hands-on installations of new hardware with long-term maintenance contracts toward cloud-based SaaS services that more customers can afford. The transformation, started and completed during the past decade, has made Oracle relevant again.

Sophos

During the 10 years that make up the 2010s, cybersecurity attacks have skyrocketed to become a daily problem for any business connected to the internet. It is practically impossible for an individual business to keep up with ever-changing cybersecurity protocols. This is where a cloud-based SaaS like Sophos can step in to help.

Using the power of cloud computing, Sophos can offer businesses security protections and protocols ranging from an improved firewall to threat detection to breach responses. By outsourcing these security measures organizations can focus on their daily business while Sophos worries about keeping ahead of criminal cybersecurity activity.

Trends to follow into the 2020s

Looking at the list of best SaaS companies in the decade of the 2010s, you will notice several trends that will continue to be relevant in the 2020s.

Without a doubt, the most successful businesses in the next decade will be the ones that embrace the capabilities and predilections of the modern, always-mobile workforce. As younger employees enter the workforce, their affinity for mobile devices will continue to pervade day-today operations, and businesses must be prepared to take advantage. Contracting with prominent SaaS companies may be the most cost-effective method.

The other major trend to be gleaned from the 2010 decade is cybersecurity—or rather the lack thereof. With ransomware and other attacks, criminals have found a lucrative form of security breach that is not likely to go away any time soon. Cybersecurity attacks happen every day, and businesses will likely need help from dedicated cloud-based services just to survive the onslaught.

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