The Cloud: SaaS and IaaS

What is the cloud?

It’s a question that I’ve been asked many times.

The first person to use the phrase cloud computing was Eric Schmidt of Google when he was explaining Google’s approach to SaaS (Software as a service). This was the first high profile use of the term.

The phrase has really gained popularity in the last few years with the global recession and businesses looking to cut costs.

The general view of cloud computing is that your data and applications are stored on the internet (the public cloud) and available 24/7, 365 days of the year. The most appealing aspect of cloud computing is that generally, no additional hardware, software or licensing is required at the clients end in order to access their data and applications.

Under the umbrella of cloud computing there is SaaS (Software as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a service). Both of these services are quite different in how they operate.

Software as a service is where you have your data and application(s) hosted by another provider. Generally these applications are accessed by web browsers on PC’s or applications on mobile devices. A good example of SaaS is Xero and Gmail.

Infrastructure as a service is where you have your servers, network gear and firewalls hosted by another provider such as Revera. Normally these are hosted in a virtual environment inside multiple data centres.

SaaS and IaaS have quite different requirements.

SaaS applications and data can live overseas, half way around the world. With SaaS, speed is not as important as with IaaS. Most users can live with a few seconds delay when accessing their files or applications, although, it can be annoying.

IaaS on the other hand, requires a fast internet connection. Most of the time, you will require a private internet connection to the data centre that is providing IaaS. This is to reduce latency on the network when accessing data, applications or network services. For this reason, IaaS is generally more expensive, but provides better performance.

With IaaS, you also have more control of your environment. Since it’s virtualized, if your servers require more memory because they are running slow, you can add additional memory. You generally have no control of a SaaS environment.

A good IaaS provider will also have multiple datacentres. This ensures if one of their data centres fall over because of a natural disaster, your environment will fail-over to the next available datacentre.

This is a problem for SaaS. Most of the time, you have no idea where your data or applications are hosted. Do you know if your SaaS provider has redundancy? Do you know where your SaaS provider has your data and applications hosted?

A great illustration of this is the following:


I recommend that before taking a leap in to the cloud, you thoroughly explore your options. There are many things to take in to account. If you require any assistance, call Layer3.

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