Although cloud computing has been around for more than a decade, many businesses still don’t understand more than a basic definition of what it means to ‘work in the cloud.’ Although it is widely known and accepted that cloud computing is more cost effective than buying, installing and maintaining an on-site local mainframe, there are various modalities to cloud computing which many business owners, directors and even CIOs are just beginning to understand.

Royalty Free Photo

Of these, there are two which are of vital importance to a business, IaaS and PaaS. Don’t let the acronyms scare you, yet at least! They simply stand for Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service. Both cloud modalities are available to businesses, but when looking at IaaS vs. PaaS, which is right for your application? Here’s a bit of basic info to help you understand the differences and two reasons why your choice is so important.

IaaS vs. PaaS – What’s the Difference Anyway?

Before you can even get into which is right for your application, it might be a good idea to understand a couple of basic differences. While books could be written about the subject, suffice it to say that the real difference is in the fact that IaaS is more flexible than PaaS and that IaaS gives you an operating system and all that is required within that OS to make it work for you. PaaS on the other hand chooses an OS and only gives you basic applications within that operating system so that you can use it quickly to see how an app you are developing or working with, for example, runs.

The bottom line? You need to have a higher level of knowledge and expertise to work with PaaS within cloud computing. Of the three-tier cloud modalities, SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) and PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), PaaS requires the most knowledge and is therefore not right for a great number of businesses unless you have a qualified geek on staff.

Reason #1 – Knowledge and Experience

Putting all that together, the first reason why cloud modality matters is that you need to choose the right one based on your level of knowledge and experience. Virtual beginners can struggle through SaaS, but may not handle IaaS well and if that is the case, they definitely wouldn’t do well with PaaS that requires the ability to run applications not provided and give commands that aren’t built into the platform. If you’ve never worked with even basic programming or development, PaaS would probably not be a wise choice on your part.

Reason #2 – Costs Involved

Here again, entire volumes could be written on a cost analysis between the various cloud modalities, but the one thing to think about is this. What you really should be weighing in terms of cost is whether or not it is going to be a capital investment or an operating cost. Both IaaS and PaaS will be operating costs and therefore much more manageable in the short term because they are, for all intents and purposes, pay as you go services. The real difference is between the old ‘mainframe’ and cloud computing in general. When you buy and maintain a mainframe on site, you are looking at a huge investment whereas IaaS and PaaS don’t typically involve lengthy contracts and you can even pay for services by the day or right on down to the minute!

That being said, PaaS just may cost more because you may be spending longer online working in the cloud if you are developing an app or writing software. Of the two, IaaS and PaaS, IaaS would probably be the lesser in terms of cost because more utilities are provided for you. So why does a cloud modality really matter? Perhaps the best answer is going to boil down to cost. Ultimately, whichever has the lesser impact on your overhead is going to be the service you should use.