What is Infrastructure as a Service in Ecommerce?

Most merchants are familiar with the SaaS concept, but a new emerging model is proving to be even more vital to enterprise businesses; Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

IaaS is gaining popularity in ecommerce as more retailers realize how it can benefit their stores.

Cloud computing, innovative software, and complex tech stacks are commonplace in ecommerce. However, IaaS could hold the key to managing the many moving parts behind all the software and technology in your ecommerce business.

Differentiating IaaS from SaaS and PaaS

Before we move forward, let’s first distinguish between SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS:

  • SaaS – Software as a Service
  • PaaS – Platform as a Service
  • IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service

These three acronyms represent the main types of cloud computing.

Cloud computing refers to the online transmission of services that provide businesses (or individuals) with resources and tools to perform particular functions.

The benefit of cloud computing is that you only pay for the cloud services you plan to use, allowing you to run your business more efficiently while cutting costs.

What is SaaS?

With SaaS, ecommerce owners can access online software to streamline and optimize their businesses.

SaaS applications are usually subscription-based, whereby retailers typically pay a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee to use the software. Most SaaS programs can be easily accessed using your web browser or a mobile app.

Examples of SaaS for ecommerce include:

  • BigCommerce
  • Salesforce
  • MailChimp
  • Hubspot

What is PaaS?

PaaS, or Platform as a Service, provides tools and services in an online environment that can be used to develop and deploy applications.

While SaaS typically presents users an “out of the box” solution, PaaS offers more customization and flexibility. The complex nature of PaaS means developers building apps or software adopt it more primarily.

Developers can use PaaS to produce custom applications and software without having to build everything from scratch. They can focus on the creative development of their app while their chosen platform manages technical functions such as running software updates or updating database files.

Types of PaaS include developmental tools, database management, and operating systems.

An example of PaaS is AWS Elastic Beanstalk, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) program for deploying and scaling web applications and software. Developers using AWS Elastic Beanstalk simply upload their code to the program, and Beanstalk then automatically handles the app deployment, management, and monitoring.

What is IaaS?

IaaS is a cloud-based alternative to on-site infrastructures such as storage solutions, web servers, and networking resources.

Traditionally, this infrastructure would be managed in a physical location. IaaS, though, removes the need for physical data centers or computing resources by bringing this infrastructure online. As such, it has the power to support a wide variety of ecommerce processes and architectures.

Examples of IaaS in ecommerce include:

  • Amazon Web Service (AWS)
  • Google Compute Engine (GCE)
  • Digital Ocean
  • Rackspace
  • Magento (depending on how you host your store)

The above examples all allow you to host your ecommerce site using a cloud-based infrastructure. However, the features and capabilities vary depending on which IaaS provider you choose.

When selecting an IaaS provider, you first need to establish your business’s requirements and your team’s technical skills. Consider what levels of access and customization you may need, the cost of the IaaS, the security necessary, and how scalable your chosen package is in terms of supporting store growth.

This is only a small snippet of some of the IaaS programs available in the ecommerce industry. The full list of providers stretches far beyond the examples shared here.

How SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS work together

Most ecommerce businesses use a combination of SaaS and IaaS to run their store. Some retailers may also work with developers to create apps using PaaS. Cloud computing has gained significant prominence, considering 89% of companies already use a multi-cloud strategy. It’s fast becoming an industry norm within the ecommerce space as the need for on-premises software dwindles.

According to the 2022 State of the Cloud Report from Flexera, 42% of companies stated they will prioritize moving from on-premises software to SaaS in 2022. A further 31% of respondents said they intend to expand their use of the public cloud for IaaS and PaaS, and 57% will migrate even more workloads to cloud computing.

In short, retailers that embrace cloud computing are future-proofing their business.

IaaS lays the foundation for your cloud-based technology, upon which you build the environment where your platform will run using PaaS. To top it all off, SaaS programs provide the functionality and tools needed to run the platform.

While Saas and Paas are valuable for ecommerce, the rest of this guide hones in on IaaS — a service that’s surging in popularity within the ecommerce space.

How IaaS impacts the ecommerce industry

When launching an ecommerce business these days, it’s unlikely you’ll have a dedicated server room for it. Instead, you’ll probably host your online store remotely in the cloud.

With that said, on-premises infrastructure isn’t entirely dead. Some ecommerce owners still prefer to use on-premise infrastructure for two leading reasons: first, they may already have the resources to do so; second, some believe it’s more secure than cloud computing, despite recent research suggesting otherwise.

Along with being safer, ecommerce businesses of varying shapes and sizes can benefit from using IaaS.

A small retailer who’s bootstrapping their ecommerce business may want to opt for IaaS as a cheaper solution to hosting their website without having to invest in physical infrastructure.

Alternatively, large-scale corporations may use a tech stack of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS to create a well-rounded ecommerce ecosystem capable of handling complex functions and large databases.

Smoother ecommerce operations

IaaS makes it simpler for ecommerce owners to scale their businesses

As your store grows, you can easily upgrade your remote data center space and quickly adapt your IaaS to reflect your current needs. In contrast, updating on-premises infrastructure can be both costly and time-consuming, as you’d need to physically replace and maintain equipment.

IaaS also increases the amount of control retailers have over their ecommerce stores, providing greater freedom in site management.

Since your IaaS manages your site storage, servers, and networking, you have more time to manage applications, data, runtime, middleware, and operating systems. This offers more flexibility in how you run your site.

Advantages of IaaS for ecommerce

The prevalence of IaaS means more businesses can get their ecommerce store up and running without needing any technical know-how to build an online site. It’s quickly becoming a fundamental component of constructing powerful ecommerce sites.

Let’s delve into the advantages of using IaaS for ecommerce to understand why.

Reduced infrastructure costs

One of the notable advantages of using IaaS is that it can drastically reduce infrastructure costs compared to an on-premise infrastructure.

With IaaS, users only pay for the features they need. As their store grows or shrinks over time, they can adapt their IaaS capacity and features to reflect these changes. Users also don’t have to pay up front for a server capacity they may not need.

In contrast, those who opt for an on-premises infrastructure may have to pay to run and store physical hardware in anticipation of future growth.

No need for upgrades

Technology constantly needs to be updated and upgraded to continue running smoothly. IaaS, however, doesn’t require any heavy alterations.

In most cases, your IaaS will let you know when you need to upgrade your program, or they may do it for you automatically. In contrast, if you maintain on-premises infrastructures, you’d have to invest in software updates, hardware upgrades, and equipment maintenance — and be responsible for keeping these systems up to date.

Access data from anywhere

Cloud solutions like IaaS are immediately available and accessible from anywhere. Companies no longer need to be in a specific location to retrieve company data, as they do with on-premises infrastructure.

This accessibility supports the growth of global teams, allowing members to access files and data easily through the cloud.

Improved reliability

You put a lot of trust in your tools when running an ecommerce business. The last thing you want is for an unreliable tool to cause your site to go down or experience other issues.

For Amazon, it’s estimated an hour of downtime could result in a loss of $13,219,128.

Regardless of the size of your ecommerce store, any amount of time offline can impede your revenue and deteriorate customer experiences. IaaS strengthens your ecommerce site by minimizing the likelihood of performance issues, downtime, or website outages.

When using IaaS, your data is stored remotely in the cloud, meaning it could be hosted across multiple data centers and networks. If one of these centers experiences an outage or technical issue, it shouldn’t disrupt site performance because the others can pick up the slack. This improves your site’s reliability and stability.

Increased scalability

IaaS programs help prepare your ecommerce brand for the future. Employing IaaS, your ecommerce business can scale up (or down) as your needs change.

These programs can easily be adapted to suit the changing dynamics of your company: If, for example, you need more site storage to manage a spike in network traffic, you can increase the storage space of your IaaS with just a couple of clicks.

This scalability also increases the resiliency of your business, ensuring you’re ready for anything.

Wrapping up – The power of IaaS in ecommerce

Infrastructure as a Service has the power to transform your ecommerce ownership experience into a smashing success.

By moving to cloud-based infrastructure, you’ll future-proof your business and increase its resiliency — all while cutting costs, minimizing maintenance requirements, improving reliability, and expanding accessibility and scalability.

IaaS offers ecommerce businesses greater control over their data and resources compared to on-premises infrastructure. When combined with PaaS and SaaS, IaaS can also provide increased flexibility and customization for ecommerce owners to manage complex functions and build a unique online experience for their users. Take your ecommerce endeavors to new heights by adopting a cloud-based infrastructure like IaaS.

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