Breaking Down the Differences Between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS

Cloud computing offers many benefits to modern businesses looking to improve productivity and cost-effectiveness.

When trying to shift your business towards the cloud, you have three types of cloud services to choose from. These include:

  1. PaaS (Platform as a Service)
  2. SaaS (Software as a Service)
  3. IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

These acronyms can get confusing if you’re not well-versed in the cloud computing world. Let’s explore these three services and break down the differences between them.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS is the most basic cloud computing offering. It offers the fundamental building block for cloud services, providing access to cloud storage, servers, and networking resources for your business needs.

IaaS resources are highly scalable and automated, allowing you to pay for the service on demand. IaaS manages the cloud infrastructure from their data centers, and you can directly access their storage and servers just as you would with traditional infrastructure.

However, this cloud computing service model has its own set of pros of cons which you must consider before you opt for IaaS.

Pros of IaaS

  • Ease of Management: Infrastructure management is conveniently taken care for you by your IaaS provider.
  • Cost Effective: IaaS allows you to rent the infrastructure on Pay on Demand basis, which means you only pay for what you use.
  • Easily Scalable: If your business is growing, you can easily scale over time to meet your storage, processing, and networking needs.
  • Disaster Recovery Support: Since you have your data stored in the cloud, should a disaster occur, you can access it anywhere you have an internet connection.

Cons of IaaS

  • Security Threats: Security threats still exist, despite putting significant control in the client’s hands. Any vulnerabilities or insider threats can expose communication between host and Virtual Machines to unauthorized entities
  • Potential Lack of Transparency: As the providers own the infrastructure, they don’t always reveal information about the performance and details of their infrastructure configuration.

Examples of Popular IaaS Systems:

Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are some of the examples of IaaS.

Platform as a service (PaaS)

PaaS provides its clients with a cloud platform solely for the development, management, and delivery of applications. PaaS is ideal for custom software development.

It not only provides extra storage and computing resources, but also a set of tools to help the clients customize, test, and deploy applications.

PaaS provides the client with an abstraction of the server, the operating system, and the underlying hardware and network infrastructure, allowing the client to focus entirely on the scalability of the business and the application development.

Pros of PaaS

  • Simplifies Development Process: The essential tools for application development, testing, and management are provided.
  • Removes Management Burden: Cloud infrastructure management is taken care of, allowing you to dedicate your time to building applications with limited coding.
  • Greater Control: You control the deployed applications and configuration of the application hosting environment.

Cons of PaaS

  • Potential Security Risk: Storing application data on cloud servers under the control of third-party vendors can lead to compromised confidentiality and integrity of data.
  • Limited Capabilities: Some specific PaaS services may limit application development capabilities.

Examples of PaaS:

OpenShift, Windows Azure, Heroku, Google App Engine are some of the examples of PaaS.

Software as a service (SaaS)

Software as a service provides the client with SaaS vendor software, which is based entirely on the cloud. Under the SaaS model, clients do not need to install anything on their systems and can access the remote cloud-based applications via internet or APIs.

SaaS is the most common cloud offering with the businesses. SaaS applications simply require a web browser to run. Anyone with an internet connection can access SaaS applications and use them to store data, collaborate on projects, or analyze data.

Pros of SaaS

  • Easily Accessible: By signing up for a subscription plan, you gain access to the system. Projects can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection.
  • No Maintenance and Management: SaaS providers are responsible for the management and maintenance of the software.
  • Data Security: There is no single point of failure if the infrastructure fails at the vendor’s side, the client suffers the loss.

Cons of SaaS

  • Integration Issues: SaaS applications may not integrate with everything you require.
  • Limited Customization: You are limited to the services performance, functionality, and integration options.
  • Third Party Reliance: Cyber-Attacks, network issues, and maintenance downtime might affect the clients and impact the performance of the SaaS applications.


Google Apps, Dropbox, GoToMeeting are some of the popular examples of SaaS.

So which one should you choose?

Each model presented above has its own unique features and functionalities. If you are looking for maximum flexibility in terms of storage, networking resources and servers and your business require you to have a general data center, but you do not want to physically maintain the infrastructure then IaaS would be your top choice.

But if you only need to reduce your business’s system administration overhead and focus only on application development without dealing with the management of the overall backend system, then this calls for a PaaS model.

However, SaaS should be your top choice if you are seeking a readily available solution to meet your basic IT needs, such as a website, file-sharing, email, or project collaboration service. In the end, the service you opt for really depends on the size, nature, and complexity of your business’s IT needs.

Custom software is also an option if you require more flexibility and data security. If this is the case, it’s best to start by researching quality custom application software development companies in your area.

If you have any questions, please ask below!