Over the past year, the concepts of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud computing have been hot properties. They have been the "it" topic at industry conferences, and vendors have been scrambling to release their own takes on both.

The concepts-similar but not synonymous-each offer numerous compelling advantages. Cloud computing enables end-users to avoid up-front purchases of expensive hardware and software licenses in favor of monthly or incremental payments. SaaS also allows users to pay as they go, and pay for only those portions of applications they use. Each keeps the onus for maintenance, upgrades and other onerous and disruptive tasks on the vendor, rather then the customer.

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