Multi-Tenant vs. Single-Tenant: What Is the Difference?

Architecture

What Is Single-Tenant Architecture?

With single-tenant architectures, the hosting provider helps manage the dedicated infrastructure and software instance, but the tenant retains near full control over the software and infrastructure customization. Most single-tenant delivery models provide a high degree of user control and engagement, security, reliability, and backup capabilities. Each tenant is in an isolated environment, so tenants have more flexibility than a shared infrastructure model. 

What Is Multi-Tenant Architecture?

A multi-tenant architecture provides multiple customers (tenants) access to the same instance of the provider’s software. The provider might allow tenants to customize some aspects of their applications (i.e., the UI color, business rules, etc.) but not the application or infrastructure code.
With multi-tenant architectures, multiple application users share the same environment. These architectures work by physically integrating the tenants while logically separating them. Thus, a single instance runs on a single server and serves multiple tenants, with everyone sharing the same codebase, database schemas, and UI. 


Software applications in multi-tenant architectures still have their own individual configurations, user management, and data. Each user can customize the database schemas and application rules, but to a lesser extent than in a single-tenant architecture.

In this article:

Single-Tenant Architecture Benefits and Drawbacks

Advantages of a single-tenant architecture include:

  • Security—single-tenant environments are typically more secure because every customer has completely separate data from others. The likelihood of one customer accidentally accessing someone else’s data (like in multi-tenant environments) is eliminated.
  • Easier backup and migration—a single-tenant environment gives you more control over backup and recovery systems because each system runs on one dedicated SaaS instance and can be assigned to a dedicated backup system. Migration between environments is also easier.
  • Full control—a single-tenant architecture provides control over the entire environment with significantly more flexibility for customization, new software versions, and updates.

Disadvantages of a single-tenant architecture include:

  • Less scalable—for the SaaS provider, scaling up single-tenant environments is more difficult because it makes less efficient use of shared resources.
  • Higher costs—maintaining single-tenant models can be expensive for SaaS providers and customers. Getting an accurate cost per customer is important to understand the economic tradeoffs of single-tenant vs. multi-tenant.
  • Fewer updates—usually, single-tenant SaaS users will not receive all software updates, because they may conflict with their individual customizations or components. 

Multi-Tenant Architecture Benefits and Drawbacks 

Advantages of multi-tenant environments include:

  • Lower cost—in multi-tenant environments, per user costs are lower because all resources are shared.
  • Efficient usage—the shared resource model means that multi-tenancy systems can maximize resource usage and efficiency.
  • Easy setup and onboarding—multi-tenancy usually provides customers a smoother user experience. Because the multi-tenant environment is mostly identical for all customers with optional configuration differences, it is easy for new customers to join and immediately start using the software. 
  • Maintenance—updates are applied to the entire system, affecting all customers. This means system upgrades and ongoing maintenance does not need to be handled by end-users, meaning that multi-tenant solutions require less maintenance from the customer’s perspective.

Disadvantages of multi-tenant environments include:

  • Increased security risk—one of the common drawbacks is that data stored in multi-tenant cloud apps is typically outside the user’s control. Customers are reliant on the SaaS provider’s security and data protection processes. A data breach targeting the SaaS provider or one SaaS customer could affect multiple customers.
  • Resource availability—increased workloads experienced by one client can affect other clients who share the same resources (this is known as the “noisy neighbor” problem). 
  • Fragmentation—as more tenants are added, duplication of components could cause wasted resources. For example, each tenant could require its own SQL database, which can be a major drain on resources.

Related content: Read More About Multi-Tenant Architecture

Single-Tenant vs. Multi-Tenant: Which Is the Right One for You? 

Setup and Maintenance

While implementing single tenant architecture, the customer must deal with higher maintenance costs. It demands maximum resource usage during setup, maintenance, or customization. For example, when SaaS companies maintain new single tenant instances for each new user, these costs are usually transferred to the customer, resulting in a higher subscription price.

Multi-tenant architecture can be a more economical option, because management costs associated with maintenance are shared with other tenants. SaaS vendors typically take responsibility for most maintenance operations. From the customer’s perspective, it requires less effort for setup, upgrades, and maintenance, which are typically done by the vendor.

Speed and Performance

With single tenant architecture, the main factors impacting performance are the demands placed on the software application, infrastructure, and the hardware supporting the environment. 

Multi-tenant architecture must share resources between multiple tenants, can impact performance of the overall system and individual tenants. However, modern multi-tenant systems use advanced mapping and resource distribution mechanisms to make efficient use of resources and improve performance. Some vendors offer improved performance with strict service level agreements (SLAs) to their customers at an additional cost. 

Backup and Restore

Single tenant architecture gives customers more control over backups and recovery. Since a backup includes both the underlying code and data structure of a single instance, this process is straightforward and allows for easy restoration to previous versions.

Multi-tenant architecture typically handles backup and recovery at the system level and not for individual tenants. If tenants have a way to individually backup their data, this could involve complex procedures. This means some vendors cannot satisfy the data and security policies of enterprise customers.

Security and Dependability

With single tenant architecture, each customer’s environment is their own. Without any shared elements, there is a lower chance of one customer accessing data belonging to another customer. Cyber attacks and accidental damage affecting one tenant is much less likely to affect other tenants. 

Multi-tenant architecture has limited isolation between customers (there is a higher degree of isolation if each customer has its own database). With more access points, attackers can more easily identify and exploit vulnerabilities in one tenant’s environment, or in the overall SaaS system, and use them to attack other tenants.

Scalability and Efficiency

Single tenant architecture offers transparent, predictable scalability for customers. All clients have their own application instances and can scale up by changing sizing or launching additional instances.

In a multi-tenant architecture, since resources are shared, they can be utilized more effectively by the vendor. A multi-tenant system can shift computing resources where needed, and when combined with storage and hardware virtualization, can help reduce vendor costs. From the customer’s perspective, the environment is scalable, but in a way that the user cannot always understand or control.

Control and Customization

With single tenant architecture, customers have more control over their environment and configuration. From underlying operating systems to updates and maintenance schedules, customers get more flexibility in managing their environment.

Multi-tenant architecture offers less control over the environment, and typically cannot decide which software updates to apply. Most features are universal for all tenants, while only a few are open to customization by the customer.

Which Is Better?

Single tenant architecture is suitable for organizations that have unique requirements in terms of configuration, performance, or security. These customers are usually willing to pay more and put in additional effort to set up and configure their environment.

Multi-tenant architecture is suitable for organizations that need to get up and running quickly, and are interested in reducing costs and maintenance overhead. They should be aware of the limitations of the software in terms of customizability, performance and security.

Multi-Tenant User Management with Frontegg

Frontegg realizes that every tenant has its own unique configurations, user sets and security settings. That’s why we are multi-tenant by design. By developing the platform to the essential requirements of B2B SaaS businesses, Frontegg allows each environment to hold segregated sets of tenants, assign users, and hold a separate configuration in a way that doesn’t affect others.

In the complex B2B space, each customer requires more granular control on each configuration. This requires professional SaaS solution vendors to develop a multi-tenant capable infrastructure from day 1 to keep pace with these requirements. Frontegg, with its self-served, end-to-end, multi-tenant, and scalable user management platform is taking user management to the next level

Do check out our detailed guide about SaaS Multi-Tenant Architecture