SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: Choosing the Best Cloud Computing Model

The usage of cloud computing has long been a standard practice for businesses. More and more companies harness the power of the software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) models. Thus, they can save on hardware and protect their sensitive information from hacking and internal data theft.

In this article, we discuss the SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS models and define their principal differences. What are the core parameters for comparison? They include primary characteristics, usage, the main benefits, and drawbacks.

What is cloud computing?

Basically, cloud computing means that on-demand computing services are delivered over the Internet on a pay-as-you-go basis. Simply put, this model allows storing and accessing data and apps on remote data centres. You no longer need to keep them on your hardware.

Today more and more companies switch from on-premise technologies to cloud services. This trend leads to the growth of the global cloud computing market size. For example, MarketsandMarkets predicts that it may reach $623.3 billion by 2023.

Below you can see the forecast for Saas, PaaS, IaaS revenue provided by ZDNet.

Forecast for Saas, PaaS, IaaS revenue

What creates the demand for cloud computing? Grand View Research defines the following reasons for its popularity:

  • Growing digital transformation;
  • Rising penetration of mobile devices and the Internet;
  • Increasing consumption of big data.

There are three main cloud computing models: SaaS, PaaS, IaaS. We have prepared a detailed description of each delivery option. These insights will help you choose the right product for your business among cloud solutions.

What is SaaS?

SaaS (software-as-a-service) means ready software products that are delivered via the Internet on a subscription basis. If we compare SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS, the first model is the simplest option to maintain.

Below you can see the growth of SaaS enterprise market size from 2009 to 2019 by Statista:

Predicted SaaS enterprise market size by Statista

The most common examples are Google App Engine, Dropbox, JIRA, and others.

As an example of SaaS applications, here’s a screenshot of Jira - a project management web application:

Kanban board on the SaaS cloud platform Jira

Software-as-a-service is the most suitable option among SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS in the following cases:

  • You are a startup that needs to launch an e-commerce project quickly. You have little time to deal with server issues.
  • You will use the app off and on.
  • You are working on a short-term project that requires fast collaboration.
  • Your application needs both web and mobile access.

Core benefits of the software-as-a-service model

Cost reduction. When it comes to SaaS technology, vendors are responsible for handling the potential technical issues. They deal with data, servers, and storage. Also, they provide their service users with maintenance, compliance, and security services. This way, you can significantly cut the expenses.

Time-saving. You do not have to download and install software products on individual devices. As a result, the technical staff is free from tedious tasks related to installing or upgrading the software.

Accessibility. You can easily access SaaS applications. All you need to use such an application is a computer or a mobile device with a stable Internet connection.

Off-the-shelf solutions. Software-as-a-service vendors offer out-of-the-box products that are easy to set up and use. Both basic packages and more complex solutions are available for you.

Drawbacks of the SaaS model

We have discussed the key benefits of SaaS technology. Now let’s have a look at the downsides of this option:

Performance issues. Internet-dependent applications running on remote data centers sometimes may show poor performance. At the same time, apps installed on your employees’ computers may perform much better. To avoid this issue, you should invest in a reliable and fast Internet connection. Besides, you need application performance management tools to check the performance of the SaaS apps over time.

Insufficient data security. This is one of the main reasons why some companies are hesitant to switch to the software-as-a-service model. Thus, access management becomes your priority. Consider this issue before entrusting a third-party service provider with your sensitive information.

Lack of integration support. You need to integrate Saas products with other tools and applications. Thus, you will automate your business workflow and increase your staff’s productivity. In this regard, software-as-the-service vendors may provide you with limited support. As a result, you will have to invest internal resources to manage these integrations.

What is PaaS?

PaaS (platform-as-a-service) provides users with a cloud environment for creating custom apps. This way it is different from SaaS offering ready products. With PaaS solutions, you do not have to build and maintain the infrastructure required for your application.

The most popular examples include Windows Azure, OpenShift, Heroku, and Google App Engine.

For an example of PaaS, Heroku, a cloud platform, offers this extensive feature set:

Innovative feature set on the PaaS cloud platform Heroku

When you have to choose between SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS, opt for platform-as-a-service solutions if:

  • You are engaged in custom software development.
  • Several developers in your company are working on the same project. In this case, platform-as-a-service products add flexibility and speed to the whole process.
  • You adopt the Agile Methodology. PaaS can solve issues related to rapid development and deployment.
  • Your company develops mobile applications. With PaaS flexible solutions, you can build cross-platform applications. They will be adapted for any device and operating system.

Benefits of PaaS

  • Cost-effectiveness. With PaaS solutions, you no longer need to build applications from scratch. So, it is a good option if you have limited resources or want to reduce your operating costs.

  • Quick launch. Prebuilt backend infrastructure allows rapid prototyping and development. As a result, you can release your application in no time. The early launch, in its turn, increases your chances of success.

  • Reduced development time. PaaS vendors give you access to various libraries, frameworks, templates, and other tools. All those instruments speed up and simplify the whole development process.

  • Easy maintenance. Platform-as-a-service frees developers from building, updating, and configuring servers. PaaS providers are responsible for such things.

Downsides of the Platform-as-a-service model

  • Runtime issues. Sometimes you may find out that PaaS solutions are not customized for the programming languages and framework that you want to use. Also, it may happen that the particular version of a framework is not available with the PaaS services.

  • Changes from the vendor. Changes in current architecture made by the PaaS vendors can become a serious issue for you. Let’s see how it works. Suppose you work with Ruby language. It is compatible with the cloud solution you use. Suddenly, the provider rolls out an update that requires Python for further compatibility. You have two options: to change either programming language or PaaS provider.

  • Lack of customization for legacy systems. If you have legacy applications or services, you may notice that they are not functioning well with PaaS products. To address this issue you will have to invest heavily in customization and configuration changes.

What is IaaS?

  • IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) refers to self-service that enables users to access and monitor hardware including specialized processors, storage space, visualization services.

The examples are Google Compute Engine, DigitalOcean, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Cisco Metacloud.

Amazon Web Services is one of the most well-known IaaS products:

Overview of the cloud platform AWS

Related reading: Deploying a Static Website on AWS Web Hosting With Gitlab CI

Let’s discuss cases when IaaS seems the best possible option if you have to choose between SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS:

  • You are a startup that lacks the funds required for creating your infrastructure.
  • You are using big data. In this case, Infrastructure-as-a-service is what you need. It is noted for its ability to cope with large workloads. Besides, it is compatible with business intelligence tools. With their help, you can predict industry trends and create innovative products and services.
  • Your company is experiencing rapid growth. With IaaS solutions, you can easily change particular hardware or software according to your evolving needs.
  • You do not have precise requirements for your application. IaaS is noted for its flexibility and scalability.

Benefits of IaaS cloud model

  • On-demand scalability. A clear benefit of the IaaS cloud model is that it can be scaled fast according to the growing business requirements of your company. IaaS vendors offer the most powerful storage and networking technology to satisfy the needs of their customers.

  • Great reliability. Suppose a certain hardware component fails or you lose an Internet connection. These technical issues will not affect your infrastructure. Besides, as a rule, IaaS vendors spread the system’s workload across multiple data centers and servers. Thus, computing resources, hardware, and cloud-based apps will always be available.

  • Operational flexibility. IaaS enables your team to access the hardware, computing power, and applications used regularly. As a result, they can view the required files and data on the go anytime.

Downsides of Infrastructure-as-a-service

Let’s take a look at the main disadvantages of this cloud model.

  • Issues with legacy systems. It is possible to run legacy applications in the cloud. However, it may happen that the infrastructure is not designed to secure such apps. This fact forces you to enhance your application before you move them to the cloud.

  • Internal training is a must. With IaaS solutions, you will deal with data security, backups, and business continuity. It means that your team will have to learn how to manage new infrastructure. Otherwise, the process of monitoring and managing resources can become too complicated.

  • Lack of flexibility. IaaS vendors maintain and upgrade both hardware and cloud-based software. If services that you work with are not updated regularly, the efficiency and productivity of your team can be compromised.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS comparison

Now you are familiar with three main types of cloud computing. They define how you use the cloud for your enterprise, i.e. hosting, storing, managing, and processing data online.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS are getting increasingly popular. Let’s take a look at the specific figures that prove that fact:

  • 73% of companies are planning to move their systems to SaaS by 2020;
  • 86% of businesses using SaaS products notice higher employee engagement.
  • The PaaS market is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 24.17% during 2019-2023.
  • Forbes predicts that by 2020, 83% of enterprise workloads will be on the cloud.

Below you can see the summary of the key features of Saas vs PaaS vs IaaS.

IaaS PaaS SaaS diagram


We have discussed the main difference between SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS cloud models. As you can see, each of them offers companies particular benefits. Your task is to choose the model that suits your business the most.

Do you have an idea of a cloud product in mind? Are you looking for a reliable SaaS application development company to take on the technical part? Contact us, and we will be happy to discuss your project idea. We have vast experience in building SaaS applications. We will eagerly provide you with a scalable and secure cloud solution.

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