What is IaaS? (Definition, characteristics and benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As technology develops, new ways to store and share data on computers emerge regularly. One common method for organising data is cloud computing, which allows users to take care of their data in public and private cloud networks. There are a few different types of cloud computing, one of which is infrastructure as a service, also known as IaaS. In this article, we provide an answer to, 'What is IaaS?', explain how IaaS works and list its basic functionalities and characteristics.

What is IaaS?

'What is IaaS?' is an important question to ask when you're developing your skills and gaining essential tech knowledge. IaaS, or infrastructure as a service, is a method of cloud computing that makes it possible for users, such as employees of a company, to perform their duties over the Internet. It offers many functionalities, including data storage resources.

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How does IaaS work?

IaaS providers offer clients modern cloud computing infrastructure, which includes servers, operating systems, networks and storage. The technology that makes it possible is virtualisation, which is the process of creating a virtual version of something, including virtual workspaces. What's great about IaaS and similar solutions is that companies, as the end-users, have total control over the infrastructure.

At the same time, it's not the user's responsibility to physically maintain hardware or pay for a traditional data centre and hire network managers. This means that users are only responsible for managing applications, middleware or data. The rest, including the servers, hard drives and storage, is the provider's responsibility.

What are some basic IaaS functionalities?

Typically, IaaS provides companies and users with a collection of physical and digital resources for performing and storing work in the cloud. Here are the basic functionalities of IaaS:

Physical data centres

In most IaaS solutions, users rarely, or never, interact directly with the solution's physical infrastructure, but they have access to it. It's typically the IaaS providers who manage those physical data centres. They also maintain high functionality of the physical machines that power the infrastructure, to make sure IaaS is available to users at all times.

Compute

Cloud computing is a digital resource that IaaS developers provide for end-users, including companies. Depending on their plan or needs, those users gain access to their desired amounts of computing, memory and storage. It's also common that cloud computing comes with other services, such as auto scalling or load balancing.

Security

Since IaaS providers specialise in developing modern, high-tech and secure solutions for clients, using IaaS allows companies to enhance their security systems. IaaS solutions are often more secure than in-house infrastructures. This is because providers continuously monitor any potential risks and update their infrastructure regularly. This also improves the stability and reliability of systems.

Related: How to become a security engineer: skills and training

Storage, backup and recovery

Using IaaS gives companies access to various kinds of cloud storage solutions, including block storage, file storage and object storage, which are the three types that providers usually offer. In recent years, the most popular type has been object storage. It's because it's the most resilient of the three and it leverages commodity hardware.

Who can use IaaS?

Usually, most organisations can use IaaS. There are some situations in which using IaaS may be especially beneficial, including:

  • Startups and small companies: It may make sense for small companies to use IaaS because it allows them to spend less money and time creating their own software.

  • Large companies: An important benefit that large companies using IaaS experience is that they retain total control over the applications and infrastructure. At the same time, they can purchase only those solutions that they actually use.

  • Rapidly growing companies: IaaS is highly scalable, which makes it perfect for rapidly growing organisations whose needs continuously change. Using IaaS allows them to change out specific hardware or software as they desire.

Related: The pros and cons of working at a startup

Characteristics of IaaS

There are many digital solutions that providers offer, including SaaS and IaaS. Here are some characteristics that define IaaS:

  • Cost may vary, depending on consumption.

  • IaaS is dynamic and flexible for the organisation.

  • The organisation retains complete control of the infrastructure.

  • Resources are available as services, not products.

  • IaaS is highly scalable.

Benefits of using IaaS

Using IaaS can offer many potential benefits to users. One of the most common benefits is that this type of infrastructure can reduce a company's operating costs. It also makes it possible for professionals and users from different locations to handle large workloads quickly, which may help businesses improve overall employee productivity and, as a result, meet their sales targets in less time or increase their profits.

Infrastructure as a service also significantly reduces reaction time between different departments, teams and employees and gives them a chance to react to changing circumstances in their industries. Here are some other important benefits to using IaaS:

  • Promotes innovation of new products and software: Using IaaS makes it possible for companies to attract top talent in their industry and provide them with the tools to implement innovative solutions that improve productivity, efficiency and the quality of their products.

  • Improves security for data and applications: User agreements that companies have with IaaS providers allow companies to make sure that the solutions that they choose are safe to use. To make sure all company data remains confidential and secure, companies may consider choosing a provider that specialises in confidentiality and security.

  • Makes computer systems more stable and reliable: Companies can continue using IaaS solutions, regardless of any unexpected situations or events at the company's headquarters. The provider takes care of storing and making everything easily accessible to them, which makes it a stable and reliable solution.

  • Enhances business continuity: IaaS providers offer customers various types of services. This means that companies can continue using IaaS even if they decide to enter new markets or change their business profile.

  • Provides resources for data recovery: IaaS allows for storing and recovering system data on cloud-based platforms while ensuring a high level of operational performance.

  • Offers many different service providers to choose from: There are various IaaS providers that clients can consider when selecting the best cloud solution. It's a competitive market, which makes it possible for providers to continuously update and develop new offers.

Related: How to become an IT engineer (with practical steps and career info)

Common uses of IaaS in the workplace

Most professionals who use IaaS use it to support their operations at work, which may include:

Testing and developing applications

IaaS allows users to create spaces where they can perform tests on new applications that can inform their development. These tests might consider elements of an application like performance, user experience, appearance and accessibility. Since IaaS can make it easier for developers to test new applications, using IaaS can help introduce new applications to users more quickly than some other web development platforms. This can be especially valuable to technology companies that want to create many new applications at a time.

Data storage and backup

One of the most popular uses of IaaS is to manage data. Businesses that use high volumes of data can store it, perform backups and launch recovery procedures all through IaaS services. It's also possible to automate many of these tasks, which can make the process of organising data simple and timely. The flexible nature of IaaS also helps with data by allowing users to adjust their service plans according to the amount of data they want to organise.

High-performance computing

High-performance computing (HPC) is a process that finds solutions to technological challenges using variables and calculations. One of the most popular uses for high-performance computing is to create simulations or models that can help professionals make predictions in their industries. For example, meteorologists can use high-performance computing for weather simulations.

Hosting websites

Many companies choose to use IaaS services to develop and publish their own websites. This is because IaaS can make running a website simple by providing a central place where developers can complete all elements of a web design project. Hosting a website using IaaS can also reduce costs for a company, as the cost of IaaS services is typically less expensive than creating and publishing a website using a third-party service.

Analysing big data

Big data refers to very large sets of data that can include characteristics like patterns and associations. The process of analysing big data typically involves exploring high volumes of data to identify any patterns or trends that might exist in a company's data sets. IaaS can make engaging in big data analysis easier for businesses by providing the processing power that the operation requires from a central location and often at a low cost.

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