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SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. What’s the difference?


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Three common terms in tech these days are Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). These are all similar terms in the sense that they are technological tools that can be used remotely to achieve business goals.

Softwares, platforms, and infrastructures had to be previously accessed in an organization’s premises because they were built into the hardware of those businesses. Now, people can access them from any location with internet connection.

What Is SaaS, and What Are Its Benefits?

SaaS is software that can be accessed from anywhere rather than simply in an organization’s premises, which is how it used to be. The technology has a number of benefits over its on-premise alternative, including the following:

  • More Affordable: SaaS is more affordable than on-premise software because the former technology can be used at any locations with low licensing costs, while the latter is often costly. Maintaining the technology is also much more affordable than its alternative.
  • Updates Are More Straightforward: With SaaS, hardware and software updates are more straightforward than the alternative. What does this mean? Updates can be deployed automatically, saving time for customers, and making life more convenient for them.
  • Scalability: It is easy to scale SaaS up or down based on a company’s needs because these pieces of software usually come with a level of flexibility that allows for scalability without a hassle. This convenience is thanks to SaaS offerings being in the cloud, which offers a higher level of flexibility with scaling applications.
  • More Accessible: Another great benefit of SaaS is that it’s more easily accessible than other pieces of software. An internet connection and a device is all it takes to access the software.

Best SaaS Options Today

Users can access different types of popular SaaS that either charge a monthly fee, another subscription fee, or are entirely free. These range from communications tools to analytics software, customer relationship management applications, and more.

Here are four major SaaS offerings in the market today:

  • Google Products: Most professionals are familiar with or have used a Google SaaS at some point. The four big ones are Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms. These are pages that serve as documents, spreadsheets, slide presentations, and quiz forms respectively. They are all valuable tools for organizations seeking easy and free software that can help solve a plethora of problems, from creating an expenses report to writing an editorial guide.
  • RingCentral: Also known as a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), RingCentral is a cloud-based solution that combines communications offerings all in one place. These include messaging, video meetings, and communications insights that are proving to be especially valuable for organizations that are transitioning to remote work.
  • Shopify: Another solid piece of SaaS is Shopify. This technology makes it easy for anyone to launch a business online, or move it there. It comes with a free, 14-day trial for those looking to try it out first, and it has easy layouts suited for any type of industry, whether it be food and drink, jewelry, beauty and cosmetics, or something else. The site provides Shopify experts to help steer users in the right direction as well.
  • Automation Anywhere: Operating on the cloud, Automation Anywhere is automation software that uses RPA to automate any solution for businesses. RPA is robotic process automation, which is a piece of software that can take any rules-based processes usually done manually and automate it. With Automation Anywhere, companies can cut costs and increase productivity by easily automating repetitive tasks.

What Is IaaS and What Are Its Benefits?

Infrastructure as a Service is also done over the internet but differs from SaaS because it’s a more comprehensive online infrastructure where an organization can develop its own software. Instead of buying physical servers and more infrastructure, IT professionals can use a remote infrastructure as a rental, and create everything from websites to online applications and operating systems.

Here are some of the benefits of IaaS:

  • Saves Costs: The first and most obvious benefit is that IaaS minimizes costs because it only uses the infrastructure needed. Businesses don’t pay for any surplus the way they do with on-premise solutions.
  • Scalability: Once again, solutions that can be found online as a service are more flexible and can be scaled according to a company’s needs.
  • Improved Security: The right service provider for an IaaS may offer better security than an on-premise alternative.
  • Faster Innovation: Expanding or altering plans with a new product can be done more quickly with IaaS than with an on-premise option due to the added flexibility of having an online, on-demand infrastructure.

Biggest IaaS Offerings Today

Here are some of the most common IaaS options enterprises can choose from right now:

  • Amazon EC2: This Amazon Web Services (AWS) offering allows access to resources from the AWS dashboard, as well as other AWS services. This gives companies the ability to scale up and down as the situation requires. Friction is minimal, and it’s designed with the needs of designers in mind.
  • AT&T Business: There are several IaaS options that users can get with AT&T Business to aid organizational needs. One is AT&T Content Delivery Network, which is designed to help developers build faster and more secure web and mobile applications. There is also Cloud Consulting for moving operations to the cloud, as well as NetBond, which is also a cloud IaaS option.
  • RedHat: There are several options here as well, including Application Operations to release, troubleshoot, and optimize application performances. Self-Driving Operations help IT teams optimize business capacity and performance according to their business and operational needs. RedHat also offers a data center infrastructure solution, and more.

What Is PaaS and What Are Its Benefits?

There is a type of cloud computing known as Platform as a Service, which is shortened as PaaS. With PaaS, businesses can remotely, build, run, and manage applications without having to develop and maintain the infrastructure that is usually needed for such technology. In this sense, it differs from IaaS, while also differing from SaaS because it is a platform rather than an actual piece of software.

Here are some of its benefits:

  • Less Nuts and Bolts: PaaS does not require companies to buy their own hardware, tools, or build and maintain the core stack.
  • More Scalable: Again, PaaS offers the great advantage of being more scalable when compared to alternative options. Resources are automatically added or released as needed, allowing businesses to scale easily.
  • Updates and Security Patches Are Automatic: PaaS experts complete all component updates and security patches automatically to make sure applications are secure and running on the latest technology.

Top PaaS Providers Today

Here are three of the biggest PaaS in use today:

  • Oracle Cloud Platform (OCP): OCP is designed to help developers create and manage operations, equipped with artificial intelligence and machine learning. The platform also has self-repairing capabilities for applications, as well as high-grade encryption to ensure data is protected.
  • Google App Engine: Applications can be scaled seamlessly without having to worry about infrastructure using Google App Engine. The platform automates the process of scaling applications, as good PaaS options do. Development teams can build and deploy applications with this app using major programming languages such as Java, PHP, Node.js, Ruby, and C#, or a custom language.
  • Microsoft Azure: Azure offers the standard services at a high level, combining IaaS with PaaS for a more sophisticated and full-fledged version of the technologies. The platform makes it easy to add artificial intelligence features and more without needing any machine learning expertise.

There are plenty of other options for PaaS solutions companies can explore.

The Bottom Line With SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS

Choosing between SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS is simple–it really depends on what a company’s needs are. SaaS are fully-formed pieces of software that can to improve businesses either through accounting tools, messaging applications, spreadsheets, or something else.

Meanwhile, IaaS are infrastructures that can be used remotely developing, building, and maintaining applications at an affordable cost. They are easy to use, and very scalable. PaaS are similar but don’t require an infrastructure for making apps. The technology already comes equipped with the tools needed to build software without having to maintain the infrastructure that often comes with it.

Originally published Jan 06, 2020, updated Sep 10, 2021

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