Since 2010, many companies have capitalized on Cloud Services, taking advantage of the large amounts of compute, memory, and storage that can be easily scaled up and down. However, there are still several industries that are reluctant to the change or remain cautious for various reasons. Terms and acronyms like, “SaaS”, “PaaS”, circulate their industry, and although these terms may be easy to understand conceptually, comprehending what they truly mean for your company from a practical standpoint is not common knowledge.
Jeff Hutchens is the Chief Information Officer at a leading IT Outsourcing firm EAG 1Source, and he and his team specialize in deploying IT Strategies for the Oil and Gas industry. In this article, Jeff defines the main types of Cloud Services, analyzes the key implications to consider for each, and sheds light on how the cost is structured. Note that there are many other types of Cloud Services that are outside the scope of this analysis, but the core Cloud Services to be covered are: Software as a Service (SaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS). On occasion, some companies choose to build their own Cloud Services model, and those implications will also be depicted in this analysis.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS is the most common, and arguably the easiest way a company can migrate to Cloud computing. In a SaaS model, the software is provided by the vendor and is fully containerized, meaning they manage all the back-end maintenance of the infrastructure in addition to software upgrades. In this model, vendors often leverage shared infrastructure with their individual customers that are securely separated from one another. Key implications in a SaaS mode include:
- Cost Structure: The monthly cost covers the infrastructure, access to the software and all maintenance. Many companies are attracted to this model because they only have to pay one vendor for all services related to the software.
- Access: Most SaaS providers will not give their clients direct access to their back-end systems and databases, which can make accessing their data a challenge. Instead, they provide access via an Application Programming Interface (API). Additionally, SaaS vendors have different maturity for their APIs which will impact how easily clients can access the data they need for integrations and analytics. It also requires a different skill set that is akin to development in order to leverage the API, which differs from just pointing to a database server.
- Security: Security is one of the most vital aspects to vet when considering a SaaS migration. Oftentimes, administration is provided by the vendor which lives on a shared infrastructure. To determine a company’s competence for security, clients should inquire about their SOC 2 Type 2. This validates their processes through a 3rd party audit, confirming that they are robust and being properly abided to.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) / Hybrid Infrastructure as a Server (IaaS)
Jeff Hutchens notes that some vendors provide PaaS but still market it as SaaS solution. The difference is, a common configuration for PaaS involves the software company loading their software on a cloud-based infrastructure that is dedicated to the customer. This process effectively moves the infrastructure from the client’s environment to a cloud vendor such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS in which the software vendor manages on the client’s behalf. PaaS commonly known as a “hybrid” approach is often adopted by companies who place special importance on security and data accessibility. Key implications in a PaaS mode include:
- Cost Structure: Compared to SaaS, costs for PaaS typically run higher since infrastructure is dedicated to each client. However, the monthly cost still covers infrastructure, maintenance, and the software access.
- Access: The vendor will typically provide direct access to the database.
- Security: The PaaS approach can provide greater security due to the dedicated Infrastructure per client, but most administration is still being provided by the vendor and a SOC 2 Type 2 is still worth inquiring about.
Build Your Own / Infrastructure as a Server (IaaS)
In this model, companies choose to create their own cloud environments with a vendor such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS, which can be comprised of either a full migration to the Cloud, or a hybrid approach. Through the hybrid approach, some applications would still exist in the client’s data center/office, with the remainder existing within their Cloud provider’s environment. Key implications in this model include:
- Cost Structure: Maintenance, including patching of servers and software is handled in-house.
- Access: Provides the most flexibility for scaling resources up and down as needed.
- Security: Security is handled in-house and therefore can be the most robust assuming the right tools and processes are in place.
In the case where a firm builds their own cloud environment, the help of a Managed Service Provider (MSP) will add a lot of value by assuming most of the maintenance and administration.
EAG 1Source enables companies to power their I.T. platform with full-scale technology services, reengineered strategies, predictable costs, and unmatched customer service with every interaction. Through our 17+ years of experience and team of skilled experts, we’ve analyzed every corner of I.T. to unlock and deliver greater value to our clients. Our services range from cyber security management to server management, cloud migration, architecture rationalization, and more.