SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: What are the differences?

Are you looking to learn the difference between SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS? If you have no idea what we’re talking about, these refer to the different computing models that an organisation can use for cloud adoption. Selection and a good understanding of each computing model are paramount if an organisation is to take advantage of cloud technology to drive its business onward.

Consider a report by Unisys (an information technology company), which states that a third of cloud migrations fail (US businesses) because they could not make cloud a core part of their business strategy. As stipulated in the report, much of the difficulty lies in adopting the wrong cloud computing model that doesn’t align with a particular business’s needs and challenges. 

Your organisation would do well to avoid making the same mistake, and you can start by carefully inspecting each computing model ( how it works, advantages, and disadvantages) before jumping in on the cloud bandwagon.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: Everything that You Need to Know About Each Cloud Computing Model

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service)

Source: Atlantic

SaaS represents most cloud adoptions on the Internet and where most of the money is made in digital services. This particular cloud computing model is designed to allow organisations to lease or rent out proprietary software to customers in the form of a subscription model (monthly or yearly). Customers don’t have to buy, install, or manage the software themselves and can use the service as needed.

Netflix is one of the best examples of SaaS implementation. Users get convenient access to all the movies and TV shows they want. On the other hand, Netflix takes care of the licensing issues in exchange for a monthly or yearly subscription.

Many companies in the IT industry rely on SaaS for their business processes, including email, billing, human resources management, collaboration, customer resource management, etc. 

Benefits of a SaaS cloud adoption:

  • Dramatically reduces the amount of time required to deploy, manage, and troubleshoot software (digital services).
  • SaaS makes digital services more affordable to customers. There are no hefty licensing fees, and you only pay for the services/features you use.
  • SaaS enables businesses to significantly expand their user base by making software accessible anywhere globally (as long customers are connected to the Internet, and the service isn’t banned in a particular region).
  • Businesses can quickly and effectively make changes to the software and customer plans as needed.
  • Customers always have access to the latest and most optimized version of the software, ensuring a good user experience.

Disadvantages of a SaaS cloud adoption

Of course, SaaS is not without its downsides, and there are a few disadvantages that come with this type of cloud adoption:

  • Unlike a traditional on-premise IT setup, businesses have limited control over their software solution. One will need to depend on their cloud vendor for everything, including software updates, data management, and compliance (data privacy laws).
  • There’s no option for businesses to put off upgrades and other changes in their cloud migration.
  • SaaS requires that businesses transmit vast amounts of data to data centres to provide their software service to users. This opens up concerns about data security and potential misuse of sensitive information.
  • SaaS is a web-based computing model, which means that users will lose access to their data/software in the event of a connection problem (Internet).
  • organisations migrating to SaaS can expect a reduced performance of their software solutions. This is because the applications are no longer hosted on-site.

At this point, you might be wondering, in this comparison of SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS, when is SaaS the right choice? Well, that depends — is your organisation looking to launch an eCommerce solution and don’t want to get bogged down by software/server issues? Do you deal mostly with short-term projects that require a fast and affordable solution? Perhaps your organisation uses many web and mobile applications, most of which aren’t being used often?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the questions mentioned above, then SaaS might be the right cloud computing model for your organisation.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service)

In PaaS, the cloud vendor provides your organisation with access to all the hardware and software needed for business processes. This approach is ideal for companies interested in cloud adoption to create software development kits (SDK), application, and database management solutions required for developing and deploying applications.

One good example of a PaaS cloud service is the Google App Engine — a cloud-based computer application designed to develop and host web applications. 

What are the advantages of PaaS, you ask? Well, for one thing, it provides businesses with a convenient and affordable environment for mobile app development. Users only pay for the amount of computing resources that they use.

Notable advantages include:

  • It enables developers to focus on app development and minimize distractions (software maintenance, troubleshooting, etc).
  • Most PaaS vendors offer features that make coding easier — autocomplete, syntax highlighting, debugging tools, etc. These features can help make life easier for developers.
  • PaaS helps eliminate many of the tasks that don’t necessarily contribute to app development — manual configurations, software updates, hardware maintenance, etc.
  • PaaS provides a scalable environment that can be dialled down or ramped up as needed. This gives organisations much-needed flexibility and ensures that developers have all the computing resources required to meet current demand. 
  • PaaS makes it possible for multiple developers worldwide to collaborate and work on code in a shared and unified environment.

Of course, there are disadvantages to PaaS adoption as well. Perhaps the most significant is that the arrangement makes your organisation overly reliant on a vendor’s software and infrastructure solution. This means that you’d be locking your organisation in while the vendor is free to make changes as they see fit.

For example, let’s say that your vendor decides to discontinue support for a programming language you’ve been using. In this case, your organisation has two options — keep up with the change and switch to another language or migrate to a new cloud vendor. You can bet that neither of the options bodes well for your business.

Is PaaS the right cloud computing model for your organisation? Well, that depends on whether or not mobile web app development is a priority for your business. If the purpose of cloud adoption is to reduce app development costs and mitigate pertinent issues, you cannot go wrong with PaaS cloud adoption.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service)

As the name implies, an organisation leases an entire IT infrastructure under the IaaS model. The latter is different from the two other cloud computing models in that there’s more room for autonomy and flexibility.

You can think of IaaS as a traditional data centre that you can rent out over the Internet. There’s no hardware to buy or maintain; all the computing resources that your organisation needs (servers, operating systems, storage, etc.) are provided to your organisation via virtualization (the process of creating a digital version of any given hardware).

One of the more prominent examples of PaaS is Amazon Web Services (AWS). It’s an IT management subsidiary company of Amazon that offers an on-demand cloud computing platform on a metered basis.

In IaaS, the vendor’s responsibility is limited to the hardware alone (and the virtualization). Your organisation will be responsible for configuring and monitoring the computing resources provide. As you may imagine, this degree of freedom and flexibility has its pros and cons.

Let’s start with the advantages:

  • Fast and convenient deployment of readily available computing resources — CPU power, storage, networking, servers, etc.
  • When comparing SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS, the latter is by far the most adaptable cloud computing solution; specific resources can be purchased or dialled down depending on your organisation’s needs.
  • organisations maintain complete control of their infrastructure. This means that you can run your own operating systems, use a preferred programming language, and defer updates if so desired. 
  • IaaS lets you offset the cost of the hardware to actual usage.

What about the disadvantages, you ask? Well, for one thing, the fact that IaaS is a self-service arrangement means that your organisation will have to invest in specialized training. Even for seasoned IT professionals, switching to a virtualized solution from an on-premise setup has a steep learning curve. Such training is crucial because members of your organisation will be solely responsible for data security.

So is IaaS the right cloud computing model for your business? Simply put, it is if you want autonomy over your infrastructure without having to buy hardware and software for an on-premise solution. 

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: Conclusion

So going back to the crux of this article; SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS — what is the right cloud computing model for your organisation? Well, as you may have already realized, it depends on the focus of your business.

If you have an e-commerce solution that you would like to deploy to users in the fastest and simplest means possible, then SaaS is your best bet. On the other hand, if much of the reason why your company is considering cloud adoption is rapid and cost-effective development and hosting of a web application, then PaaS is the more suitable choice.

Just be mindful of the limitations and features of a particular cloud computing model and base your decision on the pressing needs of your organisation. The last thing you would want to do is waste time and money on cloud computing resources that your organisation isn’t using or, worse — find that your choice of cloud adoption lacks the resources that it desperately needs.

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