The cloud—aka the internet—isn’t really all that woolly. It is just a short way of talking about the network of servers connecting us all and our data together via the web. In recent years more and more of what we do, both at home and at work, has moved onto the cloud.
We work with cloud-based software constantly without really thinking about it. Making clear, conscious decisions about how to run software in the cloud in the service of our own business activities, however, can push project performance forward.
There are three main levels of cloud software control: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (Iaas). The ‘as-a-Service’ model is designed to outsource some of the administrative and maintenance tasks so businesses can use their web platforms to connect with customers. As you go down the line of these products, how much of this administration is handled by the vendor decreases.
SaaS takes our understanding of software and simply allows us to use it on the internet instead of making us install it on our individual computers or servers. Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace are two expansive and popular examples. We work with Salesforce customer relationship management SaaS and content management service (CMS) SaaS Kentico Kontent to develop web platforms that deliver complex business functions for our clients. And there are many more examples, from basic freebies to multi-layered, industry specific software with a subscription fee.
PaaS, as its name implies, provides an online platform upon which software can be developed, such as an app. This allows developers to focus entirely on programming for their project, without having to juggle the management of hosting, security, licensing and updates.
PaaS is therefore a good choice for creating customised apps themselves, and deploying them. We work with Microsoft Azure to deliver new web applications for our clients and to add value to them implementing Azure’s AI tools. Other popular PaaS vendors include Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk, Heroku and Google App Engine.
IaaS, on the other hand, is essentially a hosting service with extra features courtesy of shared virtual resources. It eliminates the need for a business to have on-site server hardware and to invest personally in the security that entails. Unlike SaaS and PaaS, IaaS is self-service in terms of monitoring any applications, but the service provider monitors, of course, the infrastructure: the network, the servers, storage, etc.
Any need for additional resources is on demand virtual, instead of being physically installed on site. This makes IaaS highly flexible and scalable. Projects that are subject to variance in traffic, such as rapidly growing businesses or seasonal events, benefit from being able to scale up fast to meet demand. And for some, being able to scale back down when demand relaxes is just as important.
For us, Azure is our IaaS of choice because of its powerful artificial intelligence tools and other added value extras that we can offer our clients. Other agencies work with Cisco, Amazon Web Services and Digital Ocean, to name a few.
Two steps forward
And there’s more. XaaS, or Everything-as-a-Service goes beyond wrapping up software, platform and infrastructure into one package. It achieves maximum value to both the client and the vendor by providing an ever more advanced product / service combination.
The vendor does all the behind-the-scenes jobs - security updates, software upgrades, but now also perhaps integration customisation and digital asset library management - so that the client can put all their energy into getting the most from their web platform: customer engagement.
Do you have a project that might benefit from running software in the cloud at one of these levels? Let’s talk more about it.