SaaS, PaaS, IaaS: Key Differences Between Them

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SaaS products are quickly gaining momentum in taking over how we interact with technology. We have come a long way in terms of how we share information and knowledge with each other. The platforms we use have undergone significant changes in such a short span of time.

However, one of the most disruptive players is the advent of cloud technology.

If you have ever utilized Google Workspace for your daily activities, you are essentially making use of a sector of cloud technology called – Software as a Service aka SaaS.

In order to understand the difference between SaaS, PaaS, and Iaas, you need to understand what “the cloud” is.

What is Cloud Tech?

Data is basically an ever growing plethora of information. And this data needs to be stored somewhere. Cloud technology essentially provides this virtual space. Cloud technology provides on-demand access to software, storage, databases, servers, networking, and other hosted services, all of which are accessible via the Internet.

Simply put, cloud tech let’s you RENT these services instead of you having to buy them.

Why is Cloud Technology (especially SaaS) so Popular?

  • Cost Effective : With a vendor taking care of data storage, companies often do not need to invest in expensive equipment. Consider the cost of replacing and maintaining hardware, which a cloud server can eliminate.
  • Flexibility : With cloud data being in a figurative sense, omnipresent, you can essentially access your data anytime, regardless of your location or time. Suppose the company is growing fast, you may scale up as per your needs.
  • Strategic Value : Most companies that run in-house software often face the problem of being up to date. In return productivity gets hampered compared to a more mature version of the software. With cloud technology, you have access to the latest innovations and you can ensure that your business is not run with outdated processes.
  • Efficiency : Most cloud technologies focus on keeping the narrative simple. Their services are not just easy to access, but they are easy to use as well. Deployment of cloud technology is much faster than traditional software installations. This means companies can save time in setting up and learning and can divert resources towards more actionable goals.

In an era where remote work is increasingly becoming popular, cloud services take the cake when it comes to keeping the employees connected and efficient.

Especially with smaller companies that cannot afford to set up a server ecosystem, daily operations can be run at a fraction of the cost with better efficiency and speed.

There are 3 main categories of Cloud Computing- namely Saas, PaaS, and IaaS.

Let’s break it down.


Also known as Software as a Service, this is the more commonly used cloud technology. Cloud providers install and operate application software in the cloud.

Some examples of SaaS are:

Google Workspace

In fact, most of the apps you are using right now fall under SaaS.

The reason SaaS is popular is because it caters directly to the end user. Meaning, accessibility is easy. Users typically do not face a huge learning curve as the requirement for knowledge of technicality is minimal.

Back before SaaS products hit the market, companies used to handle their operation in-house. Meaning the company would purchase the license to run the software, have the IT guys install it on each computer, train the staff on its usage – all of which eventually eats a lot of precious time.

With SaaS, every employee can simply access the software and immediately start using it.

Advantage of SaaS
  • As they are directly accessible via web browser, all that is needed from the user side is an internet connection.
  • Since the host server is managed remotely, any upgrade to the software is taken care of by the vendor. 
  • Many SaaS products such as Slack often can be integrated with other apps for a more collaborative experience
  • Most SaaS products run on a subscription basis, meaning the user can utilize the service depending on their requirements. If a project needs the services of a SaaS product for say 3 months, users can choose to subscribe to a time period that fits the project needs.
  • A single product may cater to multiple users at a time. For example Canva Pro supports upto 5 users who can collaborate simultaneously. 
  • Although the major framework of a SaaS tool might be a one-size-fits-all, certain features can be customized to fit the needs of the end user.

Disadvantages of SaaS
  • SaaS products make it easier to backup data without the end user having to do it. However, it also means that in the event of a data breach, user data is equally susceptible to unauthorized access IF proper security protocols are not in place.
  • Because the control is with the vendor, there could be instances of unplanned downtimes which could become detrimental to the user if it happened during a critical time.

However, clearly, the advantages outweigh the limitations as SaaS is becoming incredibly popular.


This one is especially for the developers.

Platform as a service provides a framework upon which developers can build applications. Think of it as providing the ingredients for food. With the available components, developers can build and customize software as they need.

Again, the storage and networking is managed by the vendors who operate remotely.

Unlike SaaS, where a finished product is being delivered over the internet for everyone to use, PaaS provides the platform needed for creating a finished product.

Examples of PaaS are:

SAP Cloud Platform
Google App Engine

Advantages of PaaS
  • PaaS provides the framework to build, meaning developers do not have to start from scratch when it comes to coding.
  • Because the framework already exists, developers can go wild with unique creations that can be released into the market later.
  • Resources can be scaled up or down based on the requirements of your business.
  • If multiple developers are working on the same project, PaaS can help streamline the workflow better.
Disadvantages of PaaS
  • Similar to SaaS, the data on the vendor controlled servers may pose a risk during a data breach.
  • In the event of switching to an alternative PaaS option, migration of data may become difficult.
  • PaaS may not be easily compatible with existing development environments. 
  • Naturally, since it’s used by developers, a sound technical knowledge is required when working with PaaS.

PaaS acts as a catalyst for businesses that want to deploy applications super fast. Therefore, it provides massive support in terms of enhancing the agility of a business.


Infrastructure as a service offers on the go storage and networking. It’s more or less providing the user with the hardware to run the above platform or software.

IaaS provides file based storage, firewalls, load balancers, IP addresses – basically most of the things that act as the base of any cloud computing model.

Instead of purchasing servers or network equipment, users can basically have the vendor rent out a virtual server on their IT infrastructure.

Examples of IaaS:

Digital Ocean
Google Compute Engine
Microsoft Azure

Advantages of IaaS
  • No need for an on premise IT infrastructure
  • Hardware purchases can be scaled up or down depending on consumption
  • Provides more control to users for managing middleware, runtime, data and operating systems.
  • Increased security as most of data backup is controlled by the user
Disadvantages of IaaS
  • Vendors still take control over the hardware and virtualization software.
  • Data transfer during vendor migration can be difficult depending on the cloud service provider
  • Some amount of training is required for the internal workforce to be accustomed to infrastructure management. 
  • Since the same resources are made available to multiple customers depending on their demand, it is required to ensure that data from the previous customer remains isolated from the new customer.

Large businesses often use IaaS for data storage and backup and for high performance computing needs. However, even smaller companies that are expecting fast growth find that IaaS is a more cost effective option compared to SaaS and PaaS.

One of the major drivers for the exponential growth of Cloud Technology is how fast applications can be made, managed, and deployed regardless of the size of the company. A highly flexible model ensures that less time is taken for basic activities and more time is dedicated to critical aspects of the business.

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