As technology is rapidly developing, the demand for cheaper and more secure ways of accessing, processing and storing data is increasingly becoming a necessity.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a form of cloud computing service that enables organizations to access a range of computing elements remotely, like servers, networking, data storage, virtual machines etc.
IaaS is one of the three major cloud-computing offerings alongside Platform as a service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS).
The IaaS as a cloud computing option has captured the attention of many businesses as it replaces the traditional on-premise IT infrastructure with virtual cloud computing services.
However, there are several advantages and disadvantages of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to businesses which we’ll describe and discuss below.
Advantages of IaaS Cloud Computing
1) No need to buy your own hardware
IaaS helps to reduce Capex as organizations are not required to install on-premise hardware and IT infrastructure since cloud computing provides virtualized computing resources over the internet.
Since IaaS permits a company to use the host cloud servers and storage infrastructure, there are reduced capital expenses in hardware purchases with the associated cost of maintaining this infrastructure.
With IaaS, businesses can rapidly increase the number of digital resources they use, such as servers, storage, and networking, to accommodate unpredictable variabilities in demand without heavily investing in expanding their on-premise Infrastructure.
2) No need to maintain a local computing infrastructure
Since the cloud provider is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure (software and hardware upgrades, faulty parts replacement, system monitoring etc), it reduces the burden of an organization’s IT personnel administration.
With IaaS, the client can reduce personnel cost and reduces the need to hire expensive IT staff.
The organization that has acquired the IaaS services will be able to focus on the business objectives and streamline operations instead of having the headache of maintaining and running a local IT infrastructure.
3) Increased Scalability and Flexibility
Scalability and flexibility is one benefit that has attracted most companies to choose IaaS cloud technologies.
If an organization is looking for a scalable and flexible system, the Infrastructure as a Service is the way to go, as it can scale up resources quickly and when needed with no downtime.
The IaaS service has increased scalability as the Cloud provider allow efficient data storage and backups.
Similarly, it increases the flexibility in data access by allowing a quick switch between resources as needed at a specific time compared to traditional IT infrastructures that are rigid in data processing.
4) Cost Savings
In addition to saving the cost of Capex (purchasing IT and networking equipment) or personnel overhead, IaaS is also cost-effective because it is usually offered as “pay-as-you-go” model.
Most of the companies aim to reduce cost while seeking efficient service delivery. With IaaS, this is cheaper as an organization does not need to worry about losing money by paying for unused local infrastructure.
Instead, businesses only pay for what is needed and what is being used. Since the cloud provider shares its Infrastructure with many other clients, the cost is further reduced because of economies of scale.
With the pay-as-you-go service, IaaS becomes beneficial, as it provides on-demand computing Infrastructure.
The service fees are computed based on usage metrics, and thus the hosted companies can use the computing infrastructure based on their usage without additional cost.
5) Focus on business growth instead of IT infrastructure
Using IaaS allows a company to grow faster as it concentrates on its core business rather than operating and maintaining an IT infrastructure.
IaaS allows a business to focus on its mission and vision by leaving the computing Infrastructure of servers, networking, storage and other IT systems to the cloud provider.
This investment stimulates growth through technological innovation at a lower cost. The company using IaaS invests in improving its product and service delivery rather than losing time and money in upgrading and running its own IT infrastructure.
6) Better reliability and security
An IaaS service is reliable and secure as the cloud provider ensures that the Infrastructure is always available, scalable and secure by implementing multiple data centers, redundancy and strict security controls.
Regarding security, big cloud providers follow strict regulations and security controls with specialized personnel, something that small businesses will have a hard time implementing.
Most importantly, IaaS providers ensure improved reliability and availability by implementing multiple data-centers with redundancy, elastic resource utilization etc.
7) Better Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
In the event of disasters, most businesses seek to return to their operations as quickly as possible.
However, most disaster recovery and business continuity schemes are time-consuming and expensive.
Nevertheless, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) allows easier Disaster Recovery (DR) and Business Continuity (BC) scenarios since usually it is the cloud provider’s responsibility to properly implement such solutions for their own infrastructure.
From the client access perspective, since the business staff at different locations can access the Infrastructure through the internet, it becomes efficient in case of disaster as the company continues to operate no matter the difference in geography.
Since IaaS is flexible and not limited to a certain geography, Disaster Recovery (DR) and Business Continuity (BC) are easier as it reduces cost and increases business manageability.
The Cloud computing of IaaS consists of several servers that are ready to take over in case of an outage or other problems in one node.
Disadvantages of IaaS Cloud Computing
1) Complex integration with existing on-premise Infrastructure
One of the greatest disadvantages of an organization applying the Infrastructure as a Service concept is the complexity of integrating with any pre-existing systems running on-premise.
The complexity in integrating IaaS with on-premises systems arises due to incompatibility issues, network connectivity issues between on-prem and cloud, software incompatibilities etc.
This complexity is further extended because of lacking the required technical skills to manage and configure the Cloud IaaS systems.
2) Cloud provider lock-in
Cloud provider lock-in is another disadvantage of Infrastructure as a Service, as switching from one Cloud service provider to another is usually very difficult with considerable down-time.
An organization can thus suffer from long-term reliance on a single Cloud provider, which may lead to lack of control over its resources, higher cost and less flexibility.
3) Possible regulatory issues
Unlike on-premise data processing and storage, the IaaS option provides another disadvantage to an organization’s ability to meet regulatory requirements, especially data privacy.
Many European and North America privacy regulations (such as GDPR, California’s CCPA etc) may require for businesses to hold customers’ data under strict privacy controls, including location of the data etc.
An IaaS offering might not abide fully with data protection and regulatory issues might arise for the business which holds customers’ data on a cloud IaaS provider.
4) Dependency on Internet connection
The reliance on good broadband internet connection to use your IaaS service is another challenge for customers.
The IaaS Quality of Service can thus be affected if the internet connectivity is frequently degraded or when the connection quality is poor, both at the customer’s end and at the provider’s end as well.
Slow or unreliable internet connections can result in reliability and performance issues as the data transfer and processing are determined by the speed of the user connection.
5) Security risks if the cloud servers are not managed or maintained properly
Although at the advantages of IaaS we mentioned that security is better with such cloud services, there are also risks involved if the IaaS cloud servers are not managed properly by the customer.
For example, buying a compute instance as an IaaS product (for example AWS EC2, Azure or Google Cloud Virtual Machines etc), necessitates that the customer will perform all required hardening and software maintenance to keep a high level of security on such cloud servers.
Moreover, the data in the Cloud is at risk of data breaches leading to the organization’s sensitive information being exposed to unauthorized third parties and malicious attackers. This is because Cloud providers are usually main targets of cyber-attacks.