IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS: What’s the Difference?

Founder & CEO at Dynamix Solutions

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The adoption of cloud services and solutions is nearly at 100%. Over the last two years, organizations have fully experienced the importance of being able to work from anywhere and keep remote teams connected to each other and customers. 

This is a workflow that cloud technologies enable in a way that on-premises systems cannot.

In a survey of Canadian organizations by IDC in March of 2020, 90% had adopted at least one SaaS product, 50% had adopted a PaaS cloud service, and one-third had adopted IaaS. All of these are different types of cloud services.

Benefits of working in the cloud include:

  • Business continuity advantages (companies can operate remotely)
  • Flexibility for staff to access work from any device and location
  • Large cost savings over traditional one-time software purchases
  • Systems are continually updated with the latest features
  • Shared responsibility for software security with cloud service providers

When choosing cloud services, Calgary businesses have three main options: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. What’s the difference? How do you know which is right for your company?

We’ll explore the pros and cons of each below.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the option that offers the most freedom to design your version of the “cloud” however you like.

With IaaS, a company is renting the cloud infrastructure, including virtual servers, pay-as-you-go storage, networking, and virtualization. This setup gives companies the most control and flexibility over how their cloud environment looks and how they want to build it.

Examples of IaaS cloud services and solutions would be Rackspace, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Linode.

Advantages & Disadvantages

The advantages of IaaS are:

  • Most Flexibility: You have the most flexibility over building and updating your cloud environment.
  • Pay-as-you-go: You pay only for the computing resources you use and can easily scale up or down, instead of having to pay for all that infrastructure upfront.
  • Closest to on-premises: This is the closest cloud service to hosting all your software and digital infrastructure on-premises. You have a similar amount of control with the benefit of a cloud environment.

The disadvantages of IaaS are:

  • The configuration is up to you: With IaaS, you’re renting the cloud technologies, but you must configure the environment yourself. It’s not pre-built for you as it is with SaaS.
  • You need to handle internal security: While the data center security may be handled by the cloud service providers, you’re largely responsible for your application security and the security of your cloud environment.
  • Takes the most administration: IaaS takes the most administration on your part because you are still building and running your own IT environment, you’re just renting the cloud equipment and space to do it.

PaaS (Platform as a Service)

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the next step down in scope for your cloud technologies. It delivers a cloud platform to a company that can be used for different types of software. However, there is more configuration already in place than there is with IaaS.

PaaS also provides a “ready to go” framework for application developers to build upon, enabling them to create custom applications for companies to use.

Examples of PaaS cloud services and solutions would be Google App Engine, Windows Azure, and Heroku.

Advantages & Disadvantages

The advantages of PaaS are:

  • Cost-Effective App Deployment: This is a cost-effective way to deploy your own custom applications because the backend infrastructure is already in place.
  • Reduction in the Amount of Work: The cloud service provider maintains the foundational architecture, so there is less work that needs to be done by your developers.
  • Easy to Get Started: The process of developing custom cloud software is shortened.

The disadvantages of PaaS are:

  • Some limitations: You don’t have as much control as with IaaS and may run into platform limitations.
  • There is the Potential for Downtime: Since your data and applications are being hosted by a cloud provider, there is a risk of downtime that you have little control over.
  • Your Apps Need to Follow Platform Rules: PaaS will have certain coding rules that need to be followed, which means you may not be able to use certain types of applications.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

Software as a Service (SaaS) is what most people are used to because they use one or more of them every day. These would be cloud applications that you pay to use monthly or annually.

Some SaaS providers include several apps (e.g., Microsoft 365), while others are just one specific application (e.g., Slack).

Examples of SaaS cloud services solutions would be Google Workspace, M365, Trello, and many others.

Advantages & Disadvantages

The advantages of SaaS are:

  • Easy to Use: SaaS apps are designed to be user-friendly and easy to use, there is little the user needs to do to set up the account.
  • Everything is Handled for You: Configuration, coding, updates, and security are all handled by the cloud technology provider.
  • Small-Business Friendly: This model is the friendliest to small businesses that do not have in-house IT teams.

The disadvantages of SaaS are:

  • Easy to End Up With Repetition: When your business uses SaaS apps ad hoc, it’s easy to end up with duplication of app features and pay more than you need to.
  • You Have the Least Control: Your ability to customize your SaaS tool is very limited.
  • Lack of Integration: SaaS apps can often be difficult to integrate with each other for fluid data sharing.

Choosing the Right Cloud Service

Each of these three cloud options offers solutions to help companies adapt and grow in their use of the cloud.

The main factors you want to consider with your IT provider when deciding on which options are best for you would be your company cloud goals, challenges with using the cloud you are trying to solve, and where you hope to go with your business capabilities.

Get Expert Help Planning & Implementing Your Cloud Environment

Dynamix Solutions has experts that can help choose the best cloud technologies for your Calgary business or Toronto business to fit your needs and budget.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation! Call Toll Free: 1 (855) 405-1087.