Saas Vs Isv

Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and Software-as-a-Service Providers (SaaS) operate within the same market, thus creating a push-and-pull revenue dynamic. In this article, you’ll learn the differences between these providers and gain valuable insights for positioning your offerings successfully.


  • ISVs develop and distribute software products independently and often collaborate with hardware manufacturers and platform providers. SaaS companies deliver software applications over the internet on a subscription basis, simplifying access and management for users.
  • While they operate under different business models, ISVs and SaaS share similarities in software development, cross-platform accessibility, and industry reach.
  • ISVs and SaaS providers differ in software distribution, licensing models, hosting responsibilities, support options, upgrade and maintenance procedures, and scalability.
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What are ISVs?

ISVs, or Independent Software Vendors, are businesses that develop and distribute software products to end-users. They operate independently of hardware manufacturers or platform providers, but collaborations with these entities are feasible. 

ISV software products are tailored to meet the specific needs of industries and users. Some well-known examples are Adobe, a design and creator platform, Autodesk, a leading construction management system; and Meditech, a healthcare information systems solution.

What are SaaS companies?

SaaS, or Software as a Service, companies host and deliver software applications over the internet on a subscription basis. Users can log in to the platform using their preferred web browser without purchasing and installing any application. 

Examples of popular SaaS apps include Shopify, an eCommerce platform, Dropbox, a cloud storage service, and Stax Bill, an automated payment processing system.

ISVs vs SaaS: An Overview

Technically speaking SaaS companies are also ISVs because they develop software. As such, all SaaS companies are ISVs (since they create software), BUT not all ISVs are SaaS companies, due to the differences in how they offer their software to end users.

This distinction highlights the different business models in the software industry. How companies price and distribute their solutions affects everything from revenue streams and customer interaction to product development and delivery methods. 

So whether you’re a software provider or a user (or both) understanding these differences is crucial because it helps you decide on which solution best fits your needs.

ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) SaaS (Software as a Service) Companies
Definition Businesses that develop and distribute software products to end-users. They operate independently but can collaborate with hardware manufacturers or platform providers. Companies that host and deliver software applications over the internet on a subscription basis, allowing users to log in and use the platform via a web browser without installing any application.
Software Distribution Through direct selling, hardware bundling, third-party resellers/distributors, and OEM partnerships. Primarily through direct-to-user subscriptions and third-party distributors.
Deployment & Hosting Deploy software on-premises requiring compatibility with different operating systems. Some may use cloud platforms for online solutions. SaaS solutions handle software deployment and management on the user’s behalf, utilizing cloud computing infrastructure for easier deployment.
Customer Support In-house support teams maintain direct relationships with end-users for assistance. Support through an in-house or outsourced central system, often leveraging robust support infrastructures like self-service portals, chatbots, and knowledge bases.
Business Model Generates revenue through various licensing models, catering to a wide range of industries and sectors with software that often requires on-premises deployment or specific platform compatibility. Relies on a subscription model with easy web access, making software available across any internet-connected device. Emphasizes user-friendliness and ease of access and management.


A Closer Look at ISVs

The ISV business model revolves around designing, coding, testing, and refining applications. This iterative process enables them to meet the constant demand for new and improved software solutions across industries and sectors. 

ISVs generate revenue through software licensing via subscription or one-time purchase. As an example, Intuit software operates on a subscription-based model, which users pay for on a monthly or annual basis. While Autodesk allows subscriptions and one-time purchases for permanent software access. 

To simplify the procurement process, ISVs target enterprises looking for ISV partners. These could include platform providers, hardware manufacturers, technology partners, channel partners, and system integrators. 

Consider Stax’s partner program. ISVs that integrate their solutions with Stax Connect gain access to the platform’s global reach, co-selling opportunities, and support. Furthermore, this ecosystem of partners allows Stax to expand into software solutions, cloud services, and artificial intelligence.

ISV solutions are more cost-effective than developing custom software in-house or purchasing off-the-shelf solutions. Yet, challenges arise when integrating them with existing systems due to compatibility, data migration, and interoperability issues.

Understanding SaaS Companies and How They Operate

SaaS solutions offer online accessibility without requiring users to install or manage software on their devices. It reduces the time and resources for setup and maintenance, improving users’ efficiency, productivity, and data management capabilities.

SaaS providers use Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to establish connections between their software and other applications. For example, Stax APIs and mobile development kits enable secure in-person, online, ACH, and mobile payments on any platform.

Such integrations enhance the overall customer experience. Users can access a wide range of tools within the familiar SaaS settings. This unsurprisingly has driven the SaaS industry to a 232 billion US dollar growth. 

However, SaaS companies need to optimize their products and adapt to evolving technologies to survive. This entails maintaining smooth integration with existing systems, which can be challenging due to differences in architectures and data formats. They must also implement robust encryption and address vendor lock-in to uphold their solution’s flexibility and security. 

4 Similarities Between ISVs and SaaS

While they operate under different business models, ISVs and SaaS share similarities in software development, cross-platform accessibility, and industry reach.

Software development

ISVs and SaaS providers focus on creating scalable and user-friendly applications. They often adopt a modular architecture to segment their applications into smaller, independent components. Components can be added, modified, or replaced without affecting the entire system.

Additionally, many SaaS providers and ISVs take advantage of open-source tools (such as Red Hat) frameworks, and libraries. Doing so accelerates development cycles while reducing software licensing and development costs. 

Cross-platform accessibility

Both models offer flexible solutions for multiple platforms to ensure a consistent user experience. In this way, users can transition between devices without disruptions in functionality or interface familiarity.

For ISVs, this means developing applications that can run on various platforms such as Windows, macOS, Apple, or Android. Some use cloud-based solutions to deliver online solutions (e.g., Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), or Salesforce AppExchange).

For SaaS companies, it means developing platform-agnostic, web-based applications. Users can access these platforms with any desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone browser, resulting in uninterrupted productivity.

Use cases and industry reach

ISVs and SaaS providers develop solutions for multi-industry use cases, including but not limited to:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
  • Accounting and financial management
  • Industry-specific solutions (e.g., healthcare, retail, and manufacturing)
  • Collaboration and productivity tools
  • Data analytics and business intelligence
  • Cybersecurity solutions
  • eCommerce platforms.

Both may also incorporate compliance standards in their products. The more tailored the software to the unique needs and workflows of particular industries, the better the organizational efficiency.

Compliance standards

ISV and SaaS companies must adhere to compliance standards and regulations to operate ethically and responsibly. They can work with compliance experts or third-party consultants to achieve this.

Compliance standards include GDPR for data protection, HIPAA for healthcare data privacy, PCI DSS for payment card security, and ISO 27001 for information security management. By following these, they can build trust with customers and mitigate legal and financial risks.

Now that we’ve covered the common ground between ISVs and SaaS providers, let’s analyze what sets them apart.

Key Differences Between ISVs and SaaS

Gain insights into the differences between ISVs and SaaS providers to elevate your software’s market position.

Software distribution

ISVs reach their target audience and make their software accessible to end-users through:

  • Direct selling through the company’s website and other online marketplaces
  • Hardware bundling with platform providers
  • Third-party resellers or distributors
  • OEM partnerships with hardware manufacturers

SaaS companies, on the other hand, rely mostly on direct-to-user subscriptions and third-party distributors. 

ISVs can strengthen these partnerships by optimizing their online presence and adding value to end users. For SaaS, finding underserved or emerging niche markets and customizing offerings is key to expanding their customer base.

Licensing and revenue models

ISVs generate revenue through upfront payments or recurring maintenance contracts. SaaS licensing, on the other hand, follows a subscription-based pricing model. Customers only pay based on the number of users, the volume of data processed, or other usage metrics each period.

ISVs can offer flexible licensing options, such as subscription-based models or pay-per-use pricing, to position themselves better. For SaaS, offering tiered pricing with varying features and functionalities to cater to different segments can help differentiate their subscription plans.

Deployment and hosting responsibilities

ISVs deploy software on-premises and require compatibility with different operating systems, such as Windows and Linux. Some ISVs may leverage cloud platforms to host online solutions. Meanwhile, SaaS solutions handle software deployment and management on the user’s behalf. 

SaaS solution’s cloud computing infrastructure offers easier deployment. Providers can further enhance it with user-friendly onboarding experiences, including webinars, templates, or pre-built configurations. In response, ISVs may consider offering hybrid solutions that combine on-premises deployment with cloud-based hosting. 

Customer relationship and support models

In the ISV model, in-house support teams maintain direct relationships with end-users for assistance. SaaS providers deliver support through an in-house or outsourced central system.

Customer-centric support allows ISVs to gather firsthand feedback that can help improve their products and services. SaaS companies can invest in robust support infrastructure (e.g., self-service portals, chatbots, and knowledge bases) to resolve issues efficiently.

Upgrades and maintenance

ISV customers are responsible for upgrading and maintaining the software, including installing patches, updates, and new versions. In contrast, SaaS providers handle upgrades and maintenance for all users.

Hands-off maintenance is a strong selling point for SaaS to showcase their commitment to providing a hassle-free experience. ISVs can outperform this by offering value-added services like free training and consulting to help users manage upgrades. 

Scalability and integration capabilities

ISV solutions may require additional infrastructure investments to support scalability. They’re deployed on-premises or in private data centers, so the capacity and resources are fixed. They require manual upgrades to handle increased demand.

SaaS platforms can accommodate changes in user demand without requiring significant adjustments, making them ideal for startups. These cloud providers also operate across multiple data centers and regions. Thus, they can fail over to alternate locations in the event of hardware failures or disruptions in one data center.

Elevate Your Software Company with Integrated Payments

Understanding the similarities and distinctions between ISVs and SaaS can help you make informed decisions about strategy.

As the software ecosystem continues to evolve, users demand all-in-one solutions. Innovate and provide tailored solutions that meet these needs, including flexible payment processing. Here’s how Stax Connect can help.

FAQs about ISVs

Q: What are ISVs?

ISVs, or Independent Software Vendors, are companies that specialize in making and selling software, which is designed to run on one or more computer hardware or operating system platforms. ISVs are a crucial part of the software industry, providing a wide range of software solutions and applications to customers across various industries. These solutions can range from specialized software for specific business operations to consumer applications for broader markets.

Q: What’s the difference between ISVs and SaaS companies?

The main difference between ISVs and SaaS (Software as a Service) companies lies in the way they deliver their software products to customers. For ISVs, software can be distributed in various forms, such as physical media, on-premise solutions, or cloud-based, depending on the product and customer preference.  On the other hand, SaaS companies deliver their software over the internet as a service. This means that instead of purchasing software to install, or running it on their own hardware, customers access the software via the web or API, usually for a recurring subscription fee.

Q: What is an ISV example?

Some popular examples of ISVs are Adobe, Autodesk, and Meditech.

Q: Is a SaaS company an ISV?

Yes, a SaaS company can be considered an ISV because it develops and sells software. However, the defining characteristic of a SaaS company is its delivery model. While traditional ISVs might offer physical or downloadable software products, SaaS companies provide their software exclusively over the internet on a subscription basis.

In other words, while all SaaS companies are ISVs (since they develop software), not all ISVs are SaaS companies, due to the differences in how they offer their software to end users.