What is “…as a service”?

Have you ever heard someone use the term “SaaS”? Or “Platform as a service”? Do you nod along when someone uses these terms since it’s clear they think you understand what they mean, even though you don’t have a clue? Well, this is the perfect blog post for you. By the time you’re done reading it, you won’t just have to nod along, you will be able to participate in the conversation.

When you are referring to something “as a service”, you are basically saying it is available in the cloud. Typically speaking, there are three layers of cloud computing that are referenced in this manner: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

SaaS- Software As A Service

Software as a service (or Saas) means using a piece of software that is provided to you through the cloud (online). If you open up your web browser to use a piece of software, such as your financial mangement tool, your CRM, etc. you are using SaaS.

Many programs these days do have a SaaS option. Even standard Microsoft software such as Word or Excel is now offered over the internet (Microsoft 365), and there are email options too, such as Outlook Web Access (OWA).

Using a SaaS provides you with a lot more flexibility, and in some cases is much easier on your wallet. By using a SaaS, you don’t have to worry about the hardware and software maintenance costs, that is all handeled by the provider. The standard model of delivery is that you will pay a montly fee, most likely based on how many users you will have. It also gives you the flexibility to work easily from anywhere. You don’t have to take the time to set up a VPN or RWW connection (so you can remotely access your work computer). Instead, you just need to go online and you will have access to the same program you use at work. This also means that in the case of a disaster at your workplace, your employees can still easily work from home (provided their internet is running).

The increasing popularity of the cloud has made SaaS much more common. Take a step back for a moment and think about it- how many programs are you using right now that are actually SaaS?

PaaS- Platform as a Service

Platform as a service is a way for consumers to rent the different basics needed for their work, such as hardware, operating systems, storage and network capacity. In a nutshell, you are getting a framework that you can easily build upon, but you are using outside resources.

This makes it great for developers. They are able to use different types of PaaS to help them develop and deploy software and/or applications, and they don’t have to worry about buying and managing the underlying components necessary for their jobs. The networks, servers, storage, etc. are all provided to them through the cloud. Some well-know examples of PaaS are Amazon Web Services, Google Code, Salesforce PaaS and Windows Azure.

Using PaaS allows for increased flexibility, adaptability, and a decrease in costs. Because everything is hosted, operating systems can be updated frequently, or changed easily. It also allows for developers from all over the world to more easily work together on projects. And, software and/or applications can be developed for multiple types of users, which means they will be able to sell to a much wider variety of customers.

IaaS- Infrastructure as a Service

Sometimes referred to as “Hardware as a Service” (HaaS), this basically means exactly what it sounds like. Organizations are able to outsource the equipment needed to run their operations, such as servers and other networking components. Basically, you rent out the physical server from a provider, and then you install your own virtual server on it. So, if you are using a virtual server, this is a form of IaaS.

This has great advantages because the organization does not have to worry about the storage and maintenance for their hardware. Typically, IaaS is charged on a per-use basis, so it is up to the organization to decide whether or not that would be cost-efficient. If they were to decide not to go with IaaS, they would have to account for all the storage, maintenance, and routine upgrade costs that go along with having the physical hardware.

Together, these three services make up the basics of any cloud computing model. There are others, such as Network as a Service (NaaS), Storage as a Service (SaaS), Monitoring as a Service (MaaS), and Communication as a Service (CaaS).

The simple way to understand it is this: If any part of your business is using the cloud- email, file sharing, offsite data storage, etc.- you are already using “XaaS” (meaning “X as a service” or “something as a service”, usually pronounced “zaas”). So now, the next time someone talks to you about using something “as a service”, you will know what they mean- the cloud.

Questions about anything “as a service”? Ask in the comments section!

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