Quick Guide to IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS

Almost everything you need to know about the primary as-a-service cloud computing business models.

Introduction to As-A-Service Business Models

As-a-service (-aaS or AAS) are business models in which something is provided to customers (either internally or externally) as a service. Primarily, AAS offerings are focused on services delivered via the cloud. In this blog, we’re only going to explore three types of AAS offerings, but many more exist, including:

  • Anything / Everything-as-a-service (XaaS): A general category of cloud computing and remote access services. SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS are all examples of XaaS.
  • Function-as-a-service (FaaS): A type of cloud computing that allows users to run individual functions or pieces of code without needing to manage the entire application or infrastructure.
  • Containers-as-a-service (CaaS): Helps IT departments and software developers manage and deploy apps using container-based virtualization. (FYI: There are multiple definitions of CaaS, including commerce-as-a-service, content-as-a-service, communications-as-a-service, etc.)

For a near complete list of AAS offerings, check out this big -aaS list from Ryan LaFlamme.

What’s the Difference Between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS?

IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are cloud computing services that offer an alternative to on-premise IT solutions (where data, apps, and software run on in-house computer servers). On-premise (or on-prem) solutions are a rarity nowadays, but think of the olden days of Adobe InDesign on CD-ROM.

The graphic below provides a high-level overview of the primary differences between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS from an IT perspective (i.e., this is primarily for the techies. All others to see layman's terms below).

Table comparing IaaS vs SaaS vs PaaS

Information-As-A-Service (IaaS)

What is IaaS?

IaaS is a type of cloud computing that provides users with access to computing resources, like servers, storage, and networking. It allows users to rent these resources on a pay-as-you-go basis, so they don't need to invest in hardware or software upfront. IaaS customers have full control over the virtual machines and can install and configure their own software and applications.

Who uses IaaS?

  • Architects
  • Developers
  • IT administrators

What are examples of IaaS?

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Rackspace
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Compute Engine (GCE)

What are the benefits of IaaS?

  • You only pay for what you need
  • Users can quickly scale up or down based on your organization’s requirements
  • Users retain complete control over infrastructure
  • Highly flexible and easy to expand
  • Automated deployment of servers, storage, and networking
  • Dynamic workloads are supported

What are the limitations of IaaS?

  • Requires a certain level of technical knowledge to set up and manage (often equalling additional training)
  • Legacy systems may have to be upgraded or enhanced
  • Organizations are responsible for mitigating security risks

Platform-As-A-Service (PaaS)

What is PaaS?

PaaS is a cloud computing model in which customers can develop, run, and manage web applications without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure. PaaS provides customers a platform to build and deploy applications quickly and easily.

Who uses PaaS?

  • Developers
  • Programmers

What are examples of PaaS?

  • Google search engine
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Salesforce’s Customer 360 platform 

Sitecore's PaaS Products:

What are the benefits of PaaS?

  • Easy to customize and update
  • High level of cross-developer collaboration
  • Faster development and deployment
  • Developers don’t have to manage software (aka more time to dedicate to other priorities)
  • Requires less coding than other models

What are the limitations of PaaS?

  • Users only have control over the code, and not the infrastructure
  • The solution may not be optimized for the language or framework your developers use
  • Security risks due to third-party vendor-controlled servers 

Software-As-A-Service (SaaS)

What is SaaS?

SaaS is a cloud computing model in which software applications are hosted on a remote server, and customers access them through a web browser. SaaS eliminates the need for customers to install and manage the software on their own systems.

Who uses SaaS?

  • End users (i.e., consumers)

What are examples of SaaS?

  • Slack
  • Netflix
  • Gmail
  • Office 365 

Sitecore's SaaS Products:

What are the benefits of SaaS?

  • Easy to use and no installs or downloads required
  • Eliminates the need for users to maintain and manage software
  • Automatic updates (so you always have the right version)
  • Offers marketers increased speed to market and reduced friction (for Sitecore SaaS solutions specifically. Say that 10 times fast.)
  • Highly scalable
  • Typically a lower cost of ownership, especially as compared to on-prem software 

What are the limitations of SaaS?

  • Requires a reliable internet connection
  • No control over infrastructure (meaning if the provider has an outage, so do you)
  • Lack of integration support
  • Some tools may be incompatible with your current tech stack
  • Security risks due to a reliance on off-premise servers (if a leak happens, your data may be exposed)
  • Limited customization options 

In Summary

Each cloud computing model provides different levels of access to cloud resources and capabilities and can be used for different types of applications. As each serves a distinct purpose, it's essential to determine your business needs to ensure your chosen cloud services provide value.

Have any questions regarding Sitecore’s SaaS and PaaS products? Let us know.

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Meet Robyn James

Content Marketing Strategist | Sitecore Strategy MVP


Robyn brings over ten years of experience crafting impactful content marketing and communications solutions for a number of high-profile brands. With diverse sector experience—including healthcare, energy, tourism, hospitality, and telecommunications—she has a deep knowledge set and the ability to easily adapt to differing industry needs.

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