Cloud services are used by 94% of enterprises, but how many of them fully understand each cloud service model before migrating their data? What’s more, how many know which models best suit their organizational needs? Understanding the features, advantages, and disadvantages of the three cloud service models is a good place to start.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – With IaaS, you’re buying the computer, storage, and networking from a provider – acquiring the infrastructure support while maintaining a high degree of control and freedom to run your business.

There is a wide range of computing capabilities, from virtual machines and full server hosts to storage and operating systems alone. Various sizes of usable disks provide storage capacity according to individual needs, and networking connectivity with firewalls and security are standard features with these packages. All provisions with IaaS are available in different quantities, based on individual needs, and are frequently billed as “Pay-As-You-Go” by usage.

The main advantage of IaaS is the freedom and capacity to configure and control all applications, computing, and storage without the hassles of provisioning or managing the infrastructure. Your enterprise receives the keys to the capacity, retaining complete control over business functions. This dynamic freedom can also be a disadvantage – more “freedom” can bring significantly more management work.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)– With PaaS, you buy the preconfigured infrastructure required to deploy applications directly, including all the libraries, services, toolsets, and programming language components. PaaS provides the keys to a fully-fledged, built-out development platform environment.

The main advantage of PaaS is the minimal management required for this preconfigured package. PaaS removes many of the concerns and provisions mandated under IaaS-allowing developers to configure applications with minimum delay.

The disadvantages of PaaS include less organizational control and reduced ability to customize. Teams must adapt to the limitations of an out-of-the-box, one-size-fits-all configuration.

Software as a Service (SaaS)– Considered the platinum, top-level offering by many, this is also the most familiar model. With SaaS, you’re purchasing the infrastructure, platform, and applications all on the cloud and accessible from a network or device. SaaS only allows the user to configure the application and includes no control of infrastructure or platform- merely the consumption of the software.

The advantage of SaaS is by far the least work and management- simply plug in and go, freeing maximum time to focus on business. The primary disadvantage of SaaS is the least organizational control of the three cloud service models.

Considerations In Cloud Model Selection

Every enterprise must calculate how much of each service model they want to incorporate in their plan to maximize the benefits of the cloud. The perfect strategy balances each model’s advantages with the organization’s needs.

When selecting the appropriate service model, an enterprise must consider the following:

End Applications Start by examining your end applications and work backward, seeking the models that best fit. For every application, consider these essential questions.

Where do I want to run it?
How much do I want to own?
How much do I want to control?
How much can be run as a service?
How much can be left to vendors or package software?

Level of Control Assess your comfort level for the amount of influence your organization will have over infrastructure, platforms, and applications. Is it critical to your business to control and manage these, or do you view them as commodity functions someone else can manage, and you merely access them based on need?

Amount of Work Determine how much sweat equity your enterprise wants to allocate to the configuration and management of its infrastructure, platforms, and applications. Service models allowing more control also require more work. Is your enterprise willing to shoulder the extra management burden in exchange for a heightened directive?

Cost In cost terms, there is always an argument for taking on more in-house. However, increased autonomy brings care and feeding—including the added employee costs associated with management. Also, selecting a service model based primarily on cost overlooks the real value of the cloud – freeing time and resources to focus on growing your business.

The Time Is Now

“If you’re still struggling to figure out the best cloud strategy that balances the ideal mix of models for your organization, you’re definitely not alone. Many analysts conclude very few have this figured out top to bottom, and the reality is companies operating with clear, defined strategies is increasing, but more slowly than you may think.” CenterGrid team

The time to act and define your cloud strategy is now. Enterprises that take time to educate themselves on the advantages and disadvantages, assess their appetite for control and willingness to shoulder heavy lifting, and select the service models that best fit their needs will maximize their cloud investment into the future.