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How to Decide When to Use IaaS

How to Decide When to Use IaaS

Most businesses have now moved away from on-site IT infrastructure. This means that, effectively, their options are colocation and/or using cloud services. If they do choose to use cloud services, they then need to choose the right type(s) of cloud services. With that in mind, here is a quick guide on when to use IaaS.

When to use IaaS instead of PaaS or SaaS

If you want a pure cloud environment, then your three main options are IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. In general, you can tell when you should use IaaS vs when to use PaaS or SaaS just by thinking about the meaning of the acronyms.

IaaS stands for Infrastructure as a Service. PaaS stands for Platform as a Service. SaaS stands for software as a service. If you just want the building blocks of IT infrastructure, then IaaS is for you. If you want your cloud service to go further and provide everything up to operating systems and databases, then PaaS is for you. If you just want to access the functionality of software and leave everything else to your provider, then SaaS is for you.

You can use any of these types of services on their own or mix and match them for even more flexibility. You can also use cloud services with colocation (and/or traditional with on-premises infrastructure).

When to use IaaS instead of colocation

Despite being a cloud service, IaaS is arguably more directly comparable with colocation than with either PaaS or SaaS. With that said, IaaS and colocation operate in very different ways.

With IaaS, clients use virtual resources supplied by a vendor. With colocation, clients rent private space in a shared data center where they run their own equipment.

These different approaches have very different implications for businesses. Here is a quick guide to the main ones and what they mean in practice.

Capital expenditure

Implementing in-house colocation means committing to capital expenditure. On the one hand, the level of capital expenditure required for colocation is significantly lower than with traditional on-premises infrastructure.

On the other hand, using IaaS requires no capital expenditure at all. This can be enough to make it the preferred choice for many businesses.

Running costs

On a like-for-like basis, the running costs of colocation are probably much the same as the running costs of IaaS. What is generally very different, however, is the degree of flexibility businesses have with how these are billed.

With colocation, you are effectively signing a rental contract. The same fundamental dynamics apply to renting space in a data center as to any other kind of rental contract. People who are prepared to commit for longer periods will usually have more options than those who don’t. They will almost certainly get the best prices.

To a certain extent, this is also true with IaaS. There is, however, inherently more flexibility to offer better deals to businesses that are unsure about their level of commitment. The main reason for this is that IaaS is defined by access to functionality. Colocation, by contrast, is defined by access to resources.

Security and privacy

In principle, colocation should be considered to offer higher security than IaaS. This is because fewer people outside the business should touch the infrastructure. In practice, IaaS is likely to be at least as secure as colocation if not more so.

Both colocation and cloud leave the client dependent upon the vendor to manage physical security. With colocation, the client may be able to add some extra physical security features to their space.

This means that the key potential differentiator is cybersecurity. Again, in principle, colocation should be the safer option because there should be no possibility of data being leaked between clients. This is, theoretically, a risk with IaaS.

In practice, however, reputable IaaS vendors take security very seriously. What’s more, they have more resources to implement it than most businesses could ever afford. That’s why IaaS vendors can now comply with the world’s most rigorous data-security programs such as the EU’s GDPR.


IaaS and colocation are both very flexible solutions, but they are flexible in different ways. IaaS is much more scalable than colocation. If you are struggling to predict your IT needs and/or know they will change, then IaaS is likely to be a much better option than colocation.

Colocation is much more customizable than cloud. With cloud your options will be limited to what the vendor supports. If, however, you want maximum freedom to customize your infrastructure, then colocation is the way to go.


Related Resources:

How Does Cloud Computing Work?
How Secure Is The Cloud? – What You Need To Know
How To Avoid DDoS Attacks
How to Choose Storage Solutions for Your Data Center
Is Bare Metal Right For Your Business?
How To Decide When To Use IaaS

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