Enterprise Content Management (ECM) has many benefits waiting for organizations that choose to take advantage of them. However, it can be challenging for the layman to understand the different services and terms relating to ECM. Three main terms users, or potential users, should be aware of our Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Read on to learn more about these terms and how they apply to ECM.


Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Put simply, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a type of Cloud computing that’s main purpose is providing virtualized computer resources via the internet. In this model, organizations have a third-party provider that hosts their software, servers, hardware, storage, and additional components of their infrastructure. These third-party providers typically perform other services, like hosting applications and handling tasks like backup, maintenance, and resiliency planning.

Organizations turn to IaaS for its scalability that can easily be adjusted as needed. It’s often the choice for temporary workloads, experimental workloads, or sudden changes in an organization’s needs. Other services available in IaaS environments include dynamic scaling, policy-based services, automation of a variety of administrative tasks, and desktop virtualization.

Generally speaking, organizations that take advantage of IaaS will pay on a per-use basis. This is typically charged per hour, week, or month. In some cases the third-party provider will charge users based on the amount of virtual space they take up. These pay-as-you-go payment models eliminate the need for companies to invest in in-house equipment and software.

Since the third-party provider owns the infrastructure, monitoring and managing systems can be more challenging for the client. Any downtime experienced by the IaaS provider will typically affect their users’ workability as well. The leading providers include Google Compute Engine, IMB SmartCloud Enterprise, and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Consider this example: a business is in the process of developing a software product. They may find it more affordable to host and test their new application through an IaaS provider, knowing that once their software is tested, they can remove it from that environment into an in-house deployment.

Within the next decade, ECM may become and be viewed as an IaaS, as ECM technology grows more comprehensive and holistic on an industry to industry basis.


Software as a Service (SaaS)

IaaS is actually a blanket term under which Software as a Service (SaaS) falls. It is considered something a software vendor or service provider makes distributable via hosting a specific application or multiple applications. Typically SaaS is provider over the internet—these days typically over the Cloud. When ECM solutions are entirely Cloud-based they qualify as an SaaS. In fact, SaaS based ECM is projected to grow as much as 31% every year through 2018.

There are many advantages to organizations that use SaaS, compared to those that utilize on-premise ECM options, including:

  • Quicker startup
  • Better reliability
  • Easier scalability
  • SaaS systems are more easily supported and improved, which means companies can use them for the duration

It’s true that on-premise ECM still has 91% of the market share, but experts who’ve analyzed the data say that they expect these on-premise options to be slowly displaced by SaaS and other Cloud-based solutions. The number of organizations that choose Cloud ECM solutions is growing. Vendors including EMC, Nuxeo, Alfresco, OpenText, and SpringCM.


Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Platform as a Service (PaaS), otherwise known as Cloud platform services, are used for applications and other development, and provide Cloud components to software. There are many things to be gained when developers choose this framework, including the ability to develop or customize applications faster, simpler, and cheaper.

When PaaS is chosen, both third-party providers and enterprise operations can manage everything:

  • Virtualization
  • Networking
  • OSes
  • Servers
  • Storage
  • PaaS software itself

On the other hand, developers are in charge of managing the applications themselves.

Enterprise PaaS offers software developers a portal for self-service that allows them to manage computing infrastructure from a centralized IT operation standpoint—as well as the platforms installed on top of the hardware. Enterprise PaaS can be delivered via hybrid models that allow users to utilize both public IaaS and on-premise infrastructure, or they can choose a private PaaS that only uses on-premise infrastructure.

To better understand PaaS, think about the way you create macros in Excel. Similarly, PaaS allows users to create applications via software components that are built directly into the middleware. Any application that uses PaaS automatically inherit a variety of Cloud characteristics, including multi-tenancy, high-availability, and scalability.

While there are many advantages to using PaaS solutions, the main drawback is that they simply can’t match the flexibility found with IaaS solutions. Customers can’t easily create and delete several virtual machines, and when compared to SaaS, PaaS falls short it a different way: it’s not a complete product. Companies that utilize it still need to design programs, create them, and test them before they can be used by their end users. Generally speaking, open source ECM software tends to work best for this portion of the Cloud stack.