IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS: Which One is Best for Your Business?

As more and more organizations consider switching their business assets to the cloud, it is important to understand the differences between the three models of cloud service: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). By comparing IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS, you can choose the best model for your organization.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

As you can see with the below diagram, with an on-premises, non-cloud system your organization takes care of everything, from the servers to the software. With IaaS, your servers and storage are taken care of with virtual, cloud servers. With PaaS, cloud service providers also supply the middleware. And with SaaS, third party providers supply everything, including the software.

IaaS_PaaS_SaaS

Let’s take a deeper look into each option.

IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service

IaaS is sometimes referred to as “your data center in the cloud.” With the IaaS model of cloud services, third party providers host virtual hardware equipment such as servers and storage systems. IaaS providers may also take care of associated services such as ongoing system maintenance, data backup and business continuity.

Organizations that use IaaS are typically billed on the amount of storage they need, which are tabulated by the hour, week or month, depending on the service contract. This makes IaaS platforms highly scalable IT resources. If your organization grows, you simply need to pay for more storage rather than buy costly hardware. If your organization shrinks, you can reduce that storage. You also don’t need to maintain an IT staff solely dedicated to run servers.

This model is particularly attractive to small businesses and startups that may be growing, and companies that experience temporarily high workloads, like retailers during the holiday shopping season. However, you have to be careful to monitor your usage. In the metered world of IaaS, you only want to pay for what you need.

Examples of IaaS include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine (GCE).

IaaS offers many advantages, including:

  • Easy to automate storage, networking, servers and processing power
  • Avoids wasteful spending because server/storage is based on consumption
  • Clients retain complete control of their infrastructure
  • Highly scalable

PaaS: Platform as a Service

Platform as a Service (PaaS) delivers a platform to clients, which lets them develop, run and manage their business applications. Like IaaS, PaaS comes with virtual servers, storage and networking. But with PaaS, developers also have the tools to build customized software without having to worry about operating systems, software updates, storage or the underlying infrastructure.

PaaS is a pay-as-you-go service.

PaaS has many advantages, including:

  • Resources can easily be scaled up or down as business changes
  • Saves time and money with developing or deploying in-house apps, and significantly reduces the amount of coding needed to create them
  • Streamlines application management, and lets multiple developers work on the same project more efficiently

Examples of PaaS include Google App Engine, OpenShift, AWS Elastic Beanstalk and Windows® Azure.

SaaS: Software as a Service

When you consider IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS, Software as a Service is likely the most familiar to you. This is the most common cloud model used by businesses, and provides a wide variety of individual software applications such as email and collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), billing/payroll processing, sales management, human resources management, financial management, database management, enterprise resourcing planning (ERP), content management and document editing and management.

Organizations typically pay for SaaS applications via a subscription fee on a monthly or annual basis, often based on the number of people using the application, or the number of transactions that are run. Because of this fee structure, one of the major advantages to SaaS is its ongoing scalability and the ability to add or subtract users as needed. Since the apps are delivered via the web, SaaS also eliminates the need to have IT staff available to download and install applications on each individual computer, and third party vendors manage all potential technical issues. This allows IT staff to spend their time on more pressing, organizational matters.

Examples of SaaS include Google Docs (and many common Google apps such Google Calendar), DropboxTM, Cisco WebexTM and Salesforce.

SaaS has many advantages, including:

  • Applications can be accessed anywhere, and on mobile devices
  • Organizations can access many applications, including those used infrequently
  • Apps are always kept up-to-date; no need to install patches or updates
  • Scalability and cost savings

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

Each cloud model, whether you are considering IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS offers specific features and functionalities. Whether you need cloud-based software for storage options, a platform to develop customized applications, or complete control over your entire infrastructure, there is a cloud service option for your organization.

Still not sure? At Single Path, we work with many small-to-medium sized businesses, school districts and other organizations to help them find the cloud services best for them.

Contact us to learn more about how to move your assets to the cloud.