Since cloud technology has entered the market, many businesses have shifted their data to online sharing. Proven to be time and cost-effective, cloud computing saw an extreme uptake by 2021. Clouds are there for you, whether you want to build a SaaS product or use the provider’s software development infrastructure.

Cloud computing allows us to perform the usual IT operations via the models that fall into three main categories: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. What’s the difference between them? This article walks you through each of the models, revealing their strengths and weaknesses.

What is the cloud?

In traditional IT, the end-user handles the hardware for servers and networking. But such on-premises equipment is costly and space-consuming. As the information volume grows all the time, users need more equipment to store their data. That’s quite challenging. So, the cloud model came to solve this issue.

In cloud computing, the load of keeping equipment and other resources for data handling is on the provider. The customers use the cloud provider’s equipment and software to store and access the data via the Internet.

With the technology, companies save in-house and maintenance means, raising overall performance. The flexibility and high efficiency of cloud services lead to the rise of the cloud market. Below you can see how the cloud service revenue steadily grows.

Source: 451research.com

That’s why it is vital to know the peculiarities of the most popular service models. Let’s discover the difference between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.

IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service)

IaaS is a service model in which companies lease servers to end-users for computing and data storage. Customers can use in-house operating systems and applications without maintaining physical servers.

The technology allows users to handle complex computing operations. For example, they include hosting websites with sophisticated logic or backing up large volumes of data.

The cloud saves time, space, and costs of keeping the hardware for company operations. So, small and medium businesses, manufacturing and healthcare organizations have shifted to IaaS.

Large companies with high numbers and documents also use IaaS. Cloud scalability allows the users to add vast amounts of servers and data storage within minutes. That’s how Netflix benefited from using the IaaS.

How does it work?

IaaS allows managing servers, networks, and operating systems. Physical management is on the provider’s side. You only need a dashboard or API to access the resources.

In the IaaS model, service providers maintain the infrastructure usually found in a physical data center. Providers own and operate multiple data centers creating a medium for numerous users. This is a multi-tenant model.

There is also a single-tenant model with entirely separate environments for users, but usually, it comes at a higher cost.

IaaS providers manage servers, hardware, and virtualization means. The correctness and security of your operating systems and applications depend on you. You also configure middleware, runtime, and data handling.

Popular IaaS companies are Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Engine (GCE), Microsoft Azure, etc.

Source: azure.microsoft.com

For example, Microsoft Azure provides users with a reliable and fast environment. They suggest more data centers and delivery points than other cloud vendors.

IaaS pros:

  • Allows paying only for the resources that you use on an hourly, weekly, or monthly basis.
  • Deployment of virtual environments in a few minutes.
  • Easy scaling up and down of resources depending on the client’s busy or off-peak season.
  • Maintenance and updates of data servers are on the provider’s side.
  • No need for physical equipment.

IaaS cons:

  • Possible provider’s security issues with multi-tenant systems and service reliability.
  • Security threats from hosts or virtual machines at data communication.
  • Legacy apps that run in a cloud need to be secured enough.
  • The need to provide staff training on data security and backup for the in-house software.

PaaS (platform-as-a-service)

PaaS is a cloud service model in which a provider ensures an infrastructure to deliver software. A vendor offers and maintains servers, runtime environments, operating systems, and middleware.

With the PaaS service model, a provider creates a medium for software developers. Such infrastructure with app development resources enables delivering the technologies via the Internet.

All updates are on the provider’s side. So, PaaS significantly reduces costs and time for development, testing, and deployment processes.

PaaS is used chiefly for creating apps and analyzing a company’s business processes. Also, PaaS providers may offer more services that ensure a smooth development process and security.

How does it work?

Developers create, run, and manage their apps within the vendor’s framework. This is useful for engineering teams as PaaS ensures the development process agility and high speed. 

As a vendor delivers the base for app development, programmers can launch complex applications. Developers don’t need to buy or download related resources. Servers, databases, operating systems, and more go online. 

The platform also provides built-in software components, so a developer can write less code speeding up the app creation.

The prominent examples are Salesforce, Windows Azure, Google App Engine, Heroku, etc.

Source: salesforce.com

For instance, Salesforce allows you to develop, launch, and manage apps with the most popular languages. Users are also provided with software components and the ability to integrate their software with other apps.

PaaS pros:

  • Comprehensive development tools.
  • Sign-up allows access to the development environment.
  • Coding infrastructure updates are on the provider.
  • PaaS ensures flexible coding for developer teams.
  • Easy customization of the built apps.

PaaS cons:

  • Limited control of the coding infrastructure suits only small and medium businesses.
  • Provider’s security issues may affect the users of your app.
  • PaaS may not be compatible with legacy apps and services.
  • Integrations with your languages and frameworks may result in complex IT systems.

SaaS (software-as-a-service)

SaaS is a comprehensive model that provides software for purchase on a pay-as-you-go basis. Providers offer such platforms both for businesses and individual users.

Unlike PaaS and IaaS, a provider takes complete control over the working space offered in this model. A vendor creates, maintains, and updates resources needed for the use of a software service. These include hardware and data processing.

SaaS offers flexibility and scalability in managing users’ data and business processes. Typical examples are email, scheduling, and office tools, such as Microsoft 365 or Google Docs.

How does it work?

With this technology, you can use software from vendors at any time and place via the Internet. Just log in, and you get access to the service space to upload, store, and download your data.

There are many SaaS solutions for business and personal use. You may use them for communication, payments, sales, and more.

SaaS service providers ensure a common centralized infrastructure and code base that clients use. As customers use the same service, the vendor can quickly make updates. So, providers save software maintenance costs and time for their users.

SaaS architecture allows making fast customizations and maintaining data, middleware, storage, and servers.  Providers configure the applications through unique upgrades and make business processes accurate.

SaaS products include Zoom, Dropbox, Zendesk, etc.

Source: dropbox.com

For example, Dropbox suggests a helpful communication and file sharing system between users. This suits businesses that depend on remote workforce and freelancers.

SaaS pros:

  • Easy to set up and start using.
  • Software is delivered to end-users over the web.
  • Purchase or subscription includes agile and endless upgrade and scalability.
  • Suitable for startups and small businesses to begin and grow.
  • Integrations that ensure compatibility with the existing company’s software.

SaaS cons:

  • Dependence on provider’s infrastructure. 
  • Impacts SaaS-dependent business processes.
  • Integrations are on the provider’s side.
  • The provider keeps your data.
  • Security leaks.

IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS

The three service models differ in the degree of customers’ control over software development and use. The table below illustrates how they relate in terms of managing digital infrastructure.

Source: pentasecurity.com

Wrapping up

The discussed service models offer environments for various purposes. They support everyday and business activities, app development, and handling data.

Users find it easy to add and remove the information from the cloud, be it a photo or a complex digital solution. Providing users with necessary services, vendors allow them to keep and maintain large volumes of data.

With all that flexibility, you can choose a cloud model that suits you best, depending on your personal or business needs.