Cloud computing isn’t just another tech buzzword. It’s on track to becoming a standard solution delivery model for organizations of almost any size and industry. While cloud computing has technically been around since the 1950s, the cloud we know today has helped launch entire business models and applications we use every day (Facebook, Netflix, Salesforce, just to name a few). Cloud computing doesn’t show signs of slowing either. In fact, a report from Forrester indicates that the public cloud market will reach $191 billion by 2020.
Why is there such a demand for cloud applications? Simply put, cloud computing makes it easier to access applications anywhere and at any time. In a cloud delivery model, the application is stored remotely and users can access it via the Internet. This approach is rapidly replacing the traditional/on premise approach of relying upon internally stored, maintained and utilized applications. For almost every type of software, accessing it through the cloud is quickly becoming the norm, even for access control automation solutions. Gartner’s 2015 “Market Guide for SOD Controls Monitoring” recommended that professionals should not overlook solutions with cloud offerings, specifically SaaS (software as a service).
So what is the difference between SaaS and cloud? Aren’t they one and the same? Well…not really. Here are three things to consider when evaluating cloud solutions that will help you understand the facts amid sometimes-confusing messages.
1. SaaS Cloud vs. Other Cloud Models
Some solutions are marketed as “being in the cloud,” but instead mislead prospective customers. That’s because some cloud computing models have traditional/on premise components that dilute the full experience, benefits, and power of the cloud.
Consider the diagram below of the different cloud models:
On the left there is the traditional/on premise model from which cloud technology evolves. Moving to the right, there are the three types of cloud models: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). While IaaS and PaaS do incorporate aspects of the cloud, solutions that are IaaS and PaaS aren’t considered truly cloud because of the user’s management of things like support, security, and upgrades. SaaS is the only model where users manage their use of the application and nothing else - requiring no maintenance on their part. The SaaS model is the closest description to the typical “true cloud” experience vendors often tout, whether factually accurate or not. When considering access control automation solutions for instance, be sure to understand what parts ofthe solution you or your organization would be responsible for managing and which ones the vendor would manage on their end. For most organizations with the exception of large enterprises, anything other than SaaS could be too much to handle.
2. SaaS Cloud Computing Saves Time and Costs
Many organizations are focused on getting leaner, especially when it comes to their software investments. In a Gartner blog article, VP David Mitchell Smith said that the cloud offers organizations the ability to stay competitive while cutting costs. “The cloud is being increasingly relied on as a vehicle for agile, scalable and elastic solutions,” said Smith.
Unlike other cloud and on premise options, SaaS solutions don’t require users to pay for their own resources and staff in order to use the service, which lowers the total cost of ownership. In the long run, this saves money AND time for the organization, as there is no work on their part required for implementation, upgrades, or any on-going maintenance. The user ultimately benefits by getting an online service that improves efficiency without depending on their own internal resources. When it’s time to do an access audit, for example, using a SaaS solution can actually reduce your own external audit costs as well.
3. SaaS Cloud Computing Streamlines the Business Process
The modern workforce in most organizations is becoming more spread out and remote, causing a need for solutions that don’t require proximity for users to access their business applications. SaaS-based solutions offer the flexibility and scalability organizations need to keep their workforce productive across the organization – no matter where they are located. SaaS solutions don’t require the use of a specific device to work within the confines of the organization’s IT infrastructure. All that’s required is a device that can access the Internet and a reliable connection. Unlike other cloud or on premise solutions, this enables users to work whenever, no matter the location. This is a definite advantage when using SaaS to automate access controls, for example, when emergency access approval requests can be actioned on the go, in or out of the office, and from most any web-enabled device.
The use of cloud computing applications for enterprises will continue to rise as cloud technology becomes more sophisticated and eases the burden of management on the user. SaaS-based solutions offer the easiest way to utilize the power of the cloud with little risk for the users. Solution providers will claim their cloud capabilities, but organizations must be aware of what they’re truly getting from the cloud and what they have to take on themselves.