IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS in Cloud Computing Explained

Avi Meir
Web ServicesCloud Computing
12 Jun 2023

Cloud computing is an essential technology for application owners because of the huge benefits that Cloud Computing offers. With better speed, flexibility, and scalability , cloud services like IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS have made it easy to build modern technologies.

What do these acronyms stand for? In this article, we’ll provide a thorough understanding of the difference between these cloud computing service models to help you decide which one suits your business needs and requirements.

Let’s first start with the basics: cloud services.

What are Cloud Services?

Cloud computing as a service, or cloud services, are the platforms, infrastructure, or software that are delivered by companies on-demand and through the internet. These services are hosted by third parties, such as cloud computing vendors and service providers.

Because service providers host applications and data storage on their own cloud-based servers, they eliminate companies’ need to host applications on their own on-premise infrastructure.

Cloud services are usually accessible through a desktop, laptop, tablet, or operating system with internet connectivity, making it easy for everyone at a company to incorporate the convenience and power of the cloud into daily tasks. This means these services offer easy access to your company’s resources. For example, checking emails or collaborating online on documents are all examples of cloud services that streamline business operations.

How cloud computing works
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Cloud computing as a service includes three main services — Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

The three types of cloud computing services
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If you want to learn even more about cloud computing, check out our complete guide on cloud computing.

What is IaaS?

IaaS is a cloud computing service model through which third-party service providers deliver resources, such as virtual private servers, storage, and networking through the cloud (over the internet). IaaS services are referred to as cloud infrastructure services, and they are useful for all types of businesses.

You need to create a dashboard and connect it to the service provider’s Application Programming Interface (API) to access and control your data.

However, IaaS providers only give you the servers and their API, and you have to configure everything else at your end. Additionally, you’re responsible for your data, and if any data is lost, it’s your responsibility to recover it. Installing and maintaining operating systems and apps is also up to you.

One major concern with using the IaaS platform is service provider security issues. Companies can’t control the security of the cloud or IaaS data center. Another concern regarding security in an IaaS environment is multi-tenant systems where the provider shares infrastructure components with more than one client. This is why it’s important to choose the cloud service provider carefully.


Benefits of IaaS

IaaS in cloud computing is a way for organizations to access cloud-hosted infrastructure services without purchasing hardware — hardware and other resources are managed and maintained by the cloud service providers in their own data centers. This means IaaS offers companies an alternative to on-premise infrastructure. It also saves companies costs associated with hardware maintenance and repair.

Additionally, Infrastructure as a Service in cloud computing is a pay-as-you-go model, which means companies only have to pay for the services they use. These platforms are highly flexible and scalable and allow companies to purchase components as they grow and their needs increase.

IaaS cloud and solutions give you complete control over your infrastructure and provide a ready-to-use development environment. Another great thing about IaaS platforms is that multiple users can access them.


IaaS Examples

Linode: Linode is an IaaS provider that offers Linux virtual machines and other development tools to let you develop, deploy and scale your applications.

DigitalOcean: DigitalOcean is an IaaS platform that offers infrastructure resources to allow developers to build, test, deploy and scale applications.

Apache CloudStack: Apache CloudStack is open source software designed to deploy and manage large networks of virtual machines through an IaaS cloud computing platform.

What is PaaS?

PaaS stands for Platform as a Service, and is another cloud computing model where third-party vendors provide software and hardware tools, such as debuggers, compilers, and source code editors. These tools are usually used by developers to develop, run, and manage custom applications. PaaS users access these tools over the internet via their web browser.

PaaS delivers a cloud-based platform for creating online applications or software instead of delivering whole software over the internet. The hardware and software tools are managed and maintained by PaaS cloud providers, including operating system software, networking, servers for development and deployment, frameworks, middleware, and databases. The vendor is also responsible for software upgrades, security, and backups.

PaaS platform allows development and DevOps teams to collaborate on all their work across the entire application lifecycle, including coding, integration, testing, delivery, deployment, and feedback.

While PaaS gives you control over the codes of the application, you don’t have any control over the infrastructure. In addition, data is stored by the PaaS cloud provider off-site, so there can be security risks to your application’s users.

Benefits of PaaS

With PaaS, you get a ready-to-use development environment where you can build, test, deploy, run and update applications quickly. Users save on development costs and development time — and faster development means faster time to market.

With PaaS  platforms, you don’t need to worry about infrastructure management, updates, and other administrative tasks.

Additionally, PaaS platforms give you access to the latest and most modern resources. This enables companies to work with new OSs and languages and test them without the need to invest in them heavily.


PaaS Examples

Heroku: Heroku is a well-known PaaS tool that allows developers to build, run, and operate consumer-facing applications by providing them with software development tools. Heroku supports several programming languages.

Google App Engine: Google App Engine is a Platform as a Service that lets developers build and host applications in data centers managed by Google.

OpenShift: OpenShift is an on-premises platform as a service that is built around containers. These containers are orchestrated and managed by Kubernetes.


What is SaaS?

SaaS stands for Software as a Service, also sometimes referred to as cloud application services. SaaS is the most common type of cloud computing service that companies use. In the SaaS environment, cloud-based applications are hosted and managed by third-party SaaS vendors. SaaS applications are delivered to users through the internet. Simply put, SaaS is cloud-based, ready-to-use software.

You can subscribe to an annual or monthly subscription plan to use SaaS applications, and you can run them on your web browser directly without the need to download the applications. You can also increase the number of users and add more data storage by paying an additional amount.

However, you don’t get any control over the cloud-based infrastructure that the software runs on. This means if an error occurs and the application stops working, you can’t do anything, and you have to rely on the vendor to get the servers back up and running.

Although SaaS vendors usually offer a certain level of security, there can be leaks that expose your valuable business data. That’s why choosing a reputable SaaS vendor is critical to keep security risks low.

Benefits of SaaS

One of the biggest benefits of SaaS solutions is that they are easy to set up. You sign in to your account and start using the application without downloading and installing it on your computer. This means you don’t need to purchase a license and call a specialist to install SaaS software applications manually in the computers of each employee. And you can access the application anytime from any device with an internet connection.

SaaS cloud and applications, along with the entire infrastructure, such as servers, networking, data storage, and middleware, are managed by the SaaS provider. SaaS vendors also manage all the application updates, which are usually not visible to the users. And they also offer a certain level of availability, security, and performance.

Usually, SaaS solutions come with a free trial or low fees to allow the users to test the product and evaluate if it meets their requirements, thereby reducing financial risk. Additionally, SaaS products don’t consume local resources, such as storage.


SaaS Examples

Dropbox: Dropbox is a file hosting platform that provides cloud storage where you can save files online and also sync them to your devices.

Cisco WebEx: Cisco WebEx is a cloud-based web and video conferencing platform. It offers a suite of productivity tools, which allows your team to collaborate and keeps them connected.

Salesforce: Salesforce is a popular cloud-based software/SaaS platform that provides customer relationship management (CRM) services for sales, collaboration, marketing, analytics, customer service, etc. If you’re interested in more examples, read our article on Cloud Computing in Marketing.


IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS Difference in Cloud Computing

IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are related and often go hand in hand. Most companies use more than one of these cloud computing services. However, these three services have a few significant differences.

The key difference between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS is the different number of resources that are managed and maintained by third-party vendors in each cloud service.

The figure below will give you an even better understanding of how IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS differ from each other:

Comparison of on-premises infrastructure, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS
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If you’re interested in learning more about this, you can read our article on Cloud as a Service.


Ridge’s New Cloud Computing Paradigm

There are many variations in cloud computing strategies, and not everyone fits neatly into the standard IaaS/PaaS/SaaS definitions. But what’s most important for application owners is to have a flexible cloud architecture that matches their specific IT and locality requirements as well as their existing infrastructure.

To address the challenge, Ridge has developed a new cloud paradigm in which existing local data centers capacity is transformed into modern PaaS offerings, such as managed Kubernetescontainer orchestration, and object storage. These managed services — all accessed through a single API — enable data centers to offer their customers cloud-native capabilities without needing to run the services themselves.

Additional Ridge features, such as VPN and IaaS capabilities, facilitate full interoperability with any hybrid or multi-cloud architecture. As a result, enterprises can build a customized cloud computing strategy, considering their existing IT architecture, in their chosen locations.

Want to learn more about Ridge’s unique cloud? book a free demo!


Frequently asked questions: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS FAQ


Which is better — IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS?

IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are all cloud computing services, and each is used for a different purpose. So, it’s not about which one is better, but rather which one suits your needs.

  • IaaS delivers infrastructure resources, such as virtual private servers, storage, and networks, to an organization through the cloud.
  • Developers use PaaS to develop, run and manage custom applications.
  • SaaS, on the other hand, is cloud-based, ready-to-use software or application.


What resources are provided by infrastructure as a service?

IaaS offers infrastructure resources, such as:

  • Virtualization
  • Servers
  • Networking
  • Storage
  • Analytics

These services are cloud-hosted, and the service provider manages and maintains them, so you don’t need to buy or maintain hardware.


What benefits do cloud computing services offer?

Cloud computing offers a wide range of benefits:

  • Better speed
  • Improved flexibility and scalability
  • Cost savings

Cloud applications also improve collaboration among team members and allow them to share information easily and quickly. If your company has users all over the world, distributed cloud computing is the perfect choice to reduce latency and improve user experience.

Avi Meir, |