When it’s time to move to the cloud, which cloud service should you choose? To answer this question, you should consider asking yourself a few more.
Agility and scalability are the major business buzzwords. Today, each company feels the need to lay the technological foundation for growth and flexibility in order to adequately react to economic fluctuations and fluid customer behavior. Cloud is the technology number one for this task, so companies all over the globe hire dedicated specialists or consulting partners to move their business operations to the cloud.
However, there are different cloud solutions to match different business roadmaps and available resources.
SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS
There are three major models of cloud services:
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a public cloud app or platform available via a web browser. It’s ready to be utilized by end users as it doesn’t require installation or advanced configuration. Gmail, Google Docs and Salesforce are the examples of SaaS apps.
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is a framework where developers can build and deploy custom cloud-based apps while a vendor takes care of the servers and storage. Heroku, Force.com and Google App Engine are the examples of a PaaS model.
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is a cloud-based computing infrastructure that provides users with virtual servers, storage and networking on a pay-as-you-go basis. AWS and Microsoft Azure are the examples of IaaS.
Now when it’s clear what is what, it’s time to answer the key questions before going for any of these models.
Do you have in-house IT resources?
In case your company has limited IT resources for system administration, maintenance and training, SaaS apps and platforms are the best option. Users can start leveraging such products once the account is created. Though advanced features may require some training, SaaS systems are usually intuitive and user-friendly. They can be configured with drag-and-drop instead of coding. What’s more, all the updates and bug fixes are taken care of by the SaaS vendor.
PaaS is a great option when it comes to cutting costs on app development, as developers don’t need to manage hardware and middleware. It considerably accelerates time-to-market while maintaining a high level of scalability.
When companies need to grow fast or require huge computing power for big data analysis, IaaS is a more cost-effective option as it requires users to pay only for the resources they actually utilize. At the same time, IaaS users are responsible for managing their data, middleware, OSes and other infrastructure components, which amounts to much higher costs, a bigger IT team and intensive training.
Is data security an issue?
Though any cloud-based solution is exposed to security threats, IaaS proves to be the safest out of the three models. Users fully control their apps, data, middleware and OS, while the hardware infrastructure is kept in specialized data centers.
When it comes to PaaS and SaaS, data resides in vendor-controlled servers, giving users little control over the cybersecurity of these solutions However, PaaS is still a better option as it makes it possible to limit deployments when tenants don’t conform to security regulations.
As for SaaS, it’s the riskiest option in terms of data security due to the system’s public nature. SaaS apps send large volumes of data to their backend data centers in order to perform certain functions. As a consequence, when using SaaS cloud services, businesses need to adopt a special approach to their data governance policy.
Do you need custom functionality and third-party data sources?
SaaS, as an end product, is the most uncustomizable of all. In case it doesn’t have open integration standards, users’ capabilities are usually limited to utilizing OOTB features, connecting standard integrations, configuring dashboards, applying specific filters and scheduling reports. Even if a SaaS app supports multiple integrations, it can be technically difficult to port data from other vendors with non-standard APIs.
PaaS lets users build custom apps and focus all the efforts on the creative side. The model also offers broad but still limited integration possibilities. In some cases, there can be no pre-built connectors for integrating third-party apps or on-premises systems. Companies then need to invest internal resources in building custom connectors, which can be complicated or, sometimes, next to impossible.
If a company has enough IT resources, IaaS is the best option for integration and customization. For example, with IaaS it’s possible to mirror a habitual environment by keeping all the resources that the employees got used to, thus ensuring a minimum threshold for successful adoption.
Do you need complete control?
The blessing of a rapid kickoff with SaaS apps turns into a curse when it comes to trying to control them. This cloud model allows the least control over its interface, imposes forced updates, as well as makes you contend with security gaps, scheduled downtime or fixes of critical functionality.
PaaS provides users with much wider control opportunities as users have the right to decide how their app will look and function as well as to set up custom workflows. It’s also possible to provide distributed teams with a remote access to software architecture and collaborate without barriers. However, PaaS users have less operational control as well as no control over how virtual machines process their data. They also have limited capabilities when it comes to deleting or creating several machines at once.
IaaS delights users with the most control as users are able to directly access servers and storage, install and use any OSs and tools, and analyze big data while paying only for the resources they use.
What cloud model to start with?
Each cloud model shines in its own way depending on your specific needs. Businesses may choose to build their activities around one model but, in reality, most companies feel the need to use a combination of all the three. They can leverage an array of handy OOTB features of SaaS apps, create attractive and functional PaaS-based apps, and enjoy full operational control and data security with IaaS.
Andrey Koptelov is an Innovation Analyst at Itransition, a custom software development company headquartered in Denver. With a profound experience in IT, he writes about new disruptive technologies and innovations in machine learning and artificial intelligence.