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SaaS: Single Tenant vs Multi-Tenant - What's the Difference?

by Chris Brook on Thursday July 26, 2018

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What are the advantages of a multi-tenancy SaaS architecture? How does it differ from single tenant instances? We break down the differences and highlight the benefits of implementing a SaaS solution for data protection in this blog.

What is Multi-Tenancy?

Multi-tenancy means that a single instance of the software and its supporting infrastructure serves multiple customers.

In the early days of the cloud, organizations were reluctant to adopt cloud strategies. Few organizations considered applying policies, technologies, and controls to protect data across the cloud. The last several years, which has seen the proven effectiveness of cloud deployments in scalability, cost, and security, has changed that however. Now we’re seeing the rapid adoption of cloud platforms by organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Digital Guardian’s Data Protection Platform leverages software as a service, or SaaS, to provide data protection in a package that results in superior security, better economics, and reduced overhead. One of the ways we do this is through multi-tenant architecture.

In this post, we'll walk through why that is, as well as the key differences between multi-tenant vs single-tenant architecture.

Single Tenant vs Multi-Tenant – What Does Each Term Mean?

Single Tenant – A single instance of the software and supporting infrastructure serve a single customer. With single tenancy, each customer has his or her own independent multi-tenant database and instance of the software. Essentially, there is no sharing happening with this option.

Potential benefits of single-tenant include:

  • Security: A single customer and a single server is often contained on secure hardware being used by a limited number of people.
  • Dependability: With an entire environment dedicated to one client, resources are abundant and available anytime.
  • Customization: Control over the entire environment allows for customization and added functionality, if desired.

Potential drawbacks of single-tenant:

  • Maintenance: Single-tenant typically means more tasks and regular maintenance to keep things running smoothly and efficiently.
  • Setup/Management: By comparison, SaaS multi-tenant environments are quick to setup and manage.
  • Cost: Single-tenant typically allows for more resources, but at a premium price given that there is only one customer for the entire environment.

Multi-Tenant – Multi-tenant means that a single instance of the software and its supporting infrastructure serves multiple customers. Each customer shares the software application and also shares a single database. Each tenant’s data is isolated and remains invisible to other tenants.

Potential benefits of multi-tenant:

  • Affordable Cost: Multiple customers means that the cost for the environment is shared, and those savings (from the SaaS vendor) are typically transferred to the cost of the software.
  • Integrations: Cloud environments allow for easier integration with other applications through the use of APIs.
  • “Hands-free” Maintenance: The server technically belongs to the SaaS vendor, meaning that a certain level of database maintenance is handled by the vendor, instead of you maintaining the environment yourself.

Potential drawbacks of multi-tenant:

  • Limited Management/Customization: While you do have added integration benefits, custom changes to the database aren’t typically an option.
  • Security: Other tenants won’t see your data. However, multiple users (not associated with your organization) are allowed on the same database. This broader access reduces control of security.
  • Updates/Changes: If you’re reliant on integrations with other SaaS products and one updates their system, it may cause issues with those connecting apps.





Digital Guardian Software as a Service (SaaS)

Benefits of SaaS Multi-Tenant Architecture

  • Lower costs through economies of scale: With multi-tenancy, scaling has far fewer infrastructure implications than with a single-tenancy-hosted solution because new users get access to the same basic software.
  • Shared infrastructure leads to lower costs: SaaS allows companies of all sizes to share infrastructure and data center operational costs. There is no need to add applications and more hardware to their environment. Not having to provision or manage any infrastructure or software above and beyond internal resources enables businesses to focus on everyday tasks.
  • Ongoing maintenance and updates: Customers don’t need to pay costly maintenance fees to keep their software up to date. Vendors roll out new features and updates. These are often included with a SaaS subscription.
  • Configuration can be done while leaving the underlying codebase unchanged: Single-tenant-hosted solutions are often customized, requiring changes to an application’s code. This customization can be costly and can make upgrades time-consuming because the upgrade might not be compatible with your environment.

Multi-tenant solutions are designed to be highly configurable so that businesses can make the application perform the way they want. There is no changing the code or data structure, making the upgrade process easy.

Multi-tenancy architecture also allows Digital Guardian to efficiently service everyone from small customers, whose scale may not warrant dedicated infrastructure, to large enterprises that need access to the cloud’s virtually unlimited compute resources. Software development and maintenance costs are shared, driving down expenditures, resulting in savings that are passed onto you, the customers.

Additional Benefits of SaaS

Multi-tenancy is just one of multiple benefits of SaaS. Download this white paper – 7 Reasons to Move to SaaS Data Protection to learn:

  • The 7 reasons why moving to SaaS data protection enables you to manage risk more effectively
  • How Digital Guardian’s cloud architecture is built with the latest tools and methodologies
  • How we can help offset resource constraints with our Managed Security Program

To learn more about the benefits of SaaS, watch the clip below from our webinar, Benefits of Implementing a SaaS Cybersecurity Solution, which is presented by Andras Cser, VP Principal Analyst at Forrester. You can watch the full webinar here.



Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between single tenant and multi-tenant?

Single tenant and multi-tenant are two methods of offering cloud software as a service (SaaS) solutions. The difference is in how the software is accessed by customers. Single tenant provides each customer with a distinct software instance running on infrastructure that is not shared with other users. Multi-tenant uses a shared infrastructure to provide access to the SaaS solution to multiple customers. A common analogy speaks to the difference between living in an apartment versus a single-family dwelling. Everyone in the apartment shares resources like water and electricity. It’s possible that a few tenants can monopolize resources at the expense of the rest. Occupants of a single-family dwelling don’t have to share resources with anyone and have complete discretion over their usage.

What is single tenancy?

Single tenancy means that there is only one instance of a cloud software solution running on its supporting hardware and infrastructure components. There is no sharing with multiple customers involved in a single-tenancy environment.

What does multi-tenant mean?

In a multi-tenant environment, cloud infrastructure is shared among multiple customers or accounts. No single customer has control over how resources are allocated or consumed.

What are the advantages of single-tenant hosting?

There are multiple advantages of single-tenant hosting that include:

  • Enhanced security - Running an SaaS solution on dedicated hardware improves security by eliminating potential malware infections and unauthorized data access from other tenants.
  • Improved performance and reliability - Customers in a single-tenant environment have full access to infrastructure resources that can lead to better and more consistent performance.
  • Customization options - Customers can customize the infrastructure without being concerned with the needs of other tenants.

Is AWS single tenant?

Some of AWS’s offerings support both single and multi-tenant instances. An example is Amazon EC2 in which users can launch dedicated instances that run on dedicated single-tenant hardware or shared where multiple accounts share the hardware. Dedicated EC2 instances are more expensive than shared instances. The default setting for EC2 is shared.

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