SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: What’s the Difference & How To Choose

10 minutes
June 17, 2021

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: What’s the Difference & How To Choose

Moving your business to the cloud brings huge benefits, but there’s a steep learning curve. Cloud computing comes with its own vocabulary, and the first thing you have to do is learn all the new terms.

To make wise decisions for your business, you need to get up to speed on things like public, private, and hybrid clouds, serverless computing, and the logistics of cloud migration. 

Once you’ve mastered the basic concepts, there’s a long list of acronyms to deal with. 

In this article, we’ll help you understand three of the most common and most important acronyms in cloud computing: SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. 

Keep reading to find out what each term means, the differences between them, and how to choose the best model for your business.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs SaaS: What’s the Difference

Let’s start with a quick overview before we get to the details. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) refer to three different models of cloud services. 

IaaS delivers infrastructure such as servers and data storage via the cloud, while PaaS provides the hardware and software needed to develop and run custom applications, and SaaS is third-party software hosted in the cloud and accessed via the internet.

Each model represents a step away from the traditional on-premise IT services model. 

IaaS is the closest to the on-prem model, with companies managing everything except the physical infrastructure. 

The PaaS model goes a step further by allowing companies to give up managing everything except data and applications, while the SaaS model completes the transition away from the on-premise IT system and leaves the cloud service provider in charge of everything from networking to data.

What Is IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)?

With IaaS, you no longer have to invest in key IT infrastructures such as data storage, networking, servers, and visualization or the specialized personnel required to keep them running. Cloud service providers handle the physical equipment and you access it through the cloud. 

Key Benefits of Iaas

  • Scalability 

As your business changes, so do your IT infrastructure needs. IaaS allows you to scale your infrastructure up or down to meet real-time business requirements.

  • Cost & time savings 

You pay as you go for only the resources you need, and your IT team doesn’t have to dedicate their valuable time to maintaining physical infrastructure. For most companies, this means big cost and time savings.

  • Flexibility 

With IaaS, you retain control of your infrastructure. By logging in through an API, your team can still oversee your storage and servers and configure them to fit your business.

Challenges of IaaS

  • Integration 

If you have legacy apps and systems, integration with the new cloud-based architecture can be difficult and doesn’t always work.

  • Security 

You’re completely reliant on the IaaS provider for the security of your physical infrastructure.

  • Staff Training

Things like security, business continuity, and data backup work differently when you use the IaaS model, and you’ll need to make sure your team gets proper training to develop the required expertise.

IaaS Examples 

Some of the most popular IaaS models include Amazon Web Services Elastic Cloud (AWS EC2), Digital Ocean, Google Compute Engine, and Rackspace. 

What Is PaaS (Platform as a Service)?

In the PaaS, you manage applications and data while your cloud service provider manages IT infrastructure as well as things like middleware and the runtime environment. PaaS allows you to develop custom applications without having to spin up and maintain all the systems needed to support the development environment.

Key Benefits of PaaS

  • Speed

Developers can go straight to coding instead of spending time setting up, and maintaining servers and systems for the development environment. This shortcut speeds up the entire development and deployment process.

  • Customization

Easily build, test, and deploy custom apps and scale your development resources up and down as needed.

  • Flexibility

Migrate apps from the cloud to hybrid cloud and on-prem systems, assign multiple developers to a single project, and integrate your apps with databases and web-based resources.

Challenges of PaaS

  • Integration 

Integration with legacy systems is sometimes complex and expensive. In some cases, it’s impossible.

  • Compatibility

PaaS systems may not be compatible with some coding languages or development frameworks.

  • Control

The tradeoff for speed and ease of development is the loss of control over things like provisioning and data security.

PaaS Examples 

Heroku, Open Shift, Windows Azure, AWS Elastic Beanstalk, and Apache Stratos are all good PaaS examples. 

What Is SaaS (Software as a Service)?

SaaS is by far the most popular cloud service model. With SaaS, complete applications are hosted in the cloud and delivered to your end-users over the internet. There’s nothing to install or maintain — all you have to do is login and start using the software.

Key Benefits of SaaS

  • All-inclusive

SaaS applications are hands-off. Development, installation, maintenance, security, and compliance are taken care of for you.

  • Cost-efficient

You pay a monthly fee based on the number of active users you have, ensuring you don’t waste money on unused licenses and making it easy to scale based on your needs.

  • Accessible

Most SaaS applications can be accessed from anywhere using any device as long as you have an internet connection, enabling your team to work efficiently no matter where they’re located.

Challenges of SaaS

  • Customization

SaaS applications aren’t meant to be customized for specific or unique use cases, so your options for custom features or installations are very limited.

  • Interoperability

Not all SaaS applications integrate well with other apps or with existing systems, and most SaaS companies offer very limited integration support.

  • Control

Control over data security, data governance, app performance, uptime, and feature development belongs to the SaaS provider.  You have to rely on them to keep the app running and secure.

SaaS Examples 

SaaS applications are everywhere, with millions of people using popular examples such as Salesforce, DocuSign, Hubspot, Slack, MailChimp, and Dropbox every day.

Choosing the Best Option for Your Business

Companies of all sizes are adopting cloud-based IT service models. Combined, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS produced $233.4B in revenue in 2019, with growth expected to continue as more companies transition to the cloud. Chances are good that your business can benefit from cloud services, too, but which model should you choose? The answer depends on the size and unique needs of your business, as well as how much of your IT systems you want to manage yourself. To help you choose the ideal option for your company, let’s take a look at the best use cases for each cloud service model.

The flexibility and scalability of IaaS may be right for you if your business is:

  • A startup or small business without the time, money, and expertise to make large upfront investments in IT infrastructure.
  • Growing quickly, navigating major changes, or launching a new product and would benefit from paying only for what you need now and scaling as you go.
  • A large company attracted by the idea of a pay-as-you-go service that still gives you control over your IT systems.

PaaS offers you the ability to save money and simplify your operations if you have a need to:

  • Quickly and cost-effectively create custom applications
  • Rapidly test and deploy internal applications
  • Facilitate multiple developers collaborating on a project
  • Offload time-consuming tasks such as setting up and maintaining application servers and development and testing environments

SaaS is by far the most popular cloud services model. It’s a great choice for you if you:

  • Don’t have the time or the in-house expertise to install and maintain applications
  • Use mostly out-of-the-box software solutions requiring minimal customization
  • Need to access your apps in the office and from remote locations using a variety of devices
  • Prefer to be completely hands-off when it comes to IT

Your Guide to Cloud Services

You now know the basics of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS, but that doesn’t mean you have to navigate the world of cloud services on your own. 

At Thinklogic. we’re experts at helping companies like yours understand your options and figure out the best and most cost-effective way to use technology to power your business.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you.


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