April 16, 2024

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is a type of cloud computing. This model provides virtualized computing resources over the internet.  

In an IaaS model, organizations pay for access to infrastructure components rather than owning and managing them.

IaaS providers typically offer servers, storage, and networking hardware, as well as the virtualization or hypervisor layer.  

This model offers a high level of flexibility and scalability to businesses, as it allows them to use the IaaS provider’s computing resources on-demand without the need to invest in physical hardware or the data center space to house it and teams to support it. Customers of IaaS can access resources and services on a pay-as-you-go basis, which makes it an economical option for many organizations, especially those that experience fluctuating workloads. 

How IaaS works

It is important to consider the core components IaaS to understand how it works. Each of these pieces works together to provide a comprehensive, scalable, and secure computing environment.  

The core components of IaaS offerings include:   

  • Management and automation tools 
    Tools such as APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), web portals, and orchestration frameworks are provided through IaaS. These allow users to manage their resources, configure networking, and automate tasks such as scaling, backup, and recovery, improving operational efficiency. 
  • Networking 
    Networking options offered by IaaS providers include virtual networks, subnets, VPNs (virtual private networks), IP (internet protocol) addresses, load balancers, and firewalls to support complex network architectures. These are used to enable communication between VMs (virtual machines), the internet, and on-premises networks and ensure secure and efficient data transfer. 
  • Security 
    IaaS security components include identity and access management (IAM), encryption, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), and data protection mechanisms. These protect data, applications, and infrastructure from threats and help organizations adhere to data security and privacy regulations. 
  • Storage
    A variety of storage options are available through IaaS, such as block storage, file storage, and object storage. IaaS providers offer scalable and flexible storage solutions that can be easily dialed up or down to meet changing needs. Storage solutions offered by IaaS providers support everything from website content to enterprise databases.
  • Support services 
    IaaS offerings include technical support, consulting services, and managed services to help organizations with setup, maintenance, and troubleshooting. 
  • Virtual machines (VMs)
    VMs are software emulations of physical computers that run an operating system and applications. VMs appear like physical hardware to the end user but are entirely software-defined and provide scalable computer resources on-demand without the need for physical hardware.
  • Virtualization 
    Virtualization technology enables the pooling of physical resources and their allocation to VMs as needed. It allows multiple VMs to run on a single physical server, efficiently utilizing the underlying hardware.  

The following is a summary of how IaaS works. 

  1. Provider setup
    The IaaS provider sets up the physical infrastructure in their data centers, including servers, storage systems, networks, and the virtualization environment. Then, the physical resources are pooled together and managed by the provider’s virtualization technology, which allows for the dynamic allocation and management of these resources.
  2. Client engagement
    Customers subscribe to the IaaS provider’s service, often through a web-based dashboard or an API. Once they are onboarded, customers can configure and manage their virtual infrastructure according to their needs. They can request computing resources like virtual machines (VMs), storage, and networking capabilities, which are allocated from the provider’s pooled infrastructure.
  3. Management and maintenance
    Customers control the operating systems, storage, and software that runs in the virtualized environments. In some cases, they have limited control of select networking components (e.g., host firewalls). The IaaS provider manages the underlying physical infrastructure, ensuring the availability, security, and scalability of the resources. This includes hardware maintenance, data center security, and resource provisioning.
  4. Usage and scaling 
    Resources can be consumed on demand, and customers pay only for what they use, following a pay-as-you-go model. This flexibility is key for businesses with fluctuating workloads.

    IaaS allows for the rapid scaling of resources to accommodate spikes in demand without the need for physical hardware changes. This scalability ensures that applications can perform optimally under varying loads.
  5. Security and compliance
    Security in an IaaS environment is a shared responsibility. While the provider secures the infrastructure, customers must secure their operating systems, applications, and data. Most IaaS providers comply with various regulatory standards, helping customers meet compliance requirements for their industries.

IaaS use cases

Advanced analytics

IaaS provides the scalable compute and storage resources needed to process and analyze big data efficiently using resource-intensive artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms and models.  

Disaster recovery

Rather than support physical disaster recovery sites, IaaS offers cost-effective, scalable disaster recovery solutions that utilize cloud resources to ensure business continuity

Internet of Things (IoT)

IaaS facilitates the real-time processing and analysis of data generated by IoT devices. 

High-performance computing (HPC)

IaaS offers access to high-performance computing resources on-demand, enabling complex computational tasks (e.g., simulations, scientific calculations, and big data analytics) that would be prohibitively expensive or impossible for some organizations to perform on-premises. 

Storage, backup, and recovery

IaaS ensures data integrity and availability with scalable cloud storage options for data storage, backup, and disaster recovery

Test and development environments

Development processes can be sped up with IaaS, which makes it easy to create, replicate, and dispose of environments without hardware constraints.

Virtual data centers 

IaaS allows organizations to create a virtualized version of a traditional data center, which is scalable and available on demand. 

Web applications

IaaS provides a flexible, scalable infrastructure for building and deploying web applications that can adapt to changes in application demand. 

Web hosting

Organizations commonly use IaaS for hosting websites and web applications because it offers scalability, reliability, improved uptime, and the ability to handle varying traffic loads. 

Advantages of IaaS

There are many advantages of IaaS. The following benefits highlight why IaaS is so widely used. 

Cost savings

One of the most significant advantages of IaaS is the potential for cost savings.  

In addition to initial cost savings realized by not having to purchase and maintain physical servers, storage, and networking hardware, IaaS allows for the optimization of ongoing operational costs. 

Geographical reach

Cloud services can be deployed globally, allowing organizations to serve their customers more effectively by reducing latency and complying with local data regulations without having a physical presence in multiple locations. 


With access to the latest technologies and high-performance computing resources, IaaS supports the performance requirements of intensive workloads and applications with state-of-the-art infrastructure.

Scalability and flexibility

IaaS allows organizations to quickly scale up or down based on demand. This is essential for organizations experiencing rapid growth or those with fluctuating workloads, enabling them to manage resources without overprovisioning or underutilizing infrastructure efficiently. 


While security responsibilities are shared between the provider and the client in an IaaS model, providers invest heavily in securing their infrastructure. This includes physical security of data centers, as well as cybersecurity measures like encryption and intrusion detection systems. 

Stability and reliability

IaaS providers offer service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee high uptime, stability, and performance. The use of the latest technology and the expertise of cloud providers in managing these resources ensure that organizations can rely on consistent and efficient service delivery. 

IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS


IaaS gives users access to raw computing hardware over the cloud, including servers, network, storage, and data center space. It provides the most flexibility and management control over IT resources. IaaS is commonly used for web hosting, data storage and backup, web applications, testing, and development environments. 

PaaS (Platform as a Service)

PaaS provides a platform where customers can develop, run, and manage applications. Users control the deployed applications and possibly configuration settings for the application-hosting environment.  

PaaS is used for application development, testing, and deployment, as well as database integration, analytics, and business intelligence. It eliminates the need for organizations to manage the underlying infrastructure, allowing teams to focus on the deployment and management of applications. 

SaaS (Software as a Service)

SaaS provides access to software applications over the internet on a subscription basis. Users have minimal control, limited to user-specific application configuration settings.  

Examples of SaaS are email, customer relationship management (CRM), and collaboration tools. SaaS offers ready-to-use solutions without requiring users to install, set up, and run applications. 

IaaS security

Security in IaaS environments combines the efforts of both the cloud service provider and the customer. The shared responsibility model delineates the security obligations of the IaaS provider and the customer.  

The IaaS provider’s responsibilities include: 

  • Compliance—measures to comply with industry standards and regulations, such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and SOC 2 (Systems and Organization Controls 2) 
  • Infrastructure security—the security of the hardware, software, networking, and facilities used to run the infrastructure cloud services
  • Network protection—a variety of measures to protect the underlying network infrastructure, such as segmentation, encryption, and intrusion detection and prevention systems 
  • Physical security—the physical security of IaaS data centers, including access controls, surveillance, and environmental protections 

IaaS customer responsibilities include: 

  • Application security—ensuring that applications deployed in the cloud are secure against attacks with regular vulnerability assessments and the implementation of security patches 
  • Data security—data protection with encryption, access controls, and secure key management practices 
  • Identity and access management—managing who has access to cloud resources, including defining roles, permissions, and authentication methods 
  • Monitoring and response—implementing a security monitoring strategy that includes the collection, analysis, and response to security logs and alerts 
  • Network traffic—controlling network traffic to and from resources using security groups, virtual private networks (VPNs), and network access control lists (NACL) 

Best practices for enhancing IaaS security include: 

  • Conducting security assessments and audits regularly to identify and remediate vulnerabilities proactively 
  • Encrypting data at rest and in transit to protect sensitive information 
  • Implement strong access controls, using multi-factor authentication (MFA) and least privilege access policies to minimize the risk of unauthorized access 
  • Performing backups regularly 
  • Providing employees with training and resources about cloud security best practices and potential threats 
  • Security by Design: Incorporating security considerations into the development and deployment of processes of applications 

Why organizations choose IaaS

Organizations often choose IaaS because of its ability to support dynamic computing requirements and the significant cost savings it offers. Instead of investing heavily in physical hardware, companies can access and pay for computing resources as needed. Another of the commonly cited reasons for selecting IaaS is the ability to quickly scale resources up or down based on demand, supporting fluctuating workloads or rapid growth.  

The low upfront costs, ease of setup, and scalability make IaaS particularly attractive for startups and small businesses. These organizations benefit from the ability to quickly deploy infrastructure that supports their growth without the need for a large initial investment in physical servers and data centers. 

Organizations also choose IaaS because it allows them to outsource managing IT infrastructure and focus on their core functions. This not only enhances operational efficiency but also enables businesses to allocate more resources toward innovation and strategic initiatives rather than IT maintenance tasks. 


Frequently asked questions about IaaS include the following. 

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is a technology model that allows individuals and organizations to access computing resources (e.g., servers, storage, databases, networking, software, and advanced analytics tools) over the internet from various service providers. This model enables users to rent and utilize these resources on demand, eliminating the need for significant upfront capital expenditures on hardware and reducing the burden of maintenance and management. 

Cloud computing offers flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency, allowing organizations to adjust resources quickly in response to their needs. It supports various deployment models, including public, private, and hybrid clouds, catering to different security, compliance, and operational requirements.   

What is a hybrid cloud?

A hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment that combines public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises infrastructure. This flexible approach allows organizations to balance the need for scalability and cost-effectiveness of the public cloud with the control and security of private infrastructure.  

This architecture also allows for the seamless movement of applications and data between the two cloud models, providing greater flexibility and optimization of existing resources. Hybrid clouds are designed to support workload portability, orchestration, and management across diverse environments, ensuring a cost-effective, scalable, and secure IT infrastructure. By facilitating a mixed approach, organizations can keep sensitive data in a private cloud or on-premises while utilizing the expansive computing resources of a public cloud for less critical operations.   

What are the benefits of IaaS?

The top benefits of IaaS are: 

  • Business continuity—enhance disaster recovery and data backup processes 
  • Cost-effectiveness—pay only for what is needed and reduce capital expenditure on hardware 
  • Flexibility—choose the operating system, software, and configuration for IaaS systems 
  • Global reach—deploy services in multiple regions to improve performance and compliance 
  • Innovation—facilitates experimentation and innovation by providing a flexible platform for testing new ideas 
  • Scalability—easily scale resources up or down based on demand 
  • Security and compliance—benefit from the security and compliance infrastructure of major cloud providers 
  • Speed and agility—quickly deploy and manage applications and services 

Leverage IaaS to support IT requirements

IaaS has been embraced by organizations of all sizes, from large enterprises to startups, because of its flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and scalability. By leveraging IaaS, organizations can more easily adapt to changing demands, expand their operations globally, and focus on their core functions and strategic initiatives. 

Mitigate risk with unified identity security

Centralized control. Enterprise scale.

Take a product tour