IaaS, PaaS, SaaS Explained – Differences & Examples

The demand for cloud computing is continuously increasing, which simply means that the need for cloud computing is also increasing. And while businesses are eager to adopt cloud computing, the question that arises is, how to get started? And while there are multiple cloud service providers, businesses need to dive a little deeper into the services available and choose the one that best suits their needs.

There are 3 main types of services models by any cloud service provider – Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Let’s get into the details of how these services function and what they can do for your business!

IaaS: Infrastructure-as-a-Service

Out of the 3 main cloud services available, IaaS allows the most accessibility to businesses. With IaaS, you can hire a provider — with a pay-as-you-go convenience — to help you with infrastructure services like storage, network, servers and virtualisation through the internet.

While the storage, network, servers and virtualisation are taken care of on the cloud, by the provider, what remains for the business to manage is operating systems and any data along with applications, middleware, and runtimes.

With IaaS, businesses have the advantage to choose one or more services offered by the provider and add more when the need arises and also make the payments accordingly.

Simply put, with IaaS you’ll buy, install, configure and manage your own software—including operating systems, middleware and applications and then the cloud provider will manage this infrastructure for you.

The complications and complexities that come with storage management can be completely (or partially) avoided with IaaS. Data backup and recovery is also handled by IaaS. Apart from this, supercomputers that perform high-end computing, computer grids or computer clusters can be used to solve many problems involving millions of variables or calculations. This can include protein folding, earthquake simulations, climate and weather predictions, financial modelling and product design evaluations.

  • IaaS gives your business the flexibility to scale up or down the infrastructure services needed in a hassle-free way.
  • With low overhead and zero maintenance costs, IaaS is an affordable option for even the smallest businesses.
  • IaaS lets you scale globally while delivering IT services from anywhere in the world. Thus enhances speed and performance.
  • IaaS takes care of all the upgrades that your software would need. It will also troubleshoot problems in case of mishaps. Your provider will also assure that your infrastructure is reliable and meets service-level agreements (SLAs).

IaaS can have some drawbacks if the provider chosen is inexperienced or lacks the current market knowledge.

  • IaaS can oftentimes lead to security gaps while also restricting user-privacy and customisation.
  • IaaS also creates over dependency of a business on a third party.

Some examples of IaaS service providers are AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

PaaS: Platform-as-a-Service

Platform-as-service or PaaS takes your cloud computing game a level higher. With more services available through the cloud, PaaS allows organisations to focus only on applications and data and better ways to grow their business.

With PaaS, the provider will access the software and hardware on its own infrastructure and deliver this platform to the organisation as an integrated solution, solution stack or service, via an internet connection.

PaaS has been a life-saver for developers and programmers and is mostly used by them. With PaaS, users can develop, run and manage their apps without having their own infrastructure and platforms. And just like IaaS, PaaS also offers a convenient pay-as-you-go system.

PaaS allows users to write code along with building and managing their apps without the problems of software updates or hardware maintenance. Developers are provided a platform to create their own framework and build and customise their own applications. There are built-in software components that assists the development of applications thereby decreasing the amount of codes a user has to write manually.

  • PaaS delivers some pre-coded application components that can help users to reduce the time and efforts of typing individual codes.
  • PaaS is cost-effective, scalable and flexible depending upon the needs of the user.
  • PaaS allows users to browse through multiple platforms including mobile phones and computers. This enhances productivity as cross platform apps can be easily developed.
  • Automatic updates are delivered by PaaS providers.
  • Third party integration can create a security breach if the provider is not responsible.
  • It is difficult to change PaaS providers.
  • Some features provided through PaaS can be irrelevant to the user.

AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Heroku, and Red Hat OpenShift are popular examples of PaaS providers.

SaaS: Software-as-a-Service

Being the most comprehensive cloud computing service, Software-as-a-service is often called cloud application service.  With SaaS it is possible to get an entire application which is completely managed by the provider. Most of us already use SaaS to some extent without even realising it. The apps that we use through the internet; like Microsoft office 365 is a form of SaaS. The apps that have a narrow focus, targeting a niche market are known as micro SaaS. These micro SaaS apps usually target one specific problem, to a smaller group of potential customers with a winning solution, making it best in the market.

There are numerous underlying infrastructure like middleware, app software and app data at the provider’s data centre. These hardware and software services are managed by the provider and delivered to the user according to an agreement.

With SaaS software updates, bug fixes and general maintenance becomes easy. SaaS is specifically a great option for small businesses and startups that want to avoid the expenses of having a huge staff. If software installations and updates are something you want to avoid, SaaS does the job for you. It’s convenient for applications that don’t require customisation or aren’t frequently used.

Dropbox, Salesforce or Google Apps are the excellent examples of SaaS

  • Easy availability of important apps like ERP and CRM in an affordable way.
  • When the data of an app is stored in the cloud, the data can be easily retrieved even if the user changes his device or if the device suffers any damage.
  • Integration with existing applications and services can be difficult since a lot of time SaaS applications are not designed for open integration.
  • With SaaS businesses have little to no control since almost everything is managed by the third party provider.

Here’s a fun pizza metaphor to easily distinguish between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS

3 pizza as a service


With technology and business joining hands, migrating to the cloud has become fundamental for business growth and to remain relevant in the market. With these cloud delivery services, businesses have more flexibility, choices and options that are rarely provided by on-premise services.