As a cloud watcher, it's interesting to track the various narrative strands that occupy the cloud media space. For a while, the dominant narratives surround the imminent demise of PaaS at the hands of container technology, and cheerleading for multi-cloud environments. But one of the more persistent narratives concerns the proper domain of Infrastructure as a Service, which goes something like this: IaaS is for startups that need networks and servers without capital investment, and enterprises that require massively scalable, redundant, programmable infrastructure deployments. SaaS is for small businesses, who require ready-made, easy-to-deploy, low-expertise solutions.
In a nutshell, I think that's nonsense. Small business don't have huge infrastructure requirements, but over the years, I don't think I have come across many small business that didn't have a few PCs stuffed in a closet somewhere running their back-office setup: payroll processing, customer databases, backups, bespoke business-specific software, and so on.
The datacenter-in-a-closet model is barely functional and inherently risky for small businesses. Infrastructure-as-a-Service offers an alternative infrastructure deployment model for small businesses that removes most of that risk along with being less expensive and easier to manage.
Most small businesses don't have an IT expert on hand: they contract the management of their servers and networks to a freelance IT professional. That works, but it's unnecessarily expensive, especially when the contractor is required to make site visits for simple jobs. We're always hearing about the collaborative advantages of the cloud, but not much space is given to the fact that IaaS can be managed entirely remotely. For small businesses that means their IT contractor does not have to be onsite for the vast majority of maintenance and configuration tasks.
If a small business suffers an incident that wipes out their data closet, they can wave goodbye to their data in most cases. Even if they have adequate off site backups, the time it takes to resurrect them onto alternative hardware is time during which the business is out of action. No such risk exists in the cloud. The chance of anything catastrophic happening to cloud servers and data storage is vanishingly small, and even if it does, snapshots and backups can be used to have an identical network up and running in hours rather than weeks.
Scalability on the level enabled by cloud platforms is not something that most small businesses will be concerned with, but the ability to quickly deploy additional servers is an advantage that shouldn't be ignored. Many businesses need a little extra computing power from time-to-time: to run tests, as staging environments, to speed up payroll processing, to run extra database or processing jobs, and so on. They need just a little more than usual to accomplish a specific set of tasks. That's trivially easy on a cloud platform like Outscale's: it takes minutes to spin up a server and install the operating system, and you have a no-risk environment that you use — and, more importantly, pay for — only as long as it's needed.
Small businesses can reap huge benefits from Infrastructure as a Service. The cloud is for everyone, not just Silicon Valley startups and Internet giants.