An Intro to Cloud Service Level Options

By: Marco
November 5, 2013

Simply trying to learn about the cloud and determine how it may fit your business through online research can be overwhelming. Many developments in technology tend to seem overcomplicated, making it difficult for businesses to understand – this is what is happening with cloud services. The benefits and advantages of the cloud can get lost in the frustrating jargon. In this blog, we are going to start by giving you a glossary for terms used to describe the cloud and many of the services associated with it.

As unappealing as reading a glossary may sound, this article should put the cloud in perspective, using descriptions you can understand. After reading, you will have a better understanding of what the cloud is and its various service capabilities.

What is the Cloud?

The cloud is a metaphor for the internet that was born from diagrams depicting the internet as a cloud. These diagrams have been in use long before the term “cloud” evolved. Here’s a typical diagram still being used today:

cloud computing

Cloud computing evolved from the term “the cloud” and exhibits the same confusion. If you ask 5 different people for the definition of cloud computing, you will likely get 5 different answers. For us, cloud computing is the overarching ability for the user to access data, applications and services remotely using the internet.

Cloud Service Level Options

Cloud services, or cloud computing, can be categorized by three different levels, each differing on the services provided and the role of the cloud services provider.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS is the first service level and it passes a large portion of delivering your IT infrastructure to your provider. Your cloud services provider will provide the necessary computing power and network infrastructure, data storage, ongoing patching, monitoring and end user support services necessary to run your business, which is paid on a monthly basis. It allows you to only pay for the computing power you use and the number of computer users that access it.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS is the cloud service level most individuals and businesses are using or evaluating today, often without knowing this terminology. One of the most easily understood SaaS applications people are utilizing today are email services – think Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail. Users have no need to be concerned about what server this application is hosted on or where it is located or how it is managed. You just need it to stay available and functioning properly.

Other examples commonly used in the business environment include Citrix’s GoToMeeting and WebEx, and Salesforce’s CRM. Other common application types include, but are not limited to:

  • Collaboration and Communication
  • Budgeting/Reporting
  • Finance/Accounting
  • Software Development
  • Analytics
  • Customer Service and Support

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS falls somewhere in between IaaS and SaaS, but is specifically geared toward developers. This service level gives developers tools to create and manage apps you need to function on your systems platform; meanwhile your provider takes most of the control of your infrastructure off your hands. You are responsible for the performance of your app while the provider is responsible for storage, security, network, hardware and updates. PaaS takes the complexity out of this process by providing the infrastructure and hardware needed while allowing organizations to focus on innovation and development.


Service level options are only the beginning of the cloud. In your research you will come across other possible clouds configurations. Read our CIO Steve Knutson’s blog, Welcome to the Cloud Era for Enterprise, to learn about public, private and hybrid clouds.

If you are ready to learn more about the options available for your business, talk to an advisor today.

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Topics: Cloud Services