IaaS, PaaS & SaaS: What’s the Difference?

Organisations around the world are taking to the cloud. Here are the three models of cloud computing, and how to benefit the most from each. 

As you prepare to evolve from old on-premise IT hardware solutions, it’s vital to consider what your business’s next chapter might look like in the era of cloud computing. But will IaaS, PaaS or SaaS best meet your needs – and how?

In this post, we look at the differences between the three models of cloud computing: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), each with its distinct advantages and disadvantages. 

IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service

IaaS covers cloud-based infrastructure services such as data storage, servers, networking and virtualisation. Typically offered on a pay-as-you-go pricing model (similar to electricity and water), IaaS is the most economical solution for businesses looking to control their own data and network infrastructure without the expense of purchasing and maintaining their own on-premise hardware. Instead, remote IT infrastructure management tools are available via a dashboard or API — an ideal time- and space-saver when productivity hours and office real estate come at a premium.

Examples of Infrastructure as a Service providers include Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Linode and DigitalOcean — note, these are all primarily public cloud infrastructure services providers, i.e. their services are provided over the Internet. For all the advantages of a public cloud solution, a key consideration is whether a provider’s “cookie-cut” approach will be right for you.

If your business is bound to stricter security and compliance regulations, you may want to consider private cloud or hybrid cloud IaaS options instead. With the right setup, a hybrid cloud solution means you can avoid known public cloud pitfalls like unfair charges or substandard support, while taking advantage of your provider’s expertise and bespoke customer service.

Because the enterprise market tends to require a tailored approach, many service providers commonly offer IaaS with additional management services, ensuring a higher level of security, operational efficiencies, and continued infrastructure improvement over time. 

Without expert operational management, the business can become exposed to security risks, experience high operating costs and miss out on a key platform for innovation. 

IT Infrastructure Management, Tecala

Where is IaaS being used?

Providers of public cloud infrastructure managed services specialise in the very skills that many client businesses tend to lack, or simply don’t have time to invest in. Hence, SMEs are increasingly choosing managed IaaS services for the added reliability and expertise, and to help them meet any legal and industry compliance obligations. 

Other than managing IT infrastructure, more applications for IaaS include website hosting, running your own web apps and high-performance computations (e.g. big data analysis), facilitating temporary test and development environments, and improving connectivity between multiple office premises.

PaaS: Platform as a Service

PaaS refers to the provision of a software environment on top of a hardware solution, which is ideal for businesses needing a higher level of operational facilitation. Popular Platform as a Service providers include Netlify, Heroku, Akamai, Google App Engine, Red Hat OpenShift and Magento Commerce Cloud. 

In addition to IT infrastructure, storage and networking, PaaS service providers will also offer critical software features such as operating systems, database capabilities, file sharing and more. Many software developers and even SaaS companies (we’ll get to these in a moment) may choose Platform as a Service solutions that offer specific support for desired development frameworks, programming languages and use cases — thus freeing them up to focus on developing their own applications. 

Where is PaaS being used?

Common uses for PaaS services include eCommerce, business analytics, business process management, databases, CDNs (content delivery networks), communications support, IoT (Internet of Things) support, and for running APIs (application programming interfaces) and microservices.

SaaS: Software as a Service

Highly technical offerings, IaaS and PaaS are typically not advised for businesses that lack internal IT or development expertise. This is where Software as a Service saves the day. 

SaaS refers to cloud-based software accessed over the Internet, and is the most widely known “as a Service” offering. Examples of Software as a Service providers include Office 365, Google Apps, Salesforce CRM, MailChimp, Xero and Zoom. 

Targeting both consumers and businesses, ease of use is the biggest advantage of SaaS. Your operation can be up and running within minutes, relieved of the burden of developing your own platform and applications, and supported by tools you can access from anywhere in the world. However, this convenience typically comes at a cost.

Created on the premise of “one size fits most”, SaaS applications come with one notable disadvantage — limited control. This problem is mitigated by the sheer number of SaaS solutions on the market today, and by modern accessible and inclusive user experience practices. However, if your business has idiosyncratic or highly niche requirements, you may still only get limited value from an out-of-the-box product designed for the majority.

Where is SaaS being used?

SaaS is ideal for startups, small businesses and sole traders who don’t need such a high level of control, instead prioritising reliability and affordability without the hassle of managing their own IT infrastructure and software.

Make your infrastructure work for you

What IaaS, PaaS and SaaS all have in common is that they present scalable, robust and modern solutions that grow with your business. Through purposefully designed management tools, they also provide a smoother user experience for your in-house team.

Bring your IT infrastructure to life with Tecala. We provide a flexible service model where you can adapt your solution as your needs evolve over time, without the hidden costs. We also offer the best of both worlds in the form of a hybrid cloud: perfect for organisations who need more than private or public cloud alone. Ask about our IT infrastructure management services today. 


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