The cloud is not a single entity. It encompasses many types of service and delivery models, ranging from in-house virtual servers to software accessed by multiple organizations over the Internet. The cloud extends the spectrum of IT service delivery models beyond managed and hosted services to a form that is packaged and commoditized. But which of these packages is the best fit for your organization?
There are a number of different cloud models you can deploy based on what your company needs. This flexibility is one reason why so many organizations are moving their data and/or applications to the cloud.
The Software as a Service (SaaS) model is the most well-known; using SaaS, entire software solutions can be managed and run by the service provider and can be bought on a charge-per-use basis. A SaaS provider delivers an application and data that can be accessed via a network (usually the internet) using a variety of client devices such as web browsers, tablets, and mobile phones.
The major benefit of SaaS is the immediate availability of a working solution for a specific business problem with no need for upfront investment. This is particularly valuable for essential business processes that need to be delivered at minimal cost.
The risks associated with SaaS include loss of governance, data privacy issues and integrity of customer data. Mature business processes are often subject to regulations and laws, and organizations have invested heavily in IT to ensure compliance. Using SaaS means relinquishing control to the SaaS provider, and it is essential to have independent confirmation that the provider will comply with the regulatory requirements.
The SaaS provider also has control of the business data held by the service. Contracts need to specify how this data will be returned in a useable form at termination of contract to allow business continuity and provide flexibility to switch providers, if desired.
With Platform as a Service (PaaS), you can build and manage your own applications on a third-party platform. PaaS applications may be used by the customer or offered as a service to others. PaaS-based applications are inherently cloud-enabled and the PaaS provider also provides the service upon which these applications run. Benefits include no need for capital hardware investment and rapid deployment. The major downside is “lock-in” – most PaaS platforms are based on proprietary application programming interfaces (APIs), so it can be very difficult to change providers at will.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) gives you the greatest flexibility; you’re essentially just maintaining operating systems, stored data, software and applications on a Cloud provider’s base hardware and computing resources. Making the transition to IaaS is simple, too. With IaaS, the customer can transfer an existing workload to the cloud with minimal, if any, changes needed. IaaS removes the need to buy, house and maintain the physical servers and can provide the ability for an organization to respond quickly to changing demand.
Of course, there’s also the option to create a hybrid model which can consist of a combination of hosting models. For example, perhaps your firm uses a PaaS model for email solutions and a SaaS solution for industry specific software.
So, how do you know which approach to choose? This five-point audit simplifies cloud hosting and will help you find the best solution:
- Understand the scale of your business requirements – Assess your existing platforms before planning a change. Understand the scale of the organization: the volume of data, the traffic and the existing hosting budgets.
- Recognize the true value of data/websites to your business – If your website handles sales, then hosting is a mission-critical application. Protecting your IT infrastructure in a virtualized cloud environment provides added protection for business continuity. Private clouds from some hosting companies offer a more secure environment than public or shared clouds.
- Ensure all associated costs, including downtime, maintenance, upgrade and internal resources, are considered – Managing your IT infrastructure’s performance is critical for effective operations and your online performance. Managed cloud hosting provides additional security over a traditional hosting model, offering peace of mind through service-level agreements (SLAs) to guarantee high performance and resiliency. For companies looking to migrate from an in-house data center to a managed cloud solution, cost savings will include energy usage, floor space, internal support and staffing.
- Analyze the commercial and operational benefits of cloud hosting – Consolidating disparate IT infrastructure into a private cloud environment can lead to a more manageable and cost effective platform. A cloud approach enhances operational performance through increased flexibility, scalability and deliverability allowing businesses to react quickly to changing requirements.
- Look at tomorrow’s needs today – A cloud offers a flexible, on-demand platform that can contract or expand to accommodate growth in traffic, applications and data volumes. But it’s vital to understand fee structures, delivery models and SLAs, and to confirm them with hosting and service partners to ensure you’re not paying an unnecessarily high price for success.