Home Virto Commerce blog Single-Tenant vs. Multi-Tenant: Differences, Pros&Cons, Architecture 

Single-Tenant vs. Multi-Tenant: Differences, Pros&Cons, Architecture 

Mar 1, 2023 • 12 min

When implementing ecommerce software, business owners can encounter many technical details that are not easy to understand straight off. A good example is choosing between single-tenant and multi-tenant software.

In this article, we are going to cover the meaning of tenancy for ecommerce software, analyze single-tenant vs. multi-tenant differences, and share the pros and cons of these two approaches. You will find a description of businesses using both options and comparing them to your own business.

This material will help you understand the difference between multitenancy and single tenancy, learn the single-tenant and multi-tenant definition and enable you to decide what your business needs. If you still have questions after reading this article, reach out to our expert team to learn more about the options and our successful experiences in implementing these kinds of architecture.

Single-Tenant vs. Multi-tenant – Understanding the Difference

What is tenancy is SaaS

As the SaaS model offers buying not an instance of the solution, but access to the vendor’s cloud, each of such customers is called a software tenant. The tenant system is access-based, which means it doesn’t matter if an individual or a group of people purchases access. This can be a company or just one user.

What is a single-tenancy 

Also named “hosted” or “managed” services, a single-tenant system is when each client has their own “instance” at the vendor’s cloud. This means the client buys and uses a completely personalized solution, and no parts of it, including middleware and sometimes servers, are shared with anyone else. 

What is the purpose of multi-tenancy

Multi-tenant structure, in its turn, offers the same software instance for several users (or software tenants). It doesn’t mean that companies can see data of their competitors or other users; however, the software itself is shared between them. 

The purpose of the multi-tenant architecture is to serve as many users as possible without copying the software and using multiple middleware solutions.

What is the difference between single-tenant vs. multi-tenant

In practice, the difference between system and application software is not always straightforward. As we can see, the key difference is in the number of users a single software instance can serve. A single-tenant option is more popular among customers as it offers deeper data security (the whole data flow can only be accessed by you). However, the main advantage of multi-tenant architecture is that these kinds of software can be used more efficiently, with fewer resources required. 

Single tenent SaaS and multi tenant SaaS example

The comparison of a single-tenant and multi-tenant solutions

In reality, the choice of single-tenant or multi-tenant architecture highly depends on the industry and particular business tasks. Further, we will share a detailed comparison of two of these architectures' benefits and drawbacks. 

Multi-Tenant vs. Single-Tenant Architecture 

Single tenant architecture 

While not having access to the source code of SaaS solutions, many customers prefer to customize the solution they bought for the needs of a particular business. In this case, the vendor builds a completely separate, customer-specific instance of the software using separate servers, middleware, third-party apps, and any physical resources on the side of a customer. 

As a result, the customer gets a completely isolated system consisting of virtual machines and servers that works just the same as the local solution would do, with unique access for one customer only.

Single tennant architecture scheme — single tenancy cloud example

Single-tenant architecture example

Efficient use of the cloud: multi-tenant architecture

Using multitenancy in cloud computing, the vendor creates one environment to serve the needs of multiple customers. In this environment, they can create multiple virtual machines, each for a particular customer, while all of them still use the same means of working with these virtual machines (e.g., host hardware, middle software, and more).

Multitenancy example: multi tennant cloud architecture.

Multi-tenant architecture example

How to implement a multi-tenant architecture?  

To build a multi-tenant structure at your SaaS server, you must check if your server can go with this architecture and then ensure the necessary steps are done: 

  • Make sure your servers can process as much load as you are going to have. 
  • Consider the level of isolation and controls 
  • Ensure that the system allows for customization at the level of each tenant. 
  • Design an authorization and caching mechanism 
  • Build your multi-tenant software on the scalable platform 

Multi-tenant security

A multi-tenant architecture is believed to be less protected compared to the single-tenant one. However, there are multiple ways to enhance your system security and avoid interferences. To ensure the privacy of your users, you should use one of the following approaches: 

  • Organizing separate spaces for each tenant when a new instance is created. 
  • Building single-tenant clusters for better isolation. 
  • Or using the application logic that will ensure better security (app-level security). 
  • Multi-tenant hosting should be based on a trusted server.

As for general data safety, the rules are the same as for any software: 

  • Use trusted encryption protocols 
  • Track and control permissions 
  • Ensure backups are set up 

Which companies choose multi-tenant architecture

Although some believe multi-tenant architecture is not too safe, many big players use this approach to create their software. Mostly, these are the companies that aim for the following results:  

  • They want to support multiple customers in a cost-effective cloud environment. 
  • They don't want to have a large infrastructural footprint. 
  • They don't have a large team for deployment, maintenance, and support. 
  • These are mostly the companies that don’t have a big budget for building a completely unique solution and prefer using out-of-the-box features. 

The companies who choose multi-tenant architecture mostly use solutions similar to Salesforce. Some use Microsoft Azure or AWS that allow you to build your own multitenant software on them.

Single-Tenant vs. Multi-Tenant: Pros and Cons

While used for different tasks and goals, both models still feature their own benefits and drawbacks. Here is the detailed description. 

Single-tenant advantages and disadvantages

Single-tenant pros and cons table

Pros  Cons 
  • Deep security 
  • Always available resources 
  • Easily customizable 
  • Need customization and updates often 
  • Take time to set up and configure 
  • Cost-prohibitive

Single-tenant architecture is great as it offers useful capabilities: 

  1. Privacy matters. These apps are better isolated as most data is stored on a separate server with unique access. 
  2. Great customization. Single tenant environment can be easily customized without needing approval from a vendor. If possible, they can add features and change UI, and the updates wouldn't affect them as hard as multi-tenant users. 
  3. High availability and better control. As the client controls the whole environment, the solution can easily be accessed from anywhere, and access options totally depend on the user. 

However, there are some challenges users can encounter: 

  1. Challenging maintenance and less efficiency. As the system functions mostly on the client’s side, all the maintenance duties fall on their shoulders. Such systems often suffer downtime as the vendor does not solve the issues in a centralized way. 
  2. Setting it up. These systems are usually slower compared to multi-tenant ones. It takes time to integrate them; each time reconfiguration is needed, the users must wait until it works correctly. 
  3. Pricing. As these solutions are mostly individual, they may be quite costly. Moreover, there is no opportunity to share costs with other users. 

Multi-tenant benefits and drawbacks

Multi-Tenant pros and cons table

Pros  Cons 
  • Affordable 
  • Easily integrate with third-party apps 
  • All maintenance is on the vendor’s side 
  • Limited customization 
  • Security needs more attention 
  • Updates from the vendor’s side can interfere with your existing integrations

Multi-tenant solutions are popular for their efficient benefits: 

  1. Affordability. With shared costs for the environment, multi-tenant solutions offer more capabilities to purchase (and to try). This allows for greater scalability and faster performance. 
  2. Integrations: API capabilities offer easier integration with various apps, which means you have more flexibility in using third-party solutions. 
  3. No maintenance responsibility. As your SaaS vendor offers you the services, they are responsible for most of the database and code maintenance. The bad side is that you will have to wait sometimes. 

Why multitenancy in cloud computing can work not so well: 

  1. Challenging customization. Most of the SaaS vendors offer great additional capabilities. However, using a multi tenant cloud model, you cannot customize your environment as deeply as it is possible for single-tenant users. This happens due to the fact that many features are co-dependent, so the vendor doesn’t always want to change their general concept. 
  2. Potential security risks. While you have your separate environment to work in, and it is isolated from other users, there are some security risks related to the usage of mutual parts of the system. You have less control of security but can always ask a vendor for additional safety measures. 
  3. Tricky upgrades. As the vendor controls the system, they provide patches and updates whenever they can (and wish). This can lead to unpredicted issues with your third-party solutions compatibility or some challenges when using your related apps.

Choosing between Single Tenant vs. MultiTenant

When selecting an architecture for your ecommerce software, you have to understand your goals and analyze what you want to get. Here are some questions to answer before choosing your architecture type: 

  1. Analyze your processes and plans: would they require better performance in the future? 
  2. How much customization are you going to need? 
  3. What is your budget and expected revenue? 
  4. Would you need any enhanced security (useful for governmental entities that handle a lot of confidential data)? 
  5. Do you have (or are ready to hire) a team for maintenance on your side? 
  6. Would you need to integrate your new system with any third-party tools? 
These questions can help you to realize what drawbacks of each architecture can interfere with your future plans and which benefits can help you to reach your goals faster.

Questions to ask your potential multi-tenant/single-tenant vendor

To ensure you get the services you actually need, ask your future vendor the following questions. They will allow you to realize the level of the vendor’s expertise and make a proven decision on your ecommerce software. 

  • How do you resolve the safety issue? 
  • How fast are security patches delivered? How often? 
  • If you offer a multitenant structure, how do you ensure each tenant has their separate space? 
  • How scalable is your system? Can we scale it on our side, or does it happen automatically? 
  • Which costs are included? Do you offer additional paid services? 
  • Is customization limited? 
  • Did you work with businesses like ours? Are there any results from these clients? 
An interview with your future vendor will show you their level of experience and save you some time from discovering unpleasant details (like additional costs) in the working process.

Multi-Tenant SaaS Examples  

Today, most SaaS vendors offer a multitenant architecture model due to its cost-efficiency, fast performance, easier maintenance, and constant improvement in handling security questions. We’ve collected some examples of the most popular SaaS vendors offering software based on multitenant architecture: 

  • HubSpot CRM

HubSpot CRM supports multi-tenant architecture. This means many users can build their CRMs on the same platform and use the same servers but have their data isolated. 

  • Salesforce 

Such an architecture allows Salesforce to provide updates to their multi tenant application simultaneously to all users: they upload it on the platform, and each of the users gets their own “instance.” 

  • ClickUp 

ClickUp is a task management system tailored for working in big teams with multiple task clusters. As it offers a multi-tenant structure, all ClickUp clients use the same platform to access their workspaces. 

  • Atlassian 

Atlassian users share the same database and software to build their own environments on it. However, it doesn’t mean any of the data get mixed as Atlassian offers a great level of security. 

Wrapping It Up 

Multitenant software gets more and more popular as it grants more capabilities while being cost-effective. However, many businesses still choose a single-tenant software option for bigger security and more customization capabilities. 

In reality, both architecture types can be used efficiently. To find out which suits your business, start with the questions we offered in this article, or reach out to our team for a complete analysis of your processes and further recommendations. As SaaS experts, our team is always here to help: from a free demo to an end-to-end software implementation. 

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