Many people view "the cloud" as synonymous with speed, innovation and scalability and industries across verticals are adopting cloud solutions. 

At its best, cloud computing enables on-demand network access to a shared pool of resources that allows businesses to work globally, experiment with agility and scale resource use as quickly as needed. When a business decides to adopt a cloud solution, they often base the decision around these benefits. 

However, "the cloud" is only an umbrella term which describes a variety of service styles. Finding the one that best fits your business needs can be daunting.

While many digital experience platform vendors freely call their service a "cloud DX platform," businesses should find out which type of cloud service is on offer. 

In the digital experience world, cloud offerings generally fall into three flavors of service: Software as a Service, Managed Services and Platform as a Service. 

Software as a Services: A 'Me-Too' Experience

Software as a Service (SaaS), as defined today, offers a one-size-fits-all solution that allows businesses to create digital environments quickly and easily, while requiring little to no maintenance. 

The downside of such a platform is that it offers limited flexibility to mold the software to your specific needs. With SaaS, what you see is what you get, and everyone gets the same package. 

SaaS solutions are quick to acquire and require limited upfront build, but are also closed off to development tweaks. 

For fundamental business technologies that don’t compete on differentiation, such as email, SaaS offers a strong solution. In areas where differentiating your business is what sets you apart, such as digital experience management, SaaS does not offer the flexibility and individualization necessary.

Managed Services: Customizations at the Cost of Speed

While SaaS offers no ability for customization, managed service providers take the opposite route and offer to customize every aspect of a solution, often glossing over the fact that these customizations come at a high investment of time and cost. The structure of a managed services solution is as follows: 

  • The building blocks of your digital experience platform, such as the servers, networks, data storage and operating system, are hosted in the cloud through an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 
  • The external vendor or a vendor partner then builds a solution, sometimes with a closed-architecture, that interacts with the IaaS and allows your business to manage your cloud-driven experiences 

Theoretically, using a managed service gives business a completely customized solution and great scalability, however, businesses might struggle to keep up with the pace of innovation that today’s fast-moving digital landscapes require. With managed services, adding new functionalities requires businesses to go through the external vendor, which bottlenecks innovation. 

If every person in the development pipeline was available 24/7, making changes would take a few hours to a day or two but in the real world, where vendors handle the needs of multiple clients, deployments take significantly longer. 

For companies that only want to make changes once or twice a week managed services can work, but companies that want to experiment and continuously innovate with their cross-channel environments, might want a less cumbersome solution. 

Platform as a Service: Speed and Efficiency

Platform as a Service (PaaS) offers businesses a set of tools that makes creating and deploying unique digital experiences easy and efficient, leaving the cloud infrastructure maintenance to the vendor. With PaaS, innovation rests in the hands of a business — changes can be made without the help of an external provider and new rollouts can happen in minutes throughout the day, if necessary. 

Crucially, a PaaS with an open microservices architecture, such as one built on REST APIs, provides the freedom of interoperability with an existing technology landscape, something impossible or unfeasible in SaaS and Managed Services. 

In the digital experience arena, using a PaaS allows you to mold the solution to fit your unique needs and allows you to experiment and test new initiatives quickly. 

Switching to cloud computing is a decision every company will at some point consider. Understand what you're getting with each flavor of cloud technology, and determine which solution best fits your business needs. By making an educated choice, you'll be taking steps to bring your organization effectively into the digital future. 

Title image Lionel Abrial