SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: Examples, Pros And Cons (2024)

The cloud is an invaluable resource upon which modern businesses are invariably reliant. My career is built on the cloud. I want to help you get the most out of it.

You’re here at SaaS Academy because you want to learn how to scale your business using every tool at your disposal. You may have heard that my programs have helped previous SaaS Academy learners more than double their MRR.

Speaking of doubling; the global cloud computing market is forecasted to do just that between 2022 and 2027. Cloud computing is used by SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS providers to help founders like you run effective businesses.

Now, businesses can access the services they need through the Internet at their convenience and with the click of a button. Databases, software, servers, apps, data storage, and more are available through cloud computing.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: Differences and Use Cases with Examples

Understanding your options is your first step to deciding which direction to take your ideas. Let’s take a closer look:

  • SaaS (Software-as-a-Service)
    • SaaS provides end users with software that is hosted in the cloud. Some examples you may be familiar with are Netflix, Shopify, and DocuSign. Users can log in to the software online and use it top to bottom without needing to download or host anything on their end.
  • PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service)
    • PaaS is a tool for developers and analysts within an organization to create and customize their applications in the cloud. Microsoft Azure, Heroku, and AWS Elastic Beanstalk are all examples of PaaS platforms. Businesses can purchase what they need or subscribe to the services they’ll use.
  • IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service)
    • IaaS is the most basic of the main cloud computing service models. IaaS providers allow users to access servers, data storage, and networking resources. Pricing is generally pay-as-you-go.

Key Differences Between SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS

What are the differences between these models? SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS all exist to meet specific needs within a business. Choosing the right one requires a full understanding of the customer needs you want to meet.

Each has unique benefits (and challenges – more on that later) that are important pieces of the puzzle when deciding which option to go with.





Dropbox, Salesforce, DocuSign

Heroku, Apache Stratos, Google App Engine

Rackspace, Amazon Web Services, Linode

Ideal Customer

Small e-commerce businesses without a large IT department, applications that aren’t used frequently, short-term projects

Collaborative workflows between developers and vendors, customizing applications

Startups that wish to use web-based systems instead of buying their own hardware/software, businesses needing scalability as they grow

Delivery Model

Fully web based

Central platform delivered online

Virtualization technology

Now that you’re familiar with the basics, let’s dive into each of your options for a close-up view.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: Examples, Pros And Cons (1)

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Definition and Overview

Software-as-a-service providers give access to software on the Internet to businesses and consumers in need of services that are maintained by the vendor. This business model creates long-term recurring revenue as it provides a product that has ongoing use.

SaaS applications are accessible from a web browser and do not require downloads or installations.

Examples and Use Cases of SaaS

Some businesses using the SaaS model are:

  • Netflix
  • Dropbox
  • DocuSign
  • Shopify

To get a better understanding of how SaaS works, let’s zoom in on a couple of these examples.

Netflix is one of the more common household examples of SaaS. To access it, users just navigate to Netflix’s website, choose a monthly plan based on their needs, subscribe, and dive into its offerings.

Any technical issues with the software are completely handled at Netflix’s level, and consumers get what they pay for – no more, no less. Each subscription level comes with its own set of features at tiered pricing.

Consider DocuSign, a leading SaaS provider of e-signatures for business and personal use. Like Netflix, all of the software and its technology is handled by the company. DocuSign provides subscription plans to meet the needs of consumers from individuals to large businesses.

Some SaaS startups, like Salesforce and, offer a CRM (customer relationship management) system, which handles the customer-based needs and processes of a business.

B2B SaaS and B2C SaaS

SaaS products may focus on B2B or B2C markets. B2B means business-to-business. In this case, the SaaS provider services a business, which uses the SaaS as needed to run.

A law firm might use DocuSign for all of its e-signature needs between partners, administrative staff, and clients. Most SaaS startups work within the B2B market.

B2C means business-to-consumer. Netflix is a B2C SaaS in that it provides its product directly to the end-user.

Pros and Cons of SaaS

SaaS isn’t the right fit for all businesses, and some limitations to consider with SaaS are data security risks, time-intensive workflows, and ease of use in the different types of cloud computing. Some startups will thrive under the SaaS business model, while others might need to look at options that provide more flexibility to their customers.



Does not have to be overly customized for each client

Security risks due to data exchange in the public cloud vs the private cloud

Great option for bringing in recurring income

Up-front costs and fees for management of large data workloads may turn off customers

Less consumer involvement means more streamlined onboarding

Requires extensive involvement; more hands-on than other models

SaaS IoT platforms can provide a ready-made holistic system

Limited customization options and functionality for the consumer

Limitations and Concerns

As attractive as the SaaS model is, there are some caveats. You may find that it is too hands-on for your liking. SaaS is a “what you see is what you get” platform.

Server management is a major concern. With any server outage, all of your clients will experience the fallout, which can create customer service (and even retention) issues.

Ensuring that you have the staff and resources to handle client support, software updates, server infrastructure, and day-to-day operations is paramount to your success.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: Examples, Pros And Cons (2)

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

Definition and Overview

PaaS, or Platform-as-a-Service, may also be referred to as cloud platform services. These are generally used for applications and are a great option for developers who want to own the app management on their own while not being responsible for servers or storage.

Unlike SaaS, PaaS delivers a platform instead of the software itself. This way, software developers can create their software themselves. Meanwhile, the operating systems and infrastructure are handled by the PaaS provider.

Examples and Use Cases of PaaS

Some examples of PaaS include:

  • Heroku
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Google App Engine

As a PaaS provider, you could serve folks who want to build an app, but don’t have the resources or desire to host or scale it. PaaS solutions like Heroku allow consumers to create, build, and deploy their ideas with a platform that does the bulk of the backend work for them.

Heroku’s runtime environment handles much of the technical aspect of app delivery, including security. This gives developers complete control over the creative and building processes but relieves them of the pains of hosting their applications.

Amazon Web Services, a cloud computing service, can provide either IaaS or PaaS. For PaaS, it handles infrastructure management and sets its clients up with development tools so they can focus on building and customization.

Pros and Cons of PaaS

You may want to offer a platform as a service if you’re interested in supporting collaborative and creative businesses. It’s a valuable tool for developers looking to build their apps without any of the backend responsibilities.

But it may not be the best option for you if you’re looking to cater to a very diverse set of programmers with many coding language needs.



Integrates with the hybrid cloud

Middleware can pose a security risk


Difficult to offer all programming languages which could limit client base

Offerings can include communications and messaging options; desirable in a remote-heavy market

Users do not maintain complete control over operations; limited automation options

Limitations and Concerns

User-friendly interfaces are highly important for PaaS startups. You’re creating an environment for developers to work within, and it needs to be easy to use or it won’t be effective.

Additionally, it is difficult to integrate data onsite with an off-site server, and your offerings might be limited as a result. You also need a great customer service team that can help your clients through the headaches that come with limited control over backend processes.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

Definition and Overview

IaaS providers (cloud infrastructure services) use virtual machines to deliver everything from servers and operating systems to data storage and entire networks. Simply put, all cloud computing infrastructure is made available to the consumer via IaaS.

An API (application programming interface) is often used within an IaaS model as a liaison between applications to make data transfers seamless. APIs can also help give clients control over every aspect of their product.

Examples and Use Cases of IaaS

Some examples of IaaS are:

  • DigitalOcean
  • Google Compute Engine
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Rackspace

Businesses may find themselves struggling to run apps with a lot of graphics and moving parts. IaaS and its computing infrastructure speed up those apps and provide the support needed to keep them running.

Scaling is a breeze with IaaS. Breaking down, rebuilding, and making changes to platforms for testing and expanding is made easy for the client.

Pros and Cons of IaaS (Including Limitations and Concerns)

If you want to support businesses that are looking to build their own infrastructure from the ground up, you might consider the IaaS model for your startup. This option is great for founders looking to give their customers complete control over their infrastructure.



User gets control over their entire operation; less time-intensive for you

Security threats from VMs

Fully scalable; you can serve clients at the beginning, middle, or exit stages of their startups giving you a wide range of customers

Requires resources for training and ensuring the client is equipped to run their infrastructure

Empowers you to build the infrastructure you know is efficient and effective to support your clients

Moving to an off-premises data center can be a difficult migration

Pay-per-use model is budget-friendly and cost-effective for most clients

Legacy systems may not be able to integrate

Limitations and Concerns

IaaS is often not equipped to handle legacy apps in the same way as it can handle new ones. Upgrades may be necessary before integration, which can leave you vulnerable to security issues.

After switching from an on-premises model, your client’s workforce may not be trained in managing the infrastructure in the cloud, in which case you’ll have to expend resources to get them up to speed.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: Examples, Pros And Cons (3)

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: How to Choose?

Deciding what kind of service and hands-on availability you want to offer can help you decide which model to pursue. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • How much flexibility and customization capability do you want to provide?
  • How much infrastructure management do you want to do yourself?
  • What are your plans for scaling your business?

To keep it simple:

If you’re interested in providing:

Then go with:

Ready-to-use software that addresses specific needs


Freedom and a place to focus on developing apps


Access to and control over every aspect of infrastructure



You know what you have to offer, and I hope this crash course helps you decide which direction to go. Each comes with challenges and benefits that you can work in your favor. Decide what needs you want to meet so you can figure out whether SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS works best to help you meet them.

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: Examples, Pros And Cons (2024)


SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS: Examples, Pros And Cons? ›

While PaaS enables you to create unique applications without hosting them on-premises, IaaS gives you more control over your operating systems. PaaS, therefore, has less control on your end but gives you more flexibility than IaaS. However, which one you choose depends on your business's requirements.

What are the pros and cons of IaaS PaaS SaaS? ›

While PaaS enables you to create unique applications without hosting them on-premises, IaaS gives you more control over your operating systems. PaaS, therefore, has less control on your end but gives you more flexibility than IaaS. However, which one you choose depends on your business's requirements.

What is SaaS PaaS and IaaS with examples? ›

IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS stand for infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, and software-as-a-service. IaaS provides a pay-as-you-go approach for storage, networking, and virtualization. In addition, PaaS includes even more services like hardware and software development tools available via web.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of IaaS? ›

Less vendor management can be positive or negative depending on your needs. Although IaaS gives you more control, you'll also have more responsibility for managing your software and applications. This can be time-consuming, especially if you need to train your staff to deal with the new systems.

What are the benefits of SaaS over PaaS? ›

So the chief advantage of IaaS, PaaS, SaaS or any 'as a service' solution is economic: A customer can access and scale the IT capabilities it needs for a predictable cost, without the expense and overhead of purchasing and maintaining everything in its own data center.

Is Netflix a SaaS or PaaS? ›

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.

What is a disadvantage of IaaS? ›

Challenges of IaaS

Challenges may include the following: Unexpected Costs: Monthly fees can add up, or peak usage may be more than expected. Process Changes: IaaS may require changes to processes and workflows. Runaway Inventory: Instances may be deployed, but not taken down.

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.

Is Gmail IaaS or PaaS? ›

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 .

Is Amazon a PaaS or IaaS? ›

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.

What are the disadvantages of SaaS? ›

Limited Customization: Most SaaS applications offer little in the way of customization from the vendor. Slower Speed: SaaS solutions can have more latency than client/server apps. Security Risks: While the SaaS provider secures the application itself, strict measures should be taken with sensitive data.

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.

What are the advantages of PaaS over IaaS and SaaS? ›

While IaaS provides just the pay-as-you-go infrastructure for a company, PaaS steps it up by also providing a variety of tools needed to create applications. Meanwhile, SaaS is ready-to-use software that's available via a third party over the internet.

Is PaaS better than SaaS? ›

Solution: Rather than choosing a ready-made SaaS solution, Company A decides instead to use a PaaS solution. This is because the product they are selling requires extensive customization. The AI-driven customization solution is cloud based but is not something that can be easily added to a SaaS solution.

What is an advantage of PaaS? ›

The cost savings most commonly come from standardized and consolidated resources such as servers, as well as elimination of redundant work across teams. Another key benefit of PaaS is agility. PaaS customers are able to more rapidly deploy environments for development, testing, and production.

What is the main difference between SaaS and PaaS? ›

Using a PaaS solution means that while developers can build and run their own solutions, their data is still secured on a third-party controlled server. Using a SaaS solution means that the third-party vendor will manage the application for you.

What are the key differences between IaaS PaaS and SaaS? ›

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.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of platform as a service? ›

Its advantages include improving app development timelines, reducing the initial cost of IT infrastructure, and enhancing accessibility. Disadvantages include less control, ongoing costs, and vendor lock-in.

What are the challenges of SaaS PaaS IaaS? ›

IaaS limitations and concerns

Limitations associated with SaaS and PaaS models—such as data security, cost overruns, vendor lock-in and customization issues—also apply to the IaaS model.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Foster Heidenreich CPA

Last Updated:

Views: 6604

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (76 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Foster Heidenreich CPA

Birthday: 1995-01-14

Address: 55021 Usha Garden, North Larisa, DE 19209

Phone: +6812240846623

Job: Corporate Healthcare Strategist

Hobby: Singing, Listening to music, Rafting, LARPing, Gardening, Quilting, Rappelling

Introduction: My name is Foster Heidenreich CPA, I am a delightful, quaint, glorious, quaint, faithful, enchanting, fine person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.