IaaS, PaaS or SaaS: Which Kind of Service Do You Really Need?

Choosing what kind of cloud-based service is a complicated question, the answer to which will depend on a wide range of factors, many of which will vary wildly based on your organization’s unique needs. Before beginning to discuss which is right for your organization, you need a thorough understanding of what SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS really are.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

There is some similarity between SaaS and the old thin-client method of software provision, whereby clients provide points of access to pieces of software that are running on servers. SaaS, out of all the forms of VPS cloud models, is the form which consumers are most familiar with. 

The SaaS model shifts the management of software as well as its deployment to third-party services. Most businesses are also extremely familiar with SaaS-based applications such as the CRM tool Salesforce, Google’s suite of productivity apps, and cloud storage solutions like Dropbox.

By using SaaS applications, you can reduce the cost of owning software as you eliminate the need for IT staff to manage, upgrade, and install software. You also significantly reduce the cost of licensing software, as SaaS programs tend to be available on a subscription model.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

While SaaS solutions are often consumer facing, PaaS systems work at a lower level. PaaS solutions typically provide a launch pad from which various pieces of software can be both developed and deployed. 

PaaS providers minimize a significant portion of the work of dealing with servers. This means that much of the backend, such as the operating system, server software, server hardware, and network infrastructure is already done. This leaves users with more resources to focus on the development of their product or service.

PasS is consistent with most cloud services in that it is built on top of virtualization technology. This means that organizations can get more resources as their needs expand, scaling as demand grows, rather than risk investing in hardware.

Some examples of well-known PaaS providers include Heroku, Google App Engine, and Red Hat’s OpenShift.

Infrastructure as a Service

IaaS products act as the base for all cloud services. It is made up of highly automated and scalable computing resources, complemented by cloud-based storage and network capabilities, which can be self-managed, metered, and made available on-demand.

Providers of IaaS make these cloud-based servers and any associated resources available via dashboard or API. Customers of IaaS organizations can get direct access to both their servers and storage. This works just as it would with traditional servers but instead consumers can quickly and reliably gain access to as much capacity as needed. 

Every user of an IaaS platform can easily and quickly outsource, thereby building a virtual data centre in the cloud. This gives them access to many technologies and resources historically reserved for traditional data centres without the need to invest into capacity or having to worry about maintenance and management. 

When to Use SaaS

Many non-technology based firms have a bare-bones development and IT staff. If this is your organization then you shouldn’t be too concerned about building your own software when someone else can build it and do a much better job. 

SaaS perfectly accomplishes this. When working with SaaS providers, you’ll get technical support, updates, as well as a subscription, which allows you to cancel at any time. 

Even organizations that do have a fleshed out IT staff and build software still benefit from SaaS as there are some elements that they’re not well equipped to perform. This can include customer service, user experience, marketing automation, or payment processing.

When to Use PaaS

If your organization has the demand, resources, and time to build custom software solutions, but you don’t have the expertise with handling servers, networks, and managing databases, then PaaS could be what you need. 

PaaS solutions store your information alongside other organizations, but a variety of security measures like encryption and compartmentalization keeps your information completely separate and secure.

When to Use IaaS

IaaS solutions are for extremely technically competent organizations. They’re a good choice if you need a custom solution for the underlying hardware of software powering your app. In addition, if you have specific security concerns, then IaaS is a great solution as you can create a private cloud or an isolated database.

What Solution is Best for You?

Each organization will have a different set of skills, priorities, and goals. This means that there is no one true answer that works for everyone. However, in general, if your application is meant to supplement your product or service, then you’re probably best off by using SaaS solutions unless you’re extremely technologically competent. 

Even if you have the set of skills you need to get the job done, your resources are likely better spent on other areas. 

If your business is extremely technologically savvy, or your app is your core business, then you’ll probably want to consider either a PaaS or an IaaS solution. These options give you the flexibility you need to design your application to do exactly what you want it to.

Author: Sean is a content specialist for a Healthcare IT Services Provider. Sean is a dreamer, idea generator and teller of stories. Sean is also a Basketball fan, traveller, and vintage furniture lover.

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