Hazem Allbabidi

August 10, 2023 | 7 min read

Differences Between SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS

In the past couple of decades, we have seen various types of software implementations and different methods for using them. With the help of cloud computing, we now have more access to technology that allows us to deploy major applications on an infrastructure that is not even in your office. You are currently reading this article from a website that was deployed on a platform that helps me manage my website.

In this article, I will be going through the three big services used to deploy software applications and their required components. I will also briefly explain the differences between them and which method you should use to deploy your own software application.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS for short, is an application that has already been deployed by a different entity which allows you to use it as a user from anywhere. A great example of this is Gmail. When you use Gmail, you do not need to worry about the availability of the system, if backups are being done often, or even where the application is being deployed. You can just use the application by accessing it through the internet.

Another example of this is Notion, which allows you to create all the objects you need, knowing they are being saved and backed up by the Notion team(s).

Software-as-a-Service are great for people who want to just use an application without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure, the security of the system, or any other issues that come with managing a server(s).

SaaS systems use subscriptions to get paid for allowing people to utilize their system. For example, Notion has a free subscription plan that comes with great features, but once you wish to go beyond those features, you might have to choose one of their subscriptions to commit to. Subscriptions are usually paid either monthly or annually. Having subscriptions allows them to keep the systems up and running, enabling you, as the user, to use them whenever you need.

The one disadvantage of SaaS is that you are completely relying on the service provider to keep your data secure and ensure it is backed up efficiently.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

Platform-as-a-Service, or PaaS for short, is a service that is usually provided by a tech company and allows you to deploy your software application without worrying about the underlying infrastructure. The way a PaaS works is that you provide them with your source code along with the necessary files or commands to run the application. The PaaS then creates a pipeline allowing the application to be deployed with a specific action or event, such as when you update the code.

The benefit of a PaaS is that the provider takes care of the infrastructure, builds and deploys the application, and sometimes even provides additional services (usually for an added cost) that improve different parts of the system, such as adding an analytics module that keeps track of how many users opened your website, the bounce rate, etc.

A great example of a PaaS is Netlify. They allow you to build websites using Next JS, Nuxt JS, Svelte, and much more. I personally use it to deploy my own portfolio website hazemhadi.com. I chose to use a PaaS because I do not want to worry about how or where I will deploy the website, configure the server, or even build a pipeline to allow for automated builds and updates when necessary. Netlify takes care of all of that.

Another example of a PaaS provider is Vercel. Similar to Netlify, they support tools like Next JS, Nuxt JS, and more (30+ frameworks according to their website). They are more famous for Next JS since they are the owners of this project.

The downside of using PaaS is its price. In some cases, they offer free plans to deploy small web applications or static websites (e.g., my website hazemhadi.com). Once it goes beyond that, such as requiring more build minutes and using some of their modules, it can get pricey. It is considered much more expensive than renting your own server and doing it yourself.

I personally use PaaS for applications that are very minimal. Small tools that might not require a database, static websites such as my portfolio, and perhaps even MVPs (minimum viable product).

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure-as-a-Service, or IaaS for short, is when a company offers you the opportunity to build your own infrastructure on their servers. For example, you would “rent” a server with specific specifications, such as 4 GB of RAM and 2 vCPUs, and customize it internally however you would like. This allows you to choose the specifications of the servers and the networking aspect, and you basically have complete access to the servers (usually through SSH) to configure them and install any tools you would on them.

One of the biggest providers of such a service is Amazon Web Services, or AWS. They allow you to rent servers with as little as 0.5 GB of RAM, and they can go up to 12288 GB of RAM! Each server you rent has a specific cost. The smaller server costs $0.0042 per hour, while the more powerful one costs around $109.20 per hour. Once you get a server or servers, you can start accessing them through either the shell that is provided on the AWS website or through SSH. You can then start using it with almost full access.

IaaS is great if you need more flexibility. You can choose the specifications for the server(s) that meet your requirements, and you can do almost anything legal on them, from deploying a website with its database to even managing other servers using it. It is also cheaper (in most cases) than using a PaaS. You can also scale up or down more easily, for example, if you initially deployed an application on one server with 4GB of RAM, you can scale up later if needed to either have 8GB of RAM on the existing server or you can even get a second server with 4GB of RAM as well.

Extra: On-Premise

In bigger companies, or ones that require heavy security, they might have an On-Premise setup. They would have a data center with some servers and networking components to facilitate their software needs locally. Having an On-Premise infrastructure was the way to go before we had Cloud Computing. Nowadays, not a lot of companies have their own setup because it requires much more money, mostly upfront. That is because you need to buy X amount of servers (they can be pretty expensive) and components, have a specific room with very cold Air Conditioning (servers can get pretty hot), and have electricity running 24/7.

On-Premise setups are used mostly by companies that would rather buy and keep the servers than deal with heavy monthly payments from IaaS service providers. They are also beneficial for banks and governments that require heavy security, since you could disconnect the servers from the internet and still be able to access them since they’re located in the company headquarters.

As mentioned previously, having an On-Premise setup is very expensive, especially for individuals or smaller companies. Unless you need to have the setup for reasons such as security, nowadays it is easier, faster, and cheaper to just use the other options mentioned above.


In conclusion, we understand that SaaS systems are great when you just want to use a tool and not have to worry about any aspect of it other than the system itself; PaaS services are great if you are trying to get your small project up and running the fastest and easiest way possible; and IaaS services are great if you wish to have your own customized servers and to build a complete, customized infrastructure.

Thank you for reading. I hope you learned about the differences between SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS and now know which service to use that fits your needs the most.


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