Understanding the Difference Between SaaS, PaaS and IaaS

It’s likely you’ve been mulling over the decision to move to a cloud environment to meet the evolving needs of your business. But between SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and more, it’s hard to know which option is the right fit. Deciding on a cloud service to implement depends a great deal on your expectations regarding cost/benefit ratio, flexibility, ease and efficiency.


Selecting Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) may be all you need to reap the technological benefits of cloud computing. Using a cloud infrastructure, this web-based service allows you to access software as you need it from a remote service provider without the expense of installation and maintenance on an in-house server. It’s a good option for businesses with the bottom line firmly in mind. In addition, most companies are already using a form of SaaS —Dropbox, Google Docs, web-based email — so there’s less of a learning curve.

As this is essentially an old computing concept revamped for today’s technologies, one of the risks with SaaS is conflicting with regulatory mandates like Sarbanes-Oxley, DIACAP and FISMA. You may also have less elasticity and access to broad networks. Still, it’s a good cloud-launching platform and may be all that your business needs at this juncture.


Kicking it up a technological notch, you might discover that Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), with its industry specificity, better matches your business model. With PaaS, the transparency and abstract features of the separate infrastructure allow you to concentrate solely on application management.

Once your own application code has been formatted to the PaaS, you then have an accessible platform for computing and a solution stack that will automatically adjust and configure its infrastructure based on data loads. Many providers offer their customers access to databases and platform tools without the additional expense of separate licensing.

PaaS may cost a few pennies more, but it will save dollars on labor management and infrastructure maintenance. One caveat is that some SaaS providers refer to their networks as PaaS by tacking on software you may not even need at the cost of the efficiency you are actually seeking.


Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) may be the Cadillac of cloud computing. With this service model, you have a virtual data center at your literal fingertips instead of down the hall.This includes security, storage, network capacity, load balancers and database access. Your infrastructure is controlled and managed, with a so-called “infinite capacity” that makes crashing servers go the way of the dinosaurs. Your business will remain in complete compliance with regulatory agencies to keep risk at a minimum.

Other benefits of IaaS include:

  • Dynamic scaling
  • Policy-based services tailored to your company’s unique needs
  • Internet connectivity
  • Virtual desktops
  • Automated administrative tasks
  • Policy-based services

Best of all is that the utility computing billing allows you to pay only for the allocated resources your business consumes, and it all comes at a savings of up to 90 percent of what an actual data center would cost — without all the headaches.




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