As more and more services move to the cloud, more niches have become available in terms of what aspects of the hardware and software you have access to and control.
First, we’ll start with owning your own server. If everything is run off a server on-premises for you, you have full control. You get to choose everything from brand of server to where it goes to its memory and speed, and you can do whatever you want with it. Modify it, hack it, program it however you want. You have ultimate control, but it does take a highly skilled person to get the most out of it.
A colocation facility is where a 3rd party owns the data center but you get to put your own server in there. The benefit here is that you don’t have to worry about physical site security, or physical server rackspace or a solid Internet connection. It’s also beneficial to have your data stored somewhere off-site and away from your business, just in case something happens to your business location. So, maybe your office is questionable with some of those things, so you want a colocation service. The downside is that you need to make an appointment to see your server and you’ve got to drive to wherever it is. But, when you drive there and have an appointment, you can do whatever you want to your server, because it’s yours.
Hosting a server is a bit different. With this option you essentially rent the server from a 3rd party, who also handles the facility and everything else. They might have a few different options for what type of server, but the downside is that you don’t get direct access to the server or the choices or the granularity involved as if you had your own server. Your access and modification abilities are lessened in this instance. Hosting companies these days are often geared towards certain niches though- email hosts, website hosting services, etc.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is similar to hosting, but where hosting providers these days are often geared towards niches (such as email hosts or website hosts), IaaS has aimed to do the same thing but for any server needs. The IaaS company owns the servers and the facilities and gives you a pretty wide range of what you can do on their servers. The advantage here is that it is easily scalable, so if you grow you don’t have to worry about buying another server, or needing help with networking or anything like that. But, like with hosting, you are limited in your ability to modify things because they want to protect their server investments and need to keep you from other customers’ data, etc. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are good examples of IaaS.
Platfrom-as-a-Service (PaaS) gives lots of flexibility, but you ultimately do not own the operating system or the databases. A PaaS company generally is just giving you a platform to do something else you want to accomplish, such as build software more easily. In that example it would allow someone to build and test their own custom software and code in a virtual environment, but you’d only have control over whatever you are building on the platform and not the platform itself. Things like Google App Engine or Heroku are under this category.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is probably what you are most familiar with. Instead of developing your own software or buying software putting it on your own server or computer, you access everything in the cloud and that company owns everything except for the data you put into it. The company handles everything from the servers to the software development. You don’t get to create your own software or get access to the code or anything like that. So, there’s inherently far less control, but you can get it all online in whatever form the company makes available for you. Examples of SaaS is everything from Gmail to PayPal to Office 365.
Which is best? Well, that really varies and depends on you and your company. There’s a reason that all of these niches exist after all.
Let me know if you have any questions.
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