IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS | Hacker Noon

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@jnyhJames N

perpetual student | fitness enthusiast | passionate data scientist | https://github.com/jnyh

If your ecommerce business is progressing to the Cloud, you need to be familiar with these three main types of cloud computing:

· IaaS — Infrastructure as a Service
· PaaS — Platform as a Service
· SaaS — Software as a Service

These are all experiencing a surge in popularity as more businesses move to the Cloud. Gartner forecasts worldwide public cloud revenue to grow 17% in 2020. With growth rates like these, cloud computing will soon be the industry norm, and many businesses are phasing out on-prem software altogether.

Utilizing cloud computing is a great way to future-proof your business.

Definition of On-Prem, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS

It was actually not so long ago, that every company’s IT systems were on-prem (located at the company’s premises), and clouds were only those white fluffy stuff in the sky.

Today, you can utilize the Cloud platform for nearly all your systems and processes. SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS are simply three ways to describe how you can use the cloud for your business.

· IaaS: cloud-based services, pay-as-you-go for services such as storage, networking, and virtualization.
· PaaS: hardware and software tools available over the internet.
· SaaS: software that is available via a third-party over the internet.
· On-prem: software that is installed in the same building as your business.

Here is a visual breakdown of these cloud services:

Examples of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS

Most businesses use a combination of SaaS and IaaS cloud computing services, and many engage developers to create applications using PaaS, too.

IaaS examples: Amazon Web Services (AWS) EC2, Rackspace, Google Compute Engine (GCE), Digital Ocean, Magento 1 Enterprise Edition.

PaaS examples: AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Heroku, Windows Azure (mostly used as PaaS), Force.com, OpenShift, Apache Stratos, Magento Commerce Cloud.

SaaS examples: Novade Solutions, BigCommerce, Google Apps, Salesforce, Dropbox, MailChimp, ZenDesk, DocuSign, Slack, Hubspot.

IaaS businesses offer services such as pay-as-you-go storage, networking, and virtualization. IaaS gives users cloud-based alternatives to on-prem infrastructure, so businesses can avoid investing in expensive on-site resources.

IaaS Advantages:

Maintaining on-prem IT infrastructure is costly and labor-intensive. It often requires a significant initial investment in physical hardware, and then you will probably need to engage external IT contractors to maintain the hardware and keep everything working and up-to-date.

With IaaS, you can buy what you need, as you need it, and purchase more as your business grows. IaaS solutions are highly flexible and highly scalable, and you can replace it whenever you need without losing money on your initial investment.

Another advantage of IaaS is it puts control over the infrastructure back in your hands. You no longer need to place faith in an external IT contractor; you can access and oversee IaaS platforms yourself if you wish (without being an IT wizard).

IaaS Platform Characteristics:

· Highly flexible and highly scalable.
· Accessible by multiple users.
· Cost-effective.

When to Use IaaS:

IaaS is beneficial to businesses of all shapes and sizes, as it allows complete control over your infrastructure, and operates on a pay-as-you-use model, so it fits into most budgets.

As it becomes less common to invest in physical hardware and IT infrastructure, choosing IaaS alternatives is a safer, more reliable option. With most IaaS platforms, you get access to ongoing support and have the option of scaling up your requirements at any time.

A PaaS vendor provides hardware and software tools over the internet, and people use these tools to develop applications. PaaS users tend to be developers.

PaaS Advantages:

PaaS is primarily used by developers who are building software or applications. A PaaS solution provides the platform for developers to create unique, customizable software. This means developers do not need to start from scratch when creating applications, saving them a lot of time (and money) on writing extensive code.

PaaS is a popular choice for businesses who want to create unique applications without spending a fortune or taking on all the responsibility. It is kind of like the difference between hiring a venue to put on a show, verses building a venue to put on a show. The venue stays the same, but what you create in that space is unique.

PaaS Platform Characteristics:

· Accessible by multiple users.
· Scalable — you can choose from various tiers of resources to suit the size of your business.
· Built on virtualization technology.
· Easy to run without extensive system administration knowledge.

When to Use PaaS:

PaaS is often the most cost-effective and time-effective way for a developer to create a unique application.

PaaS allows the developer to focus on the creative side of app development, as opposed to menial tasks such as managing software updates or security patches. All of their time and brainpower will go into creating, testing, and deploying the app.

SaaS platforms make software available to users over the internet, usually for a monthly subscription fee.

SaaS Advantages:

With SaaS, you do not need to install and run software applications on your computer (or any computer). Everything is available over the internet when you log in to your account online. You can usually access the software from any device, anytime and anywhere (as long as there is an internet connection).

The same goes for anyone else using the software. All your staff will have personalized logins, suitable to their access level. You no longer need to engage an IT specialist to download the software onto multiple computers throughout your office or worry about keeping the software on every computer up-to-date.

It is all taken care of in the Cloud.

Another key advantage is the payment structure. Most SaaS providers operate a subscription model with a fixed, inclusive monthly account fee. You know exactly how much the software will cost and can budget accordingly, without worrying about hidden surprises. Most subscriptions include maintenance, compliance, and security services, which can be time-consuming and costly when using on-prem software.

SaaS providers also offer out-of-the-box solutions that are simple to set up (if you need a basic package), with more complex solutions for larger organizations. You could have the basic software up and running within a matter of hours — and you will have access to customer service and support along the way.

SaaS Platform Characteristics:

· Available over the internet.
· Hosted on a remote server by a third-party provider.
· Scalable, with different tiers for small, medium, and enterprise-level businesses.
· Inclusive, offering security, compliance, and maintenance as part of the cost.

When to Use SaaS:

SaaS platforms are ideal for when you want an application to run smoothly and reliably with minimal input from you.

Take your email server, for example. You want to know that you will continue to send and receive emails without needing to fiddle with your email settings or worry about updates. Imagine if your email server went under because you forgot to update it and you went days without email? That is simply not an option in today’s marketplace.

If you use a SaaS platform to run your email inbox, the chances of something going wrong are very small. And if something did go wrong, it would be up to the SaaS provider to find a solution. You are not only paying for the SaaS applications/products: you are paying for a peace of mind.

Each of these cloud computing service gives users choice, flexibility, and options that on-prem hosting simply cannot provide. The level of system administration knowledge decreases in this order:
On-prem > IaaS > PaaS > SaaS.

Using pizza as an example to breakdown each type of service:

· IaaS is there to provide you with maximum flexibility when it comes to hosting custom-built apps, as well as a providing a general data center for data storage.

· PaaS is most often built on top of an IaaS platform to reduce the need for system administration. It allows you to focus on app development instead of infrastructure management.

· SaaS offers ready-to-use, out-of-the-box solutions that meet a particular business need (such as website or email). Most modern SaaS platforms are built on IaaS or PaaS platforms.

You might choose to start with one or any combination of these cloud computing services, depending on the size and complexity of your business.

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