Published: Monday, January 11, 2016
Cloud computing is a broad term for services that are all stored in a cloud environment.  With significant improvements in technology over the last 10 years, many companies are offering cloud products and services that sit outside of the common definition of cloud.  In order to truly understand how the cloud can add value to your organization, it is important to understand what the cloud really is.

There are three main components to cloud services: software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).  Each of these is a unique offering.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing as “a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources.”  This means that end users are able to access the cloud resources quickly and easily in a self-service manor.

Let’s look at the three categories of cloud offerings:

Software as a service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as "on-demand software."  An example of on demand software is Microsoft Office 365, accessible through the internet by purchasing user licenses. SaaS is a great option for end users with thin clients or computers with lower storage capacity such as Google Chromebooks and Microsoft Cloudbooks.  SaaS is typically preferred by users who want the latest software versions as soon as they’re available and the convenience of spreading out the cost of new software licenses by paying monthly vs. buying the licenses upfront. 

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a category of cloud computing services that provide a platform allowing customers to develop, run and manage web applications. By using a PaaS platform users can avoid the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching an application.  This set of tools and services are designed to make coding and deploying applications easier for end users. Examples of PaaS systems include Microsoft AZURE Websites, AZURE cloud Services, and Azure Mobile Services.  Many CRM systems can be utilized in the PaaS format including Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a way of delivering cloud computing infrastructure such as servers, storage, network and operating systems.  This platform is offered as an on-demand service that comes with a smaller price tag than building a traditional on-site network infrastructure.  Rather than purchasing servers, software, data center space or network equipment, clients instead buy those resources as a fully outsourced service on demand.  There are two types of IaaS systems public and private.  These two types of IaaS systems can be obtained separately or combined to customize a platform, depending on the needs of the end users.  As with SaaS and PaaS systems, IaaS is a rapidly developing field. 

Cloud computing is more than a single description, it is instead a general term that sits over a variety of services.  From IaaS at the base, through PaaS as a development tool and SaaS productivity software, cloud computing is now replacing onsite applications and equipment.

Before you move your business into the cloud, it is important to understand the different aspects of cloud computing.  Assess your own situation to decide which types of solutions are appropriate for your unique business footprint.  Contact our experts today to learn more about the cloud computing options offered through Seifert Technologies, Inc.

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