Cloud computing, like any new technology, comes complete with a set of specific terms and acronyms. Three of the most important, and fortunately simple, to understand are IaaS, PaaS and SaaS which refer to the level of service you’ll be receiving as a customer or developer.
What is IaaS?
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) means that you gain access to networked computer hardware. This can take the form of physical or virtual machines, which you can then utilise for your personal or business needs.
Some management resource will generally be provided, such as firewalls, load balancers, IP addresses, but the operating systems and applications will be your responsibility to install and update. This gives a wide range of flexibility in what you can use your resources for, but does carry a management overhead for your business, in addition to cost for the amount of resource allocated and used.
IaaS is widely available from a range of providers, including the likes of Amazon, Memset, Google, Windows and more. One tool which can make IaaS easier to manage is the development of templates for cloud services to provide a blueprint to build ready-to-use setups, and also to aid migration across different clouds.
What is PaaS?
Platform as a service (PaaS) goes further in supporting cloud computer users by including elements such as the operating system, database, web server and programming execution environment. In addition to the benefits of allow you to focus on your particular applications, it can also enable the cloud provider to manage and scale your resources automatically.
So PaaS can allow you to focus more on the front end applications and services, rather than spending time in the backend on your operating system etc. You’ll often find that PaaS is offered by the same IaaS providers, allowing you to potentially migrate if you want to reduce your workload.
What is SaaS?
Software as a service is the most suitable option when you want to focus on end users. You are buying access to cloud-based software for your business or customers to use, without the need to manage the infrastructure and platform it runs on.
This means it’s very simple to access, and the benefits include scalability and improvements to user experience and design which can come from data on many aggregated anonymous sources. There are many examples of Software as a Service, including email, office software and accounting tools from providers such as Google, Microsoft, Freshbooks, and many more.
More ‘as a service’:
When describing cloud computing, almost any usage can be appended by ‘as a service’ to define it as a networked operation, rather than sitting on a computer or hard drive in your office. Whether it’s ‘Storage as a service’ (STaaS), ‘Data as a service’ (DaaS), or even ‘Security as a Service’ (SECaaS), it is a variation on the three fundamental models described above – choosing between hardware-only services, a base platform layer, or being delivered a final product for end users.
The two factors to consider are the level of IT resource which will be available to invest, and the levels of privacy that may be required (Private, Public or Hybrid).
Ben Jones is a tech consultant who has been helping a range of business large and small utilise cloud technologies to increase business efficiency around southern England.