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

You have probably seen the acronyms SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS before, but do you know what they mean? Discover what these acronyms represent and, more important, the differences between them.

The IT industry is embracing the shift from ownership-based business models to service-based ones. Vendors are increasingly offering their hardware, software, and other IT products as cloud services rather than selling the products themselves. This is good news for small and midsized businesses, as it typically makes the hardware, software, and other IT components more affordable.

There are three main types of cloud services. They are better known by their acronyms — SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS — than their names. Here are the differences between these three types of cloud services and what the acronyms represent.


SaaS stands for Software as a Service. It is probably the most recognized type of cloud service, thanks to such well-known offerings as Microsoft Office 365, Google G Suite, and Salesforce. SaaS is popular because all that the service subscribers need to do is open the software in a web browser or client program and start using it. They do not have to manage or maintain the application. Nor do they have to provide, manage, or maintain any of the hardware, networking equipment, or systems needed to run the application.

SaaS is popular for another reason as well. Many free SaaS offerings are available, such as Gmail, Dropbox, and Slack. These offerings help small and midsized companies save money.

The clouds services don’t have to be free to be helpful, though. SaaS subspecialties that alleviate companies’ pain points have been popping up. For example, instead of having to perform and store daily backups, companies can now turn to Backup as a Service (BaaS) providers. A BaaS firm will automatically back up business’s data and store the backup files at its facility. After the service is set up, the business does not need to manage any part of the backup process.


Some companies prefer to own and control their own software environment but not the underlying components needed to run it. IaaS, or Infrastructure as a Service, is designed for situations like this.

IaaS customers are responsible for providing, managing, and maintaining the applications, operating system software, and middleware (e.g., software that integrates two separate applications or systems, allowing them to work together). The IaaS providers are responsible for providing, managing, and maintaining the servers, virtual machines, networking equipment, and storage components. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Google Compute Engine, and Rackspace are a few of the firms that offer IaaS.


There is a common misperception when it comes to PaaS, or Platform as a Service. Some people think that PaaS is only for companies that want to build and test new applications. While PaaS is well-suited for developing applications, businesses can also use PaaS to run existing ones. For instance, companies can move their on-premises database operations to a PaaS provider’s database platform.

With PaaS, companies are only responsible for managing their applications and any data those applications use. The PaaS firm provides, manages, and maintains everything else, including operating system software, middleware, servers, virtual machines, networking equipment, and storage components. PaaS solutions include Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud Platform, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Beanstalk.

A Cost-Effective, Scalable Alternative

Despite their differences, the SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS business models have one thing in common: They offer companies a cost-effective, scalable alternative to owning, managing, and maintaining a room full of hardware and other equipment. If you would like more information on how about SaaS, IaaS, or PaaS might benefit your business, shoot us an email at


WAMS, Inc.

The experts at WAMS, Inc. all have a background in the legal industry and understand the software and the demands that come along with it. That’s why all our clients receive a dedicated account manager and engineer with specific planning that works for your business needs. We didn’t break into the tech world to pinch pennies from clients. We go into every partnership to help their business scale gracefully. Your company growth is our company growth, always.