IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS: Examples and How To Choose (2024)

In 2020, the office went virtual. Meetings moved from boardrooms to Zooms, watercooler conversations became Slack threads, and IT infrastructure disappeared into the cloud.

Amid tightening tech budgets, companies shifted their spending from IT hardware to more cost-effective cloud services. Instead of paying for expensive on-premises data centers and servers, businesses were able to access the computer resources they needed through cloud service providers.

Over the next few years, the cloud computing market is expected to keep growing by double digits. And as the cloud expands, it will continue to revolutionize the way that companies create and operate new applications. More and more organizations will build their business apps online with PaaS, or Platform as a Service.

But what is Platform as a Service technology? And how does it compare to other cloud services and app-building options? To answer those and other questions, you’ll want a quick primer on cloud computing.

  1. What is PaaS?
  2. PaaS examples
  3. SaaS vs. IaaS vs. PaaS
  4. PaaS use cases
  5. PaaS providers
  6. PaaS alternatives

What is PaaS?

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a sales model in which the customer buys virtual access to the servers and infrastructure they need to design and deploy apps. The PaaS provider manages the underlying cloud platform, which the PaaS customer uses to make and run their apps.

The NIST’s PaaS definition calls Platform as a Service “the capability provided to the consumer . . . to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools supported by the provider.”

PaaS is one of three distinct models for providing cloud computing services. In order to fully grasp PaaS technology, it helps if you understand its relationship to the other two tiers—SaaS and IaaS.

PaaS examples

There are many Platform as a Service vendors that companies can use to create customized apps. Popular PaaS examples include:

SaaS vs. IaaS vs. PaaS

SaaS (Software as a Service) providers sell access to application software and databases. SaaS customers are end users who typically access the software through a web browser or client program. They don’t see the underlying infrastructure or platform it’s built on, because SaaS providers take care of all the necessary hardware and coding.

SaaS is easily the most popular form of cloud computing. Gmail, Slack, and Microsoft Office 365 are all commonly used SaaS products. Client relationship management systems, or CRMs, are also SaaS-based, as are many customer service and support solutions.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) providers sell access to virtualized resources, including servers, networks, and storage. Enterprise customers typically purchase these compute resources as needed, which is more cost-effective than buying hardware outright.

Unlike SaaS users, IaaS customers must manage the applications, runtime, middleware, operating systems, and data they access. The IaaS providers, meanwhile, manage the servers, hard drives, networking, virtualization, and storage.

Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine are the three biggest IaaS providers.

PaaS (Platform as a Service) providers sell access to everything a customer would need to develop an app. Unlike the IaaS model, PaaS providers manage runtime, middleware, and operating systems. However, PaaS customers still get to manage data and applications—in contrast to the SaaS model, where customers don’t have to manage anything. So in terms of the cloud continuum, PaaS fits snugly between IaaS and SaaS.

Most importantly, PaaS enables customers to develop, test, and launch an app without having to maintain the necessary software or invest in any new infrastructure.

Common examples of PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS

Platform Examples


AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Google App Engine, and Adobe Commerce


Gmail, Slack, and Microsoft Office 365


Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine

What is PaaS used for?

Software developers use cloud PaaS technology to basically “rent” all of the tools they need to build an app.

A PaaS provider makes all of the necessary development tools, infrastructure, and operating systems available over an internet connection. That enables the PaaS customer to build a whole app in their web browser.

This setup significantly reduces the overhead costs of app development. It also makes it possible for distributed teams of developers to work together on an app from anywhere in the world (so long as they all have a WiFi connection, that is).

PaaS technology is also prized for its flexibility and scalability. The PaaS platform can run any type of app—web, mobile, IoT (Internet of Things), or API (Application Programming Interface)—and many PaaS services have a pay-as-you-go pricing structure. That allows apps built with PaaS technology to start small and invest in more resources as they scale up to take on enterprise-level demand.

Companies often use the PaaS platform to build microservices—small, independent apps that perform specific functions. For example, a retailer might use PaaS technology to create an app that sends push notifications to their customers.

How to pick a PaaS provider

When choosing from available PaaS offerings, there are three key factors to consider:

  1. Security

    Many businesses haven’t embraced the cloud due to security concerns. On-premises software will always ensure more control than cloud computing, but many PaaS providers still offer excellent data protection and security. Be sure to read through proposed service-level agreements to see where vendors stand on support, uptime guarantee, and disaster management.

  2. Languages and frameworks

    Different PaaS providers use a variety of programming languages—including Java, Ruby, Perl, PHP, and Go—and application frameworks, such as Node.js, WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Spring, Zend, Rack, and Play. When comparing PaaS offerings, find one that aligns with the programming language and framework that your team prefers.

  3. Ease of use

    Going the PaaS route is supposed to simplify the app development process. PaaS providers handle the back end so that developers can just focus on coding. So make sure the PaaS technology you choose is also suitably straightforward. The screens and controls should be intuitive and comfortable for your developers.

    Obviously, price is another big factor when choosing any type of vendor. However, PaaS offerings are so varied in their designs and features that you shouldn’t simply select the most affordable option. Be sure to compare capabilities as well as cost when settling on a PaaS provider.

    An app-building alternative to PaaS

    Want to create business apps without paying for new PaaS technology? If you use Zendesk software, you already have access to a free, secure, flexible, and intuitive platform for building and distributing apps.

    Included with all Enterprise accounts, Zendesk Sunshine is an open, flexible CRM platform that’s native to AWS. Sunshine brings all of your customer data together in one place and enables developers and admins to build a better customer experience.

    Creating your own custom Zendesk app is easy with Sunshine. Its flexible framework allows you to use intuitive JavaScript APIs to build apps that extend the functionality of Zendesk Support.

    You can use any client-side or server-side technology you like to build a Zendesk app. If you stick with client-side technologies—like HTML, JavaScript, and CSS—Zendesk can host the app. Or you can use server-side technologies and host the app on a remote server.

    Use Sunshine to build private customer applications that fit the custom needs of your business. Or, if you’d like, go public with your app and feature it alongside more than 250 other apps and integrations on the Zendesk Apps Marketplace.

    A platform for building better customer experiences

    Platform as a Service technology can be an efficient way for companies to build apps without the cost or headache of maintaining all the tech infrastructure. But it’s not the only way.

    Zendesk Sunshine is a modern CRM that has an enormous capacity for innovation. Sunshine is an open platform that’s able to work in tandem with all of your other business applications. Not only that, but it also enables you to build additional, specialized apps at will.

    Sunshine empowers your developers to create apps that streamline and enhance the customer experience—no PaaS required.

IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS: Examples and How To Choose (2024)


IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS: Examples and How To Choose? ›

IaaS provides you the most freedom of control as it lets you manage your applications, data, middleware, and operating system. On the other hand, PaaS allows you to manage your data and applications only, and with SaaS, everything is managed by your service provider.

How do I choose between IaaS PaaS and SaaS? ›

IaaS provides you the most freedom of control as it lets you manage your applications, data, middleware, and operating system. On the other hand, PaaS allows you to manage your data and applications only, and with SaaS, everything is managed by your service provider.

Do I need IaaS or PaaS? ›

You want to develop and deploy your own apps in the cloud. PaaS makes it quick and easy to set up development environments and deploy apps through the cloud. While you can also use IaaS for this purpose, PaaS comes pre-configured for your language, frameworks, and libraries.

What is the difference between IaaS PaaS and SaaS with example? ›

In a nutshell, IaaS provides access to resources such as virtual machines and virtual storage, PaaS provides execution environments, application development, and deployment tools, and SaaS provides software as a service to end-users.

Is Netflix A PaaS or SaaS? ›

Netflix is considered a SaaS by many people because it lives in the cloud, is delivered through the browser, and has a paid subscription model. However, the service Netflix provides is content and not software. It is more of a "Movies-as-a-Service" than a SaaS.

How do I choose an IaaS? ›

To compare features and services of IaaS providers, consider these factors: Range and Quality: Evaluate the compute, storage, and networking options. Compatibility: Ensure resources work with your current systems and tools. Scalability and Elasticity: Check if resources can scale with your demands.

Why should I choose IaaS? ›

Advantages of IaaS

IaaS can also be beneficial to companies with steady application workloads that simply want to offload some of the routine operations and maintenance involved in managing infrastructure. Other advantages may include the following: Pay for What You Use: Fees are computed via usage-based metrics.

What are 3 examples of IaaS? ›

Examples of IaaS include Rackspace, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine (GCE) and Joyent.

Why IaaS is better than SaaS? ›

IaaS offers many advantages, including: The most flexible cloud computing model. Easy automated deployment of storage, networking, servers, and processing power. Consumption-based hardware purchasing.

Is Amazon Web Services IaaS or PaaS? ›

AWS (Amazon Web Services) is a comprehensive, evolving cloud computing platform provided by Amazon. It includes a mixture of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and packaged software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings.

Which one is the best example of an IaaS service model? ›

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are examples of independent IaaS providers. A business might also opt to deploy a private cloud, becoming its own provider of infrastructure services.

How can you tell the difference between PaaS and SaaS? ›

PAAS gives access to run time environment to deployment and development tools for application. SAAS gives access to the end user. It is a service model that provides virtualized computing resources over the internet. It is a cloud computing model that delivers tools that are used for the development of applications.

Is Airbnb a SaaS or PaaS? ›

Airbnb is a successful SaaS platform that has revolutionized the way people travel. If you have an idea for a SaaS platform like Airbnb, you may be wondering how to get started.

Is LinkedIn A PaaS or SaaS? ›

SaaS platforms are everywhere. Most software companies offer their products as a service. Some of the most prominent players in the SaaS space include: Microsoft 365: Productivity software including Excel, Word, Outlook, Teams and PowerPoint (Microsoft owns LinkedIn)

How to choose SaaS software? ›

Think about your goals, challenges, budget, preferences, and requirements for the SaaS solution you are looking for. For example, you might want a SaaS solution that can help you automate your marketing campaigns, integrate with your existing tools, offer reliable security and support, and fit within your price range.

Which cloud service model is best? ›

IaaS advantages

The most flexible cloud computing model. Easy automated deployment of storage, networking, servers, and processing power. Consumption-based hardware purchasing. Complete client control of their infrastructure.

Which is better IaaS or SaaS? ›

Iaas users have complete control over their infrastructure and can customize it to their specific needs. PaaS offers limited customization, while SaaS provides very limited customization.

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