Cloud computing is one of the most exciting tech breakthroughs to come along in quite some time. Unlike some leaps forward that are really only of benefit to firms with revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars, cloud computing seems almost tailor-made to provide the SMB with advantages that were never before possible, like economies of scale, which until now were more or less ruled out for small businesses. There is only really one hitch for the small business owner or manager: being hooked into a cloud computing system.
A good way to get started is to work with an IT consulting firm, but even then, there might be some challenges to overcome. You see, cloud computing has its own jargon: terms like PaaS and SaaS that do not sound like English at all. Of course, some IT consultants are a lot better than others are at using clear, concise terms that anyone can understand. While it's a good idea to focus on working with consultants who you find easy to comprehend, it's also in your own best interests to beef up on the kinds of phrases being thrown around in most discussions of cloud computing.
Saas versus Paas
SaaS means cloud-hosted software. Google's popular Gmail qualifies as SaaS, or software as a service. It is an application that runs on the internet. This frees users from having to install or maintain it. Everything is done for them, including periodic upgrades. All you have to do is connect to the service. With Gmail, you use a web browser to get to the program. With other kinds of SaaS offerings, you may need to connect in other ways. Some SaaS programs have specialized clients, connection programs that you have to use. A managed services model for IT services often involves using SaaS at some level.
PaaS, on the other hand, refers to platform as a service. This means providing your business with operating systems and the hardware to run them via the internet. There is also infrastructure as a service, IaaS, which involves providing you with networked components such as servers and virtual machines in the cloud.
If you use all three of these, an IT consulting firm might call it ‘following the SPI model’. Just be aware that you do not have to sign up for all three. They can be used independently of each other or in any combination.