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Saas, Cloud, and Cloud Computing: What’s the difference?

Buzzwords float around synonymously describing many of the online applications used today.  SaaS, Cloud and Cloud Computing, are just a few of the terms used to describe a portion of these online technologies.  What is the difference though?  If my vendor is Saas, doesn’t that mean they are in the Cloud and utilize Cloud Computing?  The short answer is: Not Always.

SaaS – Software as a Service

Saas, Software as a Service, is not a new term by any means.  SaaS, as the term simply implies, refers to the ability to serve applications as a service.  Therefore we as consumers, do not need to worry about the overhead of managing the hardware, infrastructure, and software itself, but rather the application is delivered remotely and the back-end management of the application is owned and operated by the application vendor.  This reduces the total cost of ownership for a consumer, since hardware and software maintenance are not a concern.  Although the application might seem to be in the Cloud itself, it is possible that a SaaS application is simply hosted by the vendor (referred to s an Application Service Provider model..but we can discuss that later).

The Cloud

Just as SaaS provides an application as a service, the Cloud provides computing power, storage and infrastructure (to name a few),  as a service.  There are many types of Clouds, including Private, Public, and Hybrid (which we will discuss further in the future).  To break it down even further, the Cloud could simply be viewed as any processing or storage that occurs outside of your company’s network.

Cloud Computing

Although in the Cloud, some applications might not truly be using Cloud Computing.  Since the Cloud serves up computing power as a service, one would think a Cloud application utilizes Cloud Computing.  Again, this is not always the case.  Cloud Computing refers to the true scalability of an application to simply utilize processing power across a Cloud, regardless of the hosted environment.  Cloud Computing is much like the smart grid used within utilities.  Within the smart grid, if power at one substation is not being utilized, it is re-routed to another station which requires more power.  Likewise, Cloud Computing refers to the fact that if additional computing power is required by an application, it is shared between other Cloud resources.

In Summary

As  briefly described by Providence GIS Solutions blog post, we agree that SaaS (in its many forms) and the Cloud, including Cloud Computing, are here to stay.  As stated before, utilizing the Cloud to provide SaaS application reduces the overall Total Cost of Ownership that we incur as consumers.  A true SaaS offering, based in the Cloud, allows for additional cost savings across the board.  We look forward to discussing this topic further in the future, especially with respect to security, utility usage data, and the proper use of Cloud resources.


GreenSuite provides a Cloud based SaaS platform to assist utility providers in reducing overall operating costs by engaging end consumers in behavior based efforts to improve energy efficiency.

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