The question for most organizations today is not if they will be moving all or part of their business to the cloud, but when and how. Agility is the name of the game as the demands of an ever-growing global workforces become greater, and a move to the cloud just makes sense -- technologically and for the business.

The advantages of taking your business operations into the cloud have been well-documented: high levels of scalability, a decrease in IT costs and a mobile work environment that allows your employees to plug in and be productive from anywhere. For productivity, most businesses are choosing between two options -- Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) -- while some turn to Platform as a Service (PaaS) to create software that is then delivered over the Web.

So how should you decide as a business which setup is best for you? Let’s look at the options.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

What is it? SaaS is software that is delivered to the end user as a ready-to-go platform. End users have the capability to use the functionality of the software without access to the infrastructure and administration. It’s like regular software that you would purchase and install on your computer; you have the functionality, you just do not have access to develop, update or customize it. SaaS focuses on end user functionality, delivered directly over the Internet.

Is it for you? If your company needs enterprise software functionality but can’t afford to deliver or allocate enough IT resources to make it work, then SaaS is your cloud model of choice. You pay only for what you use, on subscription terms that can be attractive to smaller and medium sized companies. SaaS allows for better scalability if you need to add users quickly, allowing them to be connected and working within minutes.

An example would be a company wanting to have Microsoft Exchange functionality so it can sync all devices with one centralized email storage. Any company can deploy Exchange server on its own, but for a hefty price. The alternative is to go to Microsoft or another third party provider and pay for only what is needed through a SaaS offering, and use an already running platform that is secure, has IT personnel already looking after it, for much cheaper. In this way SaaS can help decrease costs, as well as human and physical resources.

The SaaS model may not be the best fit for companies that have complex security retention and data retention requirements. It may not meet their security requirements and is not customizable. These companies would likely benefit from an IaaS model instead.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

What is it? A good way to describe IaaS is to call it a replacement of a regular datacenter within your own company’s walls. You are essentially renting hardware on a monthly basis without fronting the cost to purchase everything yourself. Generally, a service provider owns a huge pool of computing resources that is then leased for some period of time to a customer. Regular administration of your infrastructure is still your responsibility.

Is it for you? If you want everything under your control with no limitations on your software, then IaaS is for you. IaaS is a replacement for allocated hardware and allows you to have your own SaaS that is running on your own hardware, which can be highly customized to meet your business requirements.

IaaS is also the cloud model of choice for customers who don’t want to spend big dollars on IT purchases every few years. With IaaS, you can rent a server for say, $1,000 a month and it would work for you for three years, costing you about $36,000 over that period of time. When it needs to be replaced, your IaaS provider does so and you keep paying your monthly fee. That is a steep savings over purchasing brand new servers for $70,000 every three years.

There is a sort of hybrid mix of IaaS and SaaS that we will call “managed IaaS.” With managed IaaS, companies get the ease of software service delivery from SaaS, with the deep customization capabilities that come with IaaS. This model would be beneficial to companies that have complex IT requirements, but don’t have enough IT resources to support them.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

What is it? PaaS is primarily used for software development, allowing developers to build applications and services over the Internet.

Is it for you? If your company develops software as it’s business, then PaaS would be a fit for your development needs. It provides a huge computing power that can compile the code for your company when working on big projects, without needing to worry about if or how it will work.

If you want ... Full Deployment Control Minimum Total Cost Low Price  
Then Consider ... IAAS Managed IAAS IAAS
Or  Managed IAAS SAAS  

There are many considerations to weigh when choosing the cloud service model that will best serve your business, but a little bit of research will go a long way in your decision making process. No matter which model you choose, you’re enhancing your business and connecting your workforce in a way that can bring productivity to new heights.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Marie Buyens