Most companies have found their own way around the cloud by strategically choosing a combination of the different services which best serve their interests. However, many SME just taking their first steps into the cloud might feel a bit lost in the chaos of acronyms and options available, when it comes to choosing the best cloud service for them.
Cloud computing services have fundamentally changed the way in which providers offer and companies hire different IT services. The possibility of using on-demand computer resources, particularly data storage and computing power, without direct active management or ownership required from the user has allowed companies to access a pool of endless possibilities, and has drastically reduced the investment necessary to achieve superior performance.
According to a recent study done in the Nordic countries, cloud service adoption has increasingly become a key enabler for digitalization and realizing data driven opportunities for organizations, while IT has become a key enabler for strategic growth. Cloud mature organizations which have a cloud strategy in place show a 17% higher capacity to support their own business processes, and are 15% more efficient in increasing their competitiveness, while their IT operations costs is as much as 20% lower.
Making the decision to move from on-premises to cloud computing services can be hard, specially when unsure of how to choose the best cloud service for your company. With this post, we will help you navigate this essential strategic move so you can harness all the potential for strategic growth offered by it without getting los in the cloud.
It is easy to get lost in the labyrinths of acronyms that populate the cloud service jargon. So, to set things a bit more clear, let’s revise these different models from the one that requires the least management to the most:
SaaS is the acronym that stands for Software as a Service. Software as a service (SaaS) is a software distribution model in which a third-party provider hosts applications over the internet. The software is therefore used online, and requires no installation or running of the application locally. The only requirement is to log in an existing account and having an internet connection. Every user will have a personalized login which will be usable from any device.
SaaS pricing model also differ from that of the traditional software solutions, where usually an up-front payment was required in order to purchase a perpetual use license (sometimes also offering some sort of optional ongoing support fee). With SaaS the most usual price model is that of a subscription fee, most commonly a monthly fee or an annual fee, that allows users to access the application. The total amount of such fee will typically depend on some usage parameters, such as the number of users (“seats”) accessing the application. As a result, the initial setup cost for SaaS is usually lower than the equivalent proprietary software.
SaaS main advantages are related to time and money saving. Since installing, managing, and upgrading the software is carried out off-premises by others, the company’s technical team can instead focus on the organization’s own matters. As a result, this model of cloud software is really convenient for SMEs and start-ups, short-term projects, or applications that aren’t used often.
The downsides of SaaS are the vendor lock and less control over some aspects of the software that are not managed in-premises.
Some examples of SaaS are Google Apps, Dropbox, GoToMeeting or SuperCards.
PaaS is the acronym for Platform as a Service. Platform as a Service (PaaS) or platform-based service is a cloud-based computing service that provides a platform where users can to develop, run, and manage applications. These applications, sometimes called middleware, are scalable and highly available as they take on certain cloud characteristics.
PaaS is primarily used by developers who are building software or applications and who don’t want to get involved into the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching an app. PaaS allows users to develop higher-level programming with reduced complexity; it makes the overall development of the application more effective, as it has built-in/self up-and-down ramping infrastructure resources; and it simplifies the task of maintaining and enhancing the application.
In PaaS the developers can maintain management of the applications while all servers, storage, and networking can be managed by the enterprise or a third-party provider. The delivery model is therefore similar to that of SaaS, except instead of delivering the software over the internet, PaaS provides a platform for software creation.
PaaS advantages are related to its scalability and availability, with a very customizable component for minimal coding: which makes it a simple and cost-effective way of developing and deploying apps.
PaaS is really attractive for companies that need to create custom applications or where several developers are working on the same project and need to stream workflows. In those cases, PaaS can provide the entire process with flexibility and speed.
The downsides of Paas are related to data security concerns, vendor lock and operational limitations.
Some examples of PaaS are Windows Azure, Heroku, Google App Engine, or OpenShift.
IaaS is the acronym used for Infrastructure as a Service. Also known as Hardware as a Service (HaaS), IaaS is a cloud computing model that delivers full self-service of both hardware and software: computing, servers, data centre, network and storage infrastructure resources to support corporate operations.
IaaS providers deliver policy-based services to consumers on an outsourced basis, on-demand, and a pay-as-you-go basis. They are responsible for housing, operating and maintaining the equipment. On the other hand, the consumers are able to scale or shrink resources according to their needs, which significantly reduces costs and deems unnecessary to own a big infrastructure just for taking care of variable workloads. In contrast to PaaS and SaaS, IaaS users control and manage applications, data, runtime, middleware, and OSes in the cloud.
IaaS appeared in the early 2010s and quickly became a popular model. A decade later, it could be said that it has become the standard abstraction model for many types of workloads. However, the emergence of new cloud technologies, such as containers and serverless, pose a challenge to the supremacy of the IaaS model in certain categories of applications and workloads.
IaaS obvious advantage is that of being the most flexible cloud service, easy to automate and scalable according to the needs of the moment. Such characteristics made this model attractive to all kinds of companies. While start-ups and SMEs might benefit from the fact that they don’t need to invest in hardware and software acquisition, big corporations benefit form the higher control that they can retain over those.
Limitations concerning IaaS are related to security, legacy systems operability in the cloud, and the extra internal resources and training required for managing the infrastructure.
Some examples of IaaS are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Cisco Metacloud, Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine (GCE).
In order to choose the best could service for your organization, you might want to ask yourself the following questions:
What do you need the service for, how long do you need it for, and how often will you use it? Is there any in house solution that is taken care of the problem already? Is it efficient?
How much time, money and working hours can you really put into the project? Are those resources available at your organization already, or will they require a big effort?
Are your problems so unique a complex that an out-of-the-box solution won’t even start to solve them? Do you need to tackle a very specific, niche process? Or do you prefer to relax, sit back, and let others worry about the bugging aspects of the service while you just enjoy the front-end results?
The answers to those three basic questions, compared to the descriptions above, will help you get an accurate assessment of your current needs for cloud services. And remember, should the circumstances change, so can your answer. One of the biggest advantages of cloud services it their ability to scale and adapt to the changing needs of their customers.
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