Cloud migration has become a worldwide phenomenon in which digital assets like data, applications, IT as well as business operations are moved to cloud computing models. It means moving workloads from physical facilities to the cloud. Moving to the cloud offers the following benefits:

  • Agility
  • Operational efficiency
  • Cost savings
  • Better collaboration
  • Higher productivity

There are three cloud computing models for businesses to consider. According to data from idc.com, the global market share of SaaS was 63.6%, that of IaaS was 21% while PaaS had 15.4% of the market share in 2019. Which one is more suited for your business? Let’s find out.

What is SaaS, IaaS and PaaS in cloud computing?

Software as a Service is a remote web service, a type of service you use over the internet. It’s an online application hosting service used centrally usually over a web browser, managed by a third-party vendor who offers interfaces on the client-side. It’s unlike the traditional software that needs to be installed in each device. Instead, it’s an app available on the internet. It’s also known as on-demand/web-based software. Some examples of SaaS are Dropbox, Slack, Hubspot, Salesforce, G-suite. They have hosted software applications that use a web delivery model. The vendor takes care of everything, including runtime, data, servers, and storage. Users subscribe to it as opposed to purchasing it. 

Infrastructure as a Service is when the vendor provides the necessary infrastructure to a company, such as storage, networking, and servers. They allow for dynamic scaling and automation of tasks. It’s also known as Hardware as a Service where IT infrastructure is outsourced by a company offered in public, private and hybrid clouds. IaaS providers typically offer computing services, backend storage, networking components, and load balancing capacity within the entire infrastructure. They can be acquired on a pay per use model with shared usage and web access/connectivity. Organizations do not have to purchase and maintain their own hardware. Also, IaaS allows for virtualization, automation, and on-demand scalability. Popular examples of IaaS are Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Linode, Amazon EC2, Rackspace, and DigitalOcean.

Platform as a Service is ideal for development, applications, programming language execution environment, database, web servers, testing, and deployment. Its core strength lies in delivering the framework for building, developing, and managing complex apps but companies don’t have to deal with the technical components of servers, databases, etc. because the vendor supplies the underlying structure. Developers can create and host applications in the same shared environment with plenty of in-built tools which also facilitates remote working. Examples include Google App Engine, AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Heroku, Force.com, OpenShift, Apache Stratos, SAP cloud, Azure, Salesforce Lightning, among others.

When to use which model?

SaaS

SaaS is ideal for start-ups and small companies who may not have big budgets to invest in on-premise hardware and software. Businesses can simply pay monthly subscription fees without major investment and get online accounts with individual login access which can be used on any device provided there’s an internet connection. A large number of companies already use some common SaaS services at a low cost and easy adoption and simple maintenance, e.g. Jira, Trello, Gmail, Google Docs, etc. 

If you’re an e-commerce company or any other company looking for quick growth without worrying about the infrastructure, you must consider SaaS. Research shows that moving to the cloud can boost growth by at least 20%. You won’t need equipment or even office premises. A device with an internet connection will do, so ultimately SaaS is quite cost-effective without huge initial investment and IT infrastructure. Not only can you eliminate hardware expenses but also cut down on hiring any IT staff. They are easy to deploy as there’s no installation or physical management. They have auto-update features as well as upgrades, maintenance, and customer support. You get guaranteed service along with troubleshooting. The vendor provides security, backups, and data recovery as well. If you have employees from a non-technical background too, SaaS proves to be simple because there’s no learning curve. 

Companies looking to develop team projects, with access to the web and mobile applications should choose to invest in SaaS models in order to build customised products at affordable rates. Even as your business grows, you can add more users easily. Start-ups can especially benefit from adopting SaaS as they don’t have to waste time in building infrastructure and focus on the core business. Even if you use SaaS for a specific purpose, like payment processing, customer relationship, or marketing, your overall productivity can be hugely aided. 

While cost and time saving and seamless availability are the best advantages of SaaS, some limitations associated with SaaS are inadequate security, lack of in-house control over the hosted services from the vendor, and data compliance inconsistencies. 

PaaS

This model is good for small, medium-sized, or larger businesses with IT/software teams. Your company may be equipped to develop software and customise it but not interested in the complex hardware and database management but still have more control over the platform functions. It’s also good if your focus is more on the creative/design side of a digital product while the challenging technical aspects may not be your forte. There is the availability of 

categories of resources that suit your business with multiple users to design, test, and develop apps. 

You get access to high-performance data centers with server infrastructure as well as other offerings like memory, storage, app development, and productivity tools. Your developers can quickly finish the product development and deployment cycles. Companies can choose between private, public, and hybrid cloud storage depending on budget and business requirements. 

One of the other benefits of PaaS is a boost to newly emerging businesses who don’t want to waste time setting up hardware/core stack maintenance, increase security and get to market quickly while having the flexibility to operate from different locations. 

The main difference between SaaS and PaaS is that while SaaS is completely a third-party solution, for a variety of purposes, while PaaS provides tools over the internet to developers to create and build apps. You do get control over the data you generate and the apps you build. 

Developers don’t need to write thousands of lines of code from scratch. It’s like renting a couple of rooms instead of renting a house. PaaS is based on virtualization, is scalable, and doesn’t require complex hardware admin/ management. 

When a business needs to focus on the core functionality with multiple programming languages, design and creative/innovative aspects of app building with quick testing and deployment, without worrying about the underlying infrastructure and physical tasks associated with it, PaaS is the ideal choice. Distributed teams can greatly benefit from using PaaS. Buyers can also choose for an automated additional layer of PaaS on top of existing infrastructure and get access to customizable source code, load balancing, app monitoring, and other vital automation features. Some challenges associated with PaaS are security concerns, lock-ins with languages and features you may not need, and compatibility with different platforms/tools. 

IaaS

Infrastructure as a Service is a whole gamut of cloud infrastructure on top of which companies can build/ install desired platforms. Users are responsible for maintaining and updating the new versions of individual platforms and services installed. As opposed to expensive physical on-site services, companies can get access to remote services on a pay per use basis without purchasing them and maintaining control over all components. 

IaaS is perfect for companies or enterprises needing enhanced security and customisation. Because of its flexibility and scalability, businesses in the e-commerce, healthcare, finance, and other sectors needing to store huge amounts of data and direct virtual access with complete control, should consider IaaS.

Features of IaaS include running your own websites/applications, virtual data centers, scalable environment, huge computing power for data analysis, and guaranteed data security. If a particular vertical of your business or a lengthy project requires a virtual machine, IaaS can eliminate the need to invest in initial hardware investment and future-proof your business with ongoing support and maintenance. 

Practically speaking, IaaS is appropriate for small or big businesses. Large enterprises get to maintain control over every aspect while smaller companies can get similar benefits by paying for only that which they need. The main difference between IaaS and PaaS is that IaaS (apart from providing more control and hosting sites), it is more equipped to handle unpredictable customer demands and growing data storage needs as well as GUI and API-based access.

Ultimately, a company’s decision to choose either SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS depends on factors such as types/size of projects, immediate availability of services, scalability, collaboration requirements, high-quality performance, security, storage needs, budget restrictions, and the dependence on ready-made solutions for particular executions/deployment. 

Companies should weigh the pros and cons of each cloud storage in the context of business needs before making the final choice.