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Multi-Carrier Shipping Blog

IaaS, SaaS and PaaS: What They Are and How They Relate to Shipping

Posted by Chris Allen on Jan 17, 2017 9:26:34 AM


You've decided to make the jump from strictly on-premises shipping software to one that's cloud-based. The problem is that you can't make informed decisions about this change in warehouse management practices when you're bogged down in cloud terminology.

When it comes to the cloud, these three terms are used frequently: IaaS, SaaS and PaaS. But what do they mean, and how can they help you with the shipping segment of your business?

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) refers to the use of virtualized hardware environments that exist in the cloud. It's not a shipping service itself, but rather a way to host your own shipping software (as well as your hardware, other software, storage and servers) on the cloud.

Who Should Use IaaS?

This option is ideal for customers who wish to use the software they already have but also want the flexibility of the cloud. Most shipping software should work with IaaS because it works much like the hardware-based versions.

What's the Downside?

Most shipping applications require access to order data stored in an ERP solution, which may be local or cloud-based. Because the ERP and the shipping application have constant communication, it's crucial that the IaaS offers a robust security solution that protects data on both ends. Industry standards such as SSL or TLS should be employed using a secure VPN connection.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

Unlike IaaS, Software as a Service (SaaS) is software that is utilized via the cloud. It's often purchased as a subscription. Many large companies, such as UPS, FedEx, Endicia and DHL, use SaaS for shipping-related activities. However, it also works for smaller carriers.

Who Should Use SaaS?

Carriers like this approach because of the instant access to data regarding packages they will be introducing into their system. Carrier web services are a great option for end companies as well. There is less software and configuration to manage directly because it’s handled by the carrier.

What's the Downside?

When a larger business uses web services, and a web service is unavailable or latency is high, it can immediately and directly affect high-volume shipping operations. Unfortunately, most carriers have not caught up to other cloud-based SaaS offerings and are not yet making available SLA agreements that serve as a guarantee for operational service levels. 

Also, many companies use multiple carriers, and creating interfaces for each is tedious. Our InfoShip application uses one interface, pulling details from multiple carriers at once.

PaaS (Platform as a Service)

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is similar to IaaS because it's not actually software, but instead a platform for software and applications that are accessed via the cloud. However, unlike IaaS, PaaS can't be used for a company's entire infrastructure. With PaaS, you do not need to worry about installing software or configuring hardware, but you do retain full control over user access.  

The PaaS is a framework that helps with the development and testing stages of software, making the deployment phase faster, as well.

Who Should Use PaaS?

Because PaaS cuts out much of the time needed for deploying software, it's perhaps most practical for companies that already use a cloud-based software that can interact with the shipping software.

What's the Downside?

You should know which type of interface you use when integrating into a PaaS environment. Many systems utilize the traditional SOAP-based web service interface, but more and more are using REST-based web services. It is important to understand what types of web services your shipping system can interact with. For instance, our InfoShip application is able to work with both SOAP and REST-based services.

Now What?

Now that you know the differences, you can focus on choosing a service that provides data protection and a high percentage of uptime. Outages are challenging, but the best providers offer low-latency services with substantial security.

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Topics: shipping system