Understanding SaaS vs cloud

Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud are often used interchangeably, but they do not necessarily mean the same thing. While all SaaS applications can be cloud based, a cloud-based service may not be a SaaS application. To help foster understanding of these concepts, this article will discuss SaaS vs cloud computing, first by comparing them, then by looking at the differences between SaaS and other cloud computing services. It will also look at how cloud computing services such as SaaS can be delivered using Parallels® RAS.

SaaS vs cloud: What is the cloud?

The cloud refers to the internet. Thus, any software that is based in the cloud can be accessed using a web browser. In the same regard, the cloud refers to computing services that are available on the internet and made accessible via a web browser.

Before cloud computing became the ubiquitous technology that it is today, on-premises datacenters that required vast amounts of labor and material to build and maintain housed and deployed computing services. The advent of cloud computing has resulted in physical datacenters being overtaken by cloud services as the main building blocks for IT infrastructures everywhere. Since a cloud infrastructure is more economical, it is not surprising that more organizations are now transitioning to the use of cloud-based computing models such as SaaS.

SaaS vs cloud: What is SaaS?

SaaS refers to a software delivery model where a cloud-based application is made available to users via a web browser. Thus, SaaS can be taken to mean any web application that is run by its users from a compatible web browser running on any device. Since it is run from a web browser, it means that the application does not need to be installed on user devices.

A SaaS application may entail a subscription cost for a fixed period, say quarterly or annually, or a pay-as-you-go license. Support and maintenance are often included in the subscription or license. Thus, the developer is responsible for maintenance of the SaaS application.

If the developers do not have the required resources to maintain the cloud infrastructure and run the SaaS application, they may host it on a third-party cloud service. This is transparent to the users though—from their viewpoint, the developer is always responsible for maintenance of the SaaS application.

SaaS vs cloud: How do they compare?

SaaS is a subset of cloud computing, as it refers to software that is hosted on and made accessible via the cloud. More exactly, SaaS is a service model of cloud computing, along with a couple of others, namely, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). In contrast to these models, the traditional on-site computing model emphasizes the use of on-premises datacenters.

IaaS is the most basic cloud computing service model. With IaaS, the servers and hardware components are virtualized and made available on the internet. Users maintain control over the tools, databases, middleware, and OS components that comprise the rest of a cloud-based application.

PaaS is wider in terms of coverage than IaaS. In PaaS, the middleware, runtime, and OS components are also within the purview of the cloud service provider, aside from the aforementioned servers and hardware.

With SaaS, the application and the entire cloud infrastructure it runs on, from the hardware to the databases and middleware down to the OS components, is made available on the internet. Thus, SaaS is the widest in terms of coverage.

All three computing service models, namely, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, are anchored on the availability of cloud computing services from cloud service providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. In turn, these providers offer services that target the different service models. For example, Amazon Elastic Beanstalk, Microsoft Azure Functions, and Google App Engine are just a few of the PaaS offerings from these big-name vendors.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: How do you decide?

Cloud computing does not preclude organizations from using multiple cloud services, if that is the most suitable for their needs. Thus, you may use IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS together, if your needs are best served with such a combination. However, which of the different types of cloud computing you decide to use will depend on your requirements, with other considerations being budget and time to market.

For example, if you want a ready-made application that can be used immediately, a SaaS application may be the best option. In this case, you need to make sure that the benefits derived from its use are worth the investment in the application. Another example where a SaaS application may be ideal is when you want to optimize internal processes but do not want to invest in the labor necessary to develop a software for that purpose.

On the other hand, if you have an application development team ready, a PaaS subscription may be ideal. This way, your team can leverage its strengths and utilize the tools from your PaaS provider to produce an application that addresses your users’ needs.

If you are in a small organization or you are just starting out and you do not yet have an idea what your future needs are, tapping an IaaS vendor may be best. You can then choose another track later once you have a clearer view of what you need.

SaaS vs cloud: Parallels RAS delivers all types of cloud computing

Parallels RAS is a virtual desktop integration (VDI) solution that enables your teams to deliver SaaS applications to wherever your users are. This comprehensive solution leverages the advantages of cloud computing and enables development of SaaS applications in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Whether you choose IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS, Parallels RAS supports all these cloud computing models.

With Parallels RAS, you can virtualize traditional desktops and applications and run them from any cloud service, including the popular ones from AWS and Microsoft Azure. You can even choose to run these applications and desktops on premises or using the public and hybrid clouds.

Using Parallels RAS, you can virtualize any application quickly and publish it to your catalog for easy user access. The applications can be virtualized as-is, without necessitating any changes. Robust security features such as advanced filters and multi-factor authentication (MFA) ensure that your applications and virtual desktops are kept secure and your data uncompromised. It does not matter if you choose to go with an IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS solution—the security of your applications and desktops is a certainty with Parallels RAS.

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