Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

September 16th, 2013 by Christopher C. Wright

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The second most common product offered by Cloud providers is Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS. Many Sonoma County businesses already utilize IaaS by having replaced their landline or POTS phones with Voice-over-IP devices, but IaaS can do so much more. Over time many offices accumulate old or outdated computers that lack the physical resources, either disk space or memory, to perform what is required of them. IaaS providers have found a way to utilize these old machines and to breathe new life back into them, reducing hardware overhead and practically negating the cost of new equipment.

IaaS is Remote Hardware and Software

Much as your phone or computer accesses email which is stored on servers out on the internet, old workstations can be used to access virtual machines that a Cloud provider stores online, computers that have all the RAM or hard drive space required. All your work is actually done on these remote machines, with the aging local computer nothing more than a gateway to those services. This idea of “dumb terminals,” which provide little else than a connection to a server, has been a driving force in many industries for over two decades but Cloud providers have brought the ease-of-use to almost every business imaginable.

More than workstations and phone service, IaaS is often used for storage or backup operations as well. Cloud vendors often have an overindulgence of hard drive space and offer it on an as-needed basis which can help growing companies save on potentially-costly storage arrays. With companies amassing more data than ever before, from sales figures to customer analytics, the cost to back up that data has also been growing steadily. Online backup solutions are one way to mitigate the up-front cost of these services by paying only for the storage you use, and on a monthly basis.

IaaS is Accessible Anywhere

VoIP telephony and online file storage are two products that can help businesses grow in an ever-widening market. With VoIP, employees can have an office extension route directly to their homes, their hotel rooms, or even their cell phone, allowing them to stay connected and part of the team, wherever they are. Online file storage makes it easy to for those remote workers to access company files, email, and client notes via their smart phone or laptop, making days away from the office more productive than ever before.

While both of these technologies have existed longer than the term “the Cloud” recent technological developments have increased their popularity and their adoption across the country and across the world. Whereas previously there was only one primary provider of VoIP and a few relatively unknown providers of online storage the market has exploded with competition, driving quality up and prices down.

IaaS is not Perfect

While we at MSMB Networks believes that many businesses in Petaluma could benefit from the advantages Cloud services provide, we believe that there are very real drawbacks that must be weighed against the advantages. As explored in our What is “the Cloud?” and Software as a Service articles, all services which depend on the internet are limited by certain factors, including:

  • Required Connectivity and Capacity — using remote computers will tax an existing internet connection far more than simply using email or browsing the internet, especially if files need to be transferred to the remote location. This means that not only is a fast internet pipeline required but, should the access be disabled or interrupted for any purpose, all cloud services will be unavailable to your office. If your office relies on the remote site for its backups or file storage, those processes will simply be out of contact until your internet connectivity is returned. For many business-critical services, this may be an unacceptable risk.
  • Lack of Control — with remote services there is often little interaction between the provider and the client when maintenance windows, upgrades, or other downtime-causing events occur. As with a public utility notifying a neighborhood that power will be down on a given day during a specific timeframe, there is little opportunity to argue about, complain to, or adjust the provider’s outage schedule. In today’s world more and more businesses operate around the clock or at nonstandard hours. These outages may cause interruptions to your service, and software upgrades may in fact break features you have come to rely upon.
  • No Confidentiality — when you allow a valet to park your car, you are giving up control of your vehicle and everything inside it to a stranger. When you give your data or corporate services to a remote hosting provider, you similarly have no control over to whom that third-party gives access. While not usually an issue, a client needs to have the fullest confidence in their Cloud provider that their data will be safe, secure, and not peeked at, whether by unscrupulous internal employees, governmental bodies, malicious hackers, or others who may want access to your customer and financial data.

In Short

The internet has brought an amazing growth to the services available to help new or growing businesses, including right here in Sonoma County. For companies who are designing a permanent solution to their IT needs, Cloud services provide a very viable stop-gap method to increase productivity before longer-lasting measures are put into place. There are many cloud providers available which we believe is a very healthy sign for the future market — companies will have to work hard to distinguish themselves from the competition, which usually results in great savings or service for the end-user.

Do you have a question about Cloud computing? Email Us and be sure to check back next week as we wrap up our month-long examination of Cloud Computing and what it means for North Bay businesses!

MSMB Networks — Your IT Professionals!

Christopher C. Wright is the CTO of MSMB Networks, focusing on network and system administration, upgrade planning, disaster recovery, and IT budget analysis in Petaluma and all over Sonoma and Marin Counties. With more than fifteen years of hands-on experience, he is committed to educating and protecting his clients, ensuring they receive the best individualized support possible. Email him at

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