The days of buying boxed software programs to be installed on your computer’s hard drive are a thing of the past. Cloud-based and SaaS applications have taken over. The good news is that those programs do not reside on your computer. But… what is cloud-based computing? And is it really better than the “old school” way?
In cloud-based computing, software programs live in a place called “The Cloud” instead of on your computer hard drive. The cloud is simply someone else’s server. You access the software via the internet.
The questions most often asked about cloud computing are:
- Is cloud-based computing safe?
- What are SaaS, PaaS and IaaS and are they different from cloud-based computing?
- What are the benefits of cloud-based, SaaS, PaaS and IaaS?
A cloud-based product or service is anything that runs in the Cloud. It enables users to share data more quickly and effectively. This includes SaaS-, PaaS- and IaaS-based applications. If an internet connection is required to properly run a service, then it’s probably cloud-based.
Cloud-based computing has three main components:
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and
- Platform as a Service (PaaS).
Technological advancements now allow for entire servers and storage to be hosted in the Cloud. This is the infrastructure portion of cloud computing. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) enables the utilization of entire infrastructure without the need for on-premise servers. As an illustration, AWS is a great example of IaaS. The company’s entire infrastructure is in the Cloud.
SaaS, PaaS and IaaS are subdivisions of cloud software in the same way that a motorcycle and a sedan are different classes of vehicles.
Many services within these overarching cloud platforms can be categorized as PaaS (Platform as a Service). PaaS builds upon IaaS and includes the components or framework for creating and managing applications. PaaS is a type of cloud computing. In PaaS, a service provider delivers a platform to clients, which enables those clients to develop, run, and manage business applications. This can be done without the need to build and maintain the infrastructure typically required in software development processes.
PaaS is offered via a cloud-service provider’s hosted infrastructure. As a result, users typically access PaaS offerings via a web browser. As with other types of cloud services, customers pay for PaaS on a per-use basis. Some providers charge a flat monthly fee for access to the platform and the applications hosted on it. AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Google App Engine and Google Cloud Functions are three examples of PaaS cloud-based platforms.
Public, Private, and Hybrid clouds
PaaS can be delivered through three types of clouds:
With a public-cloud PaaS, the customer controls software deployment while the cloud provider delivers all the major IT components needed to host applications. Those IT components include servers, storage systems, networks, operating systems, and databases.
With a private-cloud offering, PaaS is delivered as software or an appliance within a customer’s firewall, typically in its on-premises datacenter.
Hybrid-cloud PaaS is mix of public and private cloud services, and as of 2021, is become the “next big thing.” More and more companies are moving to hybrid clouds, including Amazon, Microsoft, VMWare, Google, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, IBM, Verizon, CenturyLink, Cisco, and Hitachi.
SaaS-based applications are software programs you use that are not installed on your computer system. With rare exceptions, this means SaaS-based products are typically used via a web browser and are hosted “in the Cloud.” However, SaaS is not a plugin. It therefore does not reside on your devices.
SaaS-based products have been widely available since the 1990s when tech really started to boom. Examples of SaaS products include Google G-Suite, Office 365, Salesforce, Cisco Webex, Zendesk, and EZnet Scheduler®.
EZnet Scheduler was one of the first SaaS products to be brought to market. It’s a cloud-based appointment scheduling software that can be used on any device—PC, laptop, tablet or phone (Windows, Apple, Android operating systems). The scheduler can be integrated into a company’s website, blog, or social media pages (for customer scheduling convenience), or it can be accessed via EZnet Scheduler’s URL. Either way, the Scheduler doesn’t actually reside on your computer. It resides in EZnet’s Cloud. As a result, it outperforms other scheduling software in terms of speed, reliability, and security of customer data.
SaaS programs like EZnet Scheduler can help companies increase ROI. That’s because SaaS applications cost less than their hard-drive-installed counterparts.
In particular, EZnet Scheduler also enables companies to increase revenues by meeting the demand of 70% of consumers who want the ability to self-schedule appointments. Oddly enough, consumers don’t want to make calls on their phones. Instead, they prefer to use their phone as a tiny, hand-held computer. As such, text messaging is their preferred form of phone-based communication. That’s why EZnet Scheduler offers unlimited text confirmations and reminders. Give your customers what they want, and they will keep coming back to you.
Another feature built into EZnet Scheduler is resource management. The Scheduler can be configured to know how long each phase of an appointment should take. Then, the scheduler maps complex appointments to ensure optimal use of resources.
For instance, if you buy new tires for your car, the work performed normally also includes a wheel alignment. EZnet Scheduler can be configured to know how long the tire installation takes and which service provider will be available for that phase of the job. Then, the Scheduler will know how long the wheel alignment phase will take, and will place the appointment in that service provider’s schedule. EZnet customizes EZnet Scheduler similarly for companies in over 30 industries, including United Healthcare and Home Depot.
Cloud-based vs. SaaS
By way of definition provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cloud computing is “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
Simply put, your software will operate the way it should at the times you need to use it. The only time you will need to interact with the provider is if you experience problems accessing the software. But, a well-designed SaaS comes to you with those “bugs” already worked out. That’s why EZnet Scheduler calls itself a “cloud-based, turnkey, out-of-the-box software solution.” Reliability is the key to good SaaS. You have to be able to depend on it “like clockwork.” As a result, all you should need to think about is logging on and using it.
Essentially, SaaS is a subset of cloud computing. However, it is important to note that not all SaaS models are built-in the cloud. SaaS products or applications can be built on a local terminal and deployed to a cloud-based server. The product itself is accessed and utilized through a web browser.
The biggest difference between SaaS and cloud-based services is that SaaS is only one part of the larger Cloud. The biggest difference between the two is the magnitude with which cloud-based can be utilized.
The Real Benefit of SaaS
Cost-effectiveness has remained one of the biggest advantages of SaaS-based software, especially in the B2B sector. Moreover, SaaS guarantees that, at all times, your company will be running the latest, most recent version of the program. You never need to update the software. The cloud host implements all updates so your software automatically stays current. And the cloud host provides security that infrastructure may not have.
The best part is that, over time, SaaS programs actually pay for themselves. Between the reduced cost of use and increased productivity, your revenues and ROI go up.