IaaS, PaaS, & SaaS—Understanding the Three Main Types of Cloud Computing

Cloud services have become increasingly more important in the business world over the years, and it's safe to say that almost every organization in the world uses at least one type of cloud service. If you’re considering moving your business to the Cloud, there are three important acronyms that you need to wrap your head around: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS).

Each type comes with its own benefits, so it's vital to understand how they differ from one another in order to determine which will be the best fit for your business.

Fortunately, we can help! In this article, we'll tackle everything you need to know about cloud computing, IaaS, PaaS, and Saas.

What is Cloud Computing?

Simply put, cloud computing refers to the on-demand delivery of resources over the internet. These resources include storage, databases, servers, software, networking, analytics, and intelligence. Interestingly, a third- party company hosts these resources for users. The host stores these resources remotely over a variety of different servers like the cloud. Users can access them over the web.  So, as long as users have access to the internet, they can work remotely.

Under this contract, the users pay only for those resources that they use. Therefore, it saves them any capital and revenue expenditure related to the applications. It also offers global scalability by solving the distance constraint. It helps integrate globally distributed teams and makes remote working possible. Many hosts also customize security protocols that improve the reliability of the cloud service. It also improves workplace productivity by outsourcing IT infrastructure needs and related services to specialists and freeing employees for secondary tasks.

Broadly, there are three types of cloud computing services, namely:

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a service (PaaS)
  • Software as a service (SaaS)

If you’re considering switching your business to the cloud whether, for an application or infrastructure deployment, it is crucial to understand these types of services, their advantages, and their limitations. Knowing them will help you make the right choice and accomplish your goals. But before we look at them, let’s first find out how and why they are different from On-Premise Software!

On-Premise Software

On-Premise software is installed, hosted, and maintained locally on the company’s server at their physical location. The company needs to buy an expensive license for using the same. In contrast, Cloud-based services are available through a need-based subscription model. Also, On-Premise software is not feasible for remote working whereas, Cloud-Based services promote the same. As a result, almost every software and the program runs on a cloud-computing model. A classic example of on-premise software would be the traditional Adobe Photoshop Elements. These had to be installed on the device’s hardware using a CD-ROM format after obtaining the license. However, lately, Adobe also offers a cloud-based version of their software.

Now we know why cloud-computing services are preferable to on-premise services. Let's proceed to understand the different types of cloud-computing services.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS allows the user organization to rent IT infrastructure - storage, operating systems, virtual machines, servers, networks from a third-party cloud service provider on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS supplies resources for designing, developing, testing, deploying, and hosting consumer-facing applications and services over the internet. Users are not required to install any software or worry about the underlying infrastructure required. PaaS is available on-demand.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS delivers software applications over the internet, on-demand, or on a subscription basis. The cloud providers host and manage the software application and maintain the underlying infrastructure. SaaS is the most commonly used service as it is both consumer and business-friendly.

Now, let's dig deeper!

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS is a cloud-based service that delivers resources to organizations virtually over the cloud. IaaS provides tools for organizations to build and manage their servers, networks, storage, and operating systems. Organizations can buy these tools/resources on a use and demand basis instead of purchasing physical hardware.

What does IaaS do?

IaaS delivers highly scalable and automated computer resources. It is like a self-service server that allows users to access and monitor storage, networks, and other services online without purchasing any physical hardware. It frees users from the hassle of managing a physical server, as a third-party cloud provider will do that for you.

What does IaaS deliver?

IaaS delivers cloud computing infrastructure including servers, network, operating systems, and storage virtually. These cloud servers are typically provided to the organization through a dashboard or an API, giving IaaS clients complete control over the entire infrastructure. Simply put, IaaS delivers a ‘virtual data center’ (in the cloud) to its clients.

Pros & Cons of IaaS


  • Highly scalable and flexible i.e. clients can upsize or downsize it as per requirements.
  • Clients can remain in complete control of their infrastructure.
  • Easily automates the deployment of storage, networks, operating systems, etc.
  • The pay-as-you-go model helps users in cost-saving as purchases are need-based.
  • Limits purchasing of physical hardware.


  • Additional resources and training are required for the workforce to learn how to manage the virtually available infrastructure.
  • Clients are responsible for security threats or data breaches as they control most of the infrastructure themselves.
  • The carelessness of the vendor may lead to inappropriate allocation of data and resources to previous/new users.

Examples Of IaaS Companies

  • Microsoft Azure - Microsoft Azure is Microsoft’s public cloud-computing IaaS product that provides a range of cloud services like storage, computing, analytics, and networking through its data centers.
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) - AWS (owned by Amazon) is the world’s most comprehensive cloud platform IaaS, offering over 200 fully-featured services from data centers globally.
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  • Google Compute Engine - Google Compute Engine is the IaaS component of the Google Cloud Platform. By using the global infrastructure, it enables users to launch on-demand virtual machines.
  • DigitalOcean - DigitalOcean is an IaaS cloud infrastructure vendor majorly for business entities. It is used to scale by deploying DigitalOcean applications that run parallel across multiple cloud servers without compromising performance.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS mainly helps in developing applications. It provides a framework to app developers, using which they can create customized apps. The storage, server, and network are all managed by a third-party vendor. The enterprise only needs to manage the application. PaaS provides pay-as-you-go or typically on-demand services.

What does PaaS do?

PaaS simply lets developers build custom applications online without dealing with data serving, storage, and management. It provides customers with data centers and servers to store information. Customers can use these resources to design, develop, deploy, test, and host customized applications.

What does PaaS deliver?

In layman’s terms, PaaS provides a platform for software creation. The vendor delivers this platform via the web. Thus, developers get the freedom to concentrate on building the software without having to worry about operating systems, software updates, storage, or infrastructure.

Pros & Cons of PaaS


  • PaaS tools are easily accessible for use.
  • They offer a simple solution for the development and deployment of custom applications.
  • Developers can customize applications without the hassle of maintaining the software.
  • Significantly reduces the amount of coding required.
  • If the application grows in usage, PaaS platforms offer high flexibility and scalability.
  • Developers can easily migrate to a hybrid model.


  • PaaS requires users to stick to a specific vendor. If migration policies are not clearly defined, switching to an alternative PaaS vendor becomes difficult.
  • Data related to the user’s custom application gets stored in the vendor’s servers, posing a potential security threat of data breach.
  • Not all PaaS solutions may meet the specific language and framework requirements of the developer’s choice. It could restrict excessive customization.

Examples Of PaaS Companies

  • Heroku - Heroku is a container-based cloud PaaS. Developers use it to deploy, test and scale modern customized applications. They provide services, tools, workflows, and polyglots to enhance the developer’s productivity.
  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk - AWS Elastic Beanstalk is a cloud deployment and provisioning service that automates the process of getting applications set up on Amazon Web Services (AWS). It supports apps build on Java and Node.
  • Google App Engine - Google App Engine is a cloud computing PaaS that develops and hosts web applications in Google - managed data centers. Within the Google App Engine, applications are sandboxed and run across multiple servers.
  • OpenShift - OpenShift, a product of Red Hat, enables users to develop, deploy, and manage container-based applications. It provides a self-service platform to create applications on-demand, thereby enabling faster development and release life cycles.

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Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS is the most commonly utilized cloud-based service. SaaS delivers applications managed by third-party vendors to users over the internet. Most SaaS applications run directly on web browsers. Thus, clients do not have to download/install any applications or software. Mostly, SaaS is available through a subscription-based model.

What does SaaS do?

Through SaaS, third-party cloud service vendors manage all possible technical issues like data, middleware, networks, server, storage leading to streamlined maintenance and support for the business. It is most suitable for globally distributed teams.

What does SaaS deliver?

SaaS companies typically deliver their products virtually through web-based servers. SaaS eliminates the need for IT professionals to download applications separately on every desktop used in the company.

Pros and Cons of SaaS


  • Reduces the time and effort spent on tedious tasks like installing, managing, and upgrading software.
  • Users are free from the hassle of hardware and software upgrades/updates.
  • SaaS software is easy to use and accessible.
  • SaaS hardly occupies any space on the client’s local server.
  • By being managed over a central server, it enables remote working for globally distributed teams.


  • Integration with existing apps and services can be a pressing concern if vendors do not follow open standards for integration.
  • Clients have to rely on the vendor for the security of their data and communications.
  • Vendors may make it simple to join SaaS but tedious to get out of it. Data may not always be portable technically or cost-effectively.
  • SaaS involves handing over control of the infrastructure and servers to the third-party SaaS vendor. It leads to a loss of control.

Examples Of SaaS Companies

  • Dropbox - Dropbox is a personal cloud storage service (sometimes referred to as an online backup service) frequently used for file sharing and collaboration among multiple users.
  • GoToMeeting - GoToMeeting is a web-based meeting and desktop sharing software that enables the user to meet with other users, customers or clients via the Internet in real-time.
  • Google Workspace - Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite) is a collection of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products, offered in a central space by Google.
  • DocuSign - DocuSign is a SaaS product that businesses use to send contracts and other documents requiring signatures.
  • HubSpot - HubSpot is a CRM, marketing, sales, and service SaaS platform that businesses use to connect with and retain loyal customers.
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So, what's the difference?

Now we know that each cloud computing service has specific features, functionalities, pros and cons. To understand the difference, one can think of them as an umbrella of cloud services. There is a cloud service for every need - in-house virtual cloud infrastructure, a smooth platform for creating customized applications or basic storage options. No matter which option we choose, migrating to the cloud is the future of business and technology.

First, let’s compare IaaS to PaaS!

IaaS vs. PaaS

The most distinct difference between IaaS and PaaS is that IaaS offers direct control over the operating system, whereas PaaS provides higher flexibility and convenience.

For instance, if we wanted to create a website offering several custom features and applications, an IaaS product like Google Compute Engine would enable hosting it and its features and applications. However, a PaaS product like Google App Engine would allow the creation and installation of all custom features and applications.

PaaS vs. SaaS

PaaS products offer a platform for building customized applications. Undoubtedly, a third-party vendor hosts and manages the infrastructure. However, developers utilize the infrastructure to create and install custom applications for their businesses. In contrast, a third company owns and manages a SaaS platform, including its applications and features.

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Let’s look at the same example, wherein PaaS enables creating custom applications and features for my website. So PaaS becomes a platform for running my applications. Once it’s ready, the custom application becomes a SaaS product. That’s because this application would provide a unique service to its users. And my website would act as a platform in itself (an IaaS product), offering and hosting these custom apps and features.

Taking a more general example, we can compare IaaS to a leased car. One does not own it but can upgrade or change it as per wish. On the other hand, PaaS is similar to a cab. One does not drive the car themselves, but it takes them to the destination. Simultaneously, SaaS is like public transport. It has fixed routes and combined rides but offers a convenient transportation facility.

Therefore, to summarize, IaaS becomes the foundation for building a cloud-based service. PaaS offers a platform to develop and deploy custom applications without having to host them. SaaS is the final product that companies can sell and use.

Choosing the Right Solution for Your Business

As we map our path to migrating towards the cloud, the most crucial decisions are:

  • How much you want and can manage yourself.
  • How much you want your service provider to manage.

SaaS provides maximum control to the service provider, providing ease of convenience and minimum hassle to the business. Third-party vendors directly offer SaaS products over the internet.

PaaS balances control and flexibility between the vendor and the business. It provides tools and platforms that enable developers to develop and deploy custom applications over the web.

Lastly, IaaS places maximum control on the business. It virtually provides the infrastructure to host in-house cloud services like payments, storage, networking and visualization leaving little hassle for the vendors.

The bottom line is, cloud services are the future of every business. They boost the productivity and efficiency of every single operation, and therefore business as a whole.

Crowdbotics can contribute to this technological migration by helping you build a custom application for your business and join the virtual community. Get in touch with us today for a detailed quote!

Originally published:

October 19, 2021

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