While cloud providers are known for providing the platform for storing incredible amounts of data, their biggest impact has been the three fundamental service models they have brought to millions of small-and-medium business (SMBs). No longer do SMBs have to burn through capital expenses to get build and configure complex server networks - now, third-party providers offer Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), allowing for simplified rollout of network infrastructure that would have been internally designed and built before the advent of cloud services.
IaaS provides virtualized computer resources online to clients without them having to pay for physical resources like servers, workstations, and data centers. A cloud provider offers those resources to a business “as a service” - that is to say, as a contractual relationship where access to the virtual environment and resources is opened to the client, while the cloud provider is responsible for its maintenance and security. The uses of IaaS are broad, but several core functions commonly used by businesses include:.
Big data analysis: The processing power to collect and run through large data sets is often well beyond the physical hardware budgets of many companies. IaaS allows for firms to scale to the exact size of memory and computational power they need to search for patterns and trends.
Website hosting: Rather than rely on a traditional third party to host business front-end or back-end websites, firms can employ IaaS to run their sites. This often eliminates both cost and reduces acceptable downtime.
Backup and recovery: Natural disasters, fires, theft, or other crises can be mitigated by storing backup files or disaster relief plans online through IaaS, so they can be accessed remotely and keep an organization up and running even if everything else is down.
Testing and development: The cloud offers a perfect experimental environment to try out new apps, models, environments and more. Developers can create at will with virtually unlimited scalable server capacity. Within IaaS, a staging environment can be created such that nothing goes live until the client says it does.
Web apps: Every app a company uses for itself or deploys to its customers can be housed in IaaS. When demand for said apps grows exponentially, the processing power behind them can be scaled up accordingly and last as long as necessary.
Advantages of IaaS
While many larger companies prefer the security of housing all of their infrastructure components in a private server farm, the benefits of IaaS are difficult to look past. Here are a few ways that IaaS deployment has far outstripped its physical component first cousin.
Cost savings: Migration to IaaS can often mean substanial cost savings. It’s not just the price of maintaining and running server infrastructure, but the reduction of downtime that often results from moving to IaaS, along with a drop in the cost of replacing old equipment or savings from eliminating internal IT services from a business.
Scalability: Nearly every business works towards exponential growth in demand for their product or service. But when that moment comes, many are caught flat-footed because they don’t have the processing power or budget to scale their business up to match demand. A similar situation can occur when business is doing a special promotion or sale. Employing IaaS allows a business to add just as much infrastructure as is necessary to keep up with demand without having to invest in new local hardware.
Backup and Disaster Recovery: Whether a website crashes due to high demand or a hurricane knocks out electrical services for days, IaaS gives businesses the ability to overcome a worst-case scenario. With a company’s data, processes and disaster recovery protocol stored safely in the cloud, returning to normal operations can be a much simpler proposition.
Incorporating SaaS and PaaS: When a company thoroughly incorporates IaaS into its internal processes, its management typically becomes aware of the convenience and cost-saving ability of other ‘as a service’ offerings. SaaS (software as a service) is the great equalizer of small companies that no longer have to buy another copy of the same software every time a new employee comes aboard. Both IaaS and SaaS are good opening steps to moving an organization’s whole operation online with PaaS (platform as a service). With PaaS, Employees can login from anywhere in the world and use the exact same system that office workers are seeing. That sort of collaborative power increases efficiency and can mean long-term improvements in profitability.