When it comes to setting up IT for an SMB, there is no one cloud application option that will do everything for everyone, and the best option may be a combination of technologies. Cloud based “as a service” options can quickly upgrade IT capacity without the need for upgrading hardware or facilities. But – the question is – which technology, or combination of technologies, will work best for you?
Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS has been around longer than the term itself. SaaS describes applications accessed over the internet, usually through user accounts – for example, Salesforce, Gmail, Netflix, etc… The application provider takes care of all the back end server and application maintenance, and you simply subscribe to and access the application. On the user end, that usually means you can be up and running faster, with less training needed, but it also typically means limited flexibility without additional fees or API modifications.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS provides tools to create remote applications – for example, Microsoft’s Azure or Google’s App Engine both provide tools to create websites, applications, databases, etc, with a la carte payment models that vary depending on which components you select and how much you use those components. There is more flexibility in what you can do with PaaS over SaaS, but it also requires more training and development skills.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IaaS provides the ability to create a complete server install accessible remotely through the internet – providers include Microsoft’s Azure, Amazon’s AWS, and VMware’s vCloud or recently announced Hybrid cloud. Typically, you select the OS (Windows or Linux), select the amount of resources you would like to reserve, and then pay an hourly rate. It’s up to you to install and monitor applications built on IaaS devices.
Many organizations will use a combination of cloud application options for their IT needs - maybe a SaaS CRM application, an IaaS hosted web site, and locally hosted Active Directory and Exchange. Or possibly some other permutation that meets the organizations needs with the most uptime and the greatest cost efficiency.
But the price paid for the increased up time and cost savings is increased complexity. Your cloud hosted applications and servers should be monitored not just for uptime, but for performance to make sure that you’ve reserved enough resources for them. Your local network should be monitored to make sure that there is nothing slowing down access to your cloud applications. And, finally, you should monitor your cloud applications to make sure they’re living up to the SLA that you’re paying for. And, ideally, you want to be able to see everything you’re monitoring in one place, so you can see problems as soon as they occur.