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

The cloud is a revolutionary technology that has seriously impacted the way organizations work. No matter the size and type of organization, the cloud has been beneficial for all. If you are considering taking your business to the cloud, you will have the option of choosing between SaaS, PaaS, IaaS or developing your own cloud computing server. Developing your own cloud means you will be responsible for all the software and hardware. You will have to update, manage, and replace everything yourself. 

SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS have as-a-service in their names. Cloud computing services are generallybprovided by a third party that will manage all the infrastructure and technical parts of your cloud. This allows you to focus on what matters more - your business and customers. 

Not knowing which cloud service would be best for your business is natural. Read this blog to understand all aspects of each of these services, their differences, and the factors you should consider while choosing one for your business.

What is SaaS (Software as a Service)?

Software as a Service is the most common cloud service used by organizations. A 2020 Virayo study found that 80 percent of organizations use one or more SaaS applications in their business. While using SaaS services, you don't have to install any software on your computer. Instead, you can easily access them on the cloud where they are stored. So, if you want to do some urgent work and do not have your laptop with you, all you need is an internet connection and a browser to access the required tools. 

Since SaaS follows a web delivery model, you don’t need to download and install applications on each computer. You also don’t need to maintain the software or manage it. The vendor is responsible for all possible technical issues. Some examples of SaaS include Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Salesforce, Concur, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Cisco WebEx. 

Features of Saas 

Some of the features of SaaS applications include:

  • Multi-tenancy model: SaaS applications service multiple tenants (customers). Some tenants may get the right to customize some of their applications. 

  • Subscription-based model: SaaS applications have a simple subscription-based billing model. This enables tenants to discontinue their services whenever necessary.

  • Availability: SaaS applications are available 24*7*365.

How does it work?

SaaS has a cloud delivery model. This means a software provider hosts the software through databases, servers, or computing resources and makes it available to anyone with an internet connection. All organizations need to do is pay a subscription fee to access the software. It is also possible to integrate SaaS applications into your other software with the help of APIs. 

Benefits of SaaS

SaaS has several advantages. Some of them include:

  • Lower costs: Since SaaS follows a subscription-based model, you don’t need to incur huge expenses or capital expenditures to use SaaS software. You only need to pay a subscription fee.

  • Scalability: SaaS has high scalability. Customers can get the features they want to use on demand. 

  • Automatic updates: SaaS providers themselves update the software whenever necessary. This reduces the organization’s burden to manage the software.

  • Accessibility: SaaS applications are available at any time and from anywhere.

  • Customization: SaaS applications can be customized on demand and can be integrated into your software.

Limitations of SaaS

While SaaS has many benefits, it also has a fair amount of limitations. Some of them include:

  • Lack of integration support: While SaaS applications can be integrated, the SaaS vendor may not offer much support in this regard. Organizations will have to invest their resources to design and manage integrations.

  • Customization: There’s no single software that can meet the demands of everyone. While SaaS applications can be customized, the level of customization is minimal. So organizations may be limited to the existing features and functionality.

  • Data security: A single deployment of software serves several customers. Organizations also need to exchange data to fully access SaaS applications, which can result in compromised data security.

  • Limited features: SaaS applications have a standardized form, which means the number of features available is limited. There’s also the problem of vendor lock-in, which makes it difficult for customers to switch vendors. 

Who should use SaaS?

SaaS is most beneficial for small companies and startups who need convenient and good software without spending their resources on developing their own. Getting a SaaS application is also beneficial when you need access to your work at any time and anywhere.

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What is PaaS (Platform as a Service)?

Under the Platform as a Service cloud computing model, providers provide software, hardware, and infrastructure to their customers for developing their applications. Users can develop, run, and manage their apps on the provider’s infrastructure. They don't have to build their infrastructure, which makes PaaS especially useful for developers and programmers. 

PaaS providers provide operating systems, networks, development tools, servers, etc., which makes it easy for developers to build their applications as they don't have to build them from scratch. PaaS differs from SaaS in the sense that instead of offering ready-made solutions and software to the user, it offers a platform to create software. Amazon Web Services ( AWS ), IBM Cloud, and Microsoft Azure provide PaaS solutions. 

How does it work?

PaaS solutions have three parts:

  • Cloud infrastructure

  • Software

  • Graphic user interface 

Using PaaS solutions, developers can collaborate, test applications, and run new applications. Because of the nature of PaaS solutions, multiple teams can also work on the same project at the same time. 

Features of PaaS

PaaS has several features. Some of them include:

  • Auto-scaling: Since it is based on virtualization technology, resources can be scaled up and down at your convenience.

  • Resource sharing: PaaS allows resource sharing amongst different development teams.

  • Accessibility: It also allows several users to access the platform with the same development application.

  • Time-saving: PaaS offers developers pre-coded components and several development tools, which saves their time and resources.

  • Integrations: PaaS allows the integration of databases and web services.

Benefits of PaaS

Benefits of PaaS include:

  • Faster time to market: PaaS reduces time to market since developers can begin development right from the beginning without worrying about software or hardware.

  • Cost-effective: If you are using an on-premises platform, scaling can be expensive and wasteful. With PaaS, you can ask the provider to scale your platform and start using it immediately at a cost-effective price. PaaS follows a pay-as-you-go pricing model which also makes it a cost-effective option.

  • Flexibility: PaaS allows a shared development environment. Different teams, such as development teams, and operations teams, can access the environment from anywhere and at any time. All they need is an internet connection.

  • Increase productivity: Since developers do not have to worry about infrastructure, software, and hardware management, they can focus on what matters the most - developing the application. Development tools are quickly and easily accessible which helps increase their productivity.

  • Customization: PaaS services have a multitude of features. Customers are free to choose the features according to their requirements. PaaS vendors also provide 24*7*365 assistance to their customers.  

Limitations of PaaS 

Limitations of PaaS include:

  • Security: Cloud computing always comes with a fair share of data security risks. While businesses can operate their own apps, the data stored on the vendor’s cloud can face risks to security.

  • Operational limitation: PaaS also limits the operational control of users. While this is done to reduce users’ burden, it can also affect the running, managing, and operation of applications.

  • Vendor lock-in: If the PaaS vendor doesn’t have adequate migration policies, it can result in vendor lock-in. Users may also find it expensive and inconvenient to switch to a new vendor. 

  • Compatibility: While PaaS services are mostly user-friendly and compatible, there is still a possibility of a lack of compatibility. In such a case, users may face challenges while using PaaS services. 

Who should use PaaS?

PaaS is a great option for developers who want to develop and run their own applications without having to worry about the infrastructure. It is also suitable for developing highly customizable platforms. In situations where multiple teams need to work on the same development project, PaaS can be a convenient option.

What is IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)?

Infrastructure as a service is a cloud computing service that offers IT infrastructure to users on a pay-as-you-go basis. It is a self-service option made of automated and highly scalable resources companies require offered through the internet.

IaaS vendors give you access and management of the resources you need, such as networks, storage, and servers, and users get complete control of their infrastructure and can manage the operating systems, applications, middleware, data, etc. Users get the cloud servers through API and can access their servers directly. Some examples of IaaS vendors include Google App Engine, Windows Azure, OpenShift, and Heroku.

How does it work?

IaaS users don’t have to manage and maintain servers as IaaS provides them. The users are given access to a virtualized environment and the necessary resources to build their own IT platforms. It is flexible and ensures that users can access their IT platforms from anywhere. The servers, on the other hand, are kept in different data centers and managed by the vendor.

Features of IaaS

Features of IaaS include:

  • Dynamic scaling: IaaS allows dynamic and flexible scaling of resources as they are available in an as-a-service model.

  • Platform virtualization: IaaS uses platform virtualization technology to provide cloud computing infrastructure. 

  • Costs: The services are available on a pay-as-you-go basis. Therefore you pay only for the resources you use.

  • Control: IaaS users have complete control over their infrastructure and IT platform. 

Benefits of IaaS:

  • Scaling: The IaaS services are available 24*7*365. You can easily scale globally and enhance application performance.

  • Enhanced security: The data is secure and can only be accessed by authorized people. IaaS also allows you to keep backups in case of data loss.

  • Automation: IaaS easily automates the deployment of various resources, such as networks, and servers.

  • Saves time and cost: Users save a lot of time and cost since all the hardware maintenance is done by the vendor.

  • Flexibility: IaaS vendors allow users to purchase the features they need and scale up and down at their convenience.

Limitations of Iaas: 

  • Security risks: While the vendor provides secure infrastructure, everything else is secured by the users. This can be a concern for security risks.

  • Internal resources: Organizations may need to expend money on training their employees and resources to manage infrastructure effectively. 

  • Unexpected costs: Any unexpected costs can come up while using the infrastructure. 

  • Multi-tenant system: IaaS’s multi-tenant nature means the vendor shares the same infrastructure resources with multiple tenants which can be a concern for security and reliability.

Who should use IaaS?

Companies in the rapid growth phase will be greatly benefitted from using IaaS due to its highly scalable nature. Similarly, large companies that need full control over their infrastructure along with the freedom to buy any resources they want can also use IaaS.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS

Now that you know what SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS are, let’s move on to their differences. Each of these services has its own sets of pros and cons and situations where they will be most suitable. 

Parameters SaaS PaaS IaaS
Used by End users Developers Network architects
Technical knowledge required No technical knowledge is required as the vendor handles everything Requires some level of technical understanding and knowledge Users need a high level of technical understanding to use IaaS
Level of control No control Control of the developed applications only The entire infrastructure is controlled by the user
Popularity Highly popular among all levels and sizes of companies Popular amongst developers Popular among researchers and developers
Examples Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Salesforce Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud Windows Azure, OpenShift

Cloud is the present and future of businesses. While choosing a service, think of the following questions. 

  • What are your goals? 
  • What are your future plans? 
  • What do you want to achieve by migrating to the cloud? 
  • What are the challenges you face that will be solved by the cloud? 

Ask yourself these and similar questions. What are your expertise and technical understanding? 

Each of the models discussed above has different functionalities. Some offer complete control, while others offer minimal to no control. Choose a model that fulfills all your needs and helps you succeed.

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Armin Vans
Avni Singh has a PhD in Machine Learning and is an Artificial Intelligence developer, researcher, practitioner, and educator as well as an Open Source Software developer, with over 7 years in the industry.



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