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SaaS vs. PaaS: What’s The Difference and How to Choose?

Are you confused by online lingo and the acronyms that litter the internet? Is navigating the tech industry seemingly impossible? Have you...

Written by Kelly Madison · 3 min read >

Are you confused by online lingo and the acronyms that litter the internet?

Is navigating the tech industry seemingly impossible?

Have you heard about the benefits of things like “the Cloud” but you aren’t sure what exactly it is or if you should use it?

Don’t sweat it. You aren’t alone. We can make things easier by helping you understand your options and the cloud services and solutions that can help your business. We’ll also explain SaaS and PaaS and compare them so you’ll be able to choose which is better for you. 

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources provided by a third-party. It includes data storage and computing power, as well as other things. The Cloud or Cloud Computer is often used to describe an off-site data center used by many over the internet. Use of the Cloud allows businesses to rely on third-party providers for a variety of their IT needs.

What is SaaS?

Software as a Platform Service (SaaS) is a cloud application service. It’s a software distribution model whereby a third-party vendor hosts applications and makes them readily available for consumers via the internet typically through a web browser interface as the intermediary.

It’s the most commonly used option by businesses and organizations in the cloud market and accounts for approximately 24% of all enterprise workloads. The majority of SaaS applications are directly run through a web browser without the hassle of having to download or install programs by the client. 

The characteristics outlined for SaaS include management from a central location, hosting on a remote server that is accessible over the internet, scalability with different tiers for small, medium, and enterprise-level businesses, comprehensive security and compliance, and zero allocation of hardware or software update responsibility upon the client. 

SaaS platforms include Dropbox, Google Apps, GoToMeeting, Cisco WebEx, and Concur.

Why SaaS is a Good Option

SaaS utilizes a web delivery model, eliminating IT staff support as vendors manage potential technical issues like storage, data management, servers, middleware allowing businesses to streamline maintenance and support, etc. 

It’s easy to see how advantageous this can be because you save time and money. Installing, managing, and upgrading software is shifted off of the end user. Expenses regarding hardware acquisition, software licensing, and maintenance are managed by a professional.

Payment methods can be flexible because customers subscribe to a SaaS offering through a pay-as-you-go monthly-basis model. This makes it easier to forecast expenses because you are paying the same monthly rate regardless of your month-to-month needs. 

SaaS gives you access to universal accessibility from any internet-enabled device and location, so you don’t need to worry about being in a certain place at a certain time. The providers automatically perform patch management and updates reducing stress on in-house staff. Finally, the high vertical scalability offered caters to businesses and individuals like those who want to have the freedom to transition between more or fewer services and features on demand.

When to Choose SaaS

SaaS can prove to be an asset on numerous occasions, but it’s usually best for businesses:

  • With applications that require both mobile and web access.
  • Startups, small-scale or medium-scale organizations that want to launch e-commerce at a fast-pace while wanting to avoid software or server issues. 
  • Applications aren’t readily in demand that offers options like tax services.
  • Teams working on a short-term project that needs collaborative assistance.

SaaS tends to be ideal for businesses that want to run applications in a smooth manner, backed up by reliable support and minimal input on your end. 

What is PaaS?

Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Cloud Platform Service is a branch of cloud computing that provides a platform and environment that grants developers the ability to build services and applications over the internet. Vendors can offer software and hardware tools for developmental purposes. It includes a framework used by developers to build upon and create customized applications while the third-party provider oversees all storage, server, and networking. 

PaaS works by supplying a platform for software creation over the web, granting users the chance to concentrate on software build-up with technical infrastructure hassle. Special software components are tools that let businesses design and create applications or middleware that are highly available and scalable. 

Primarily, PaaS is built upon virtualization technology where resources can readily be scaled down or up depending on the circumstances and requirements. It features a wide assortment of services aimed solely at developmental assistance, test-runs, and the deployment of applications. You’ll find that the web services and databases are integrated and multiple users can access the same development application. 

It works on a subscription payment process while offering optional features without having users investing in physical infrastructure, and is designed for non-experts and has highly adaptable elements and data security, backup, and recovery. 

PaaS examples range from Google App Engine to OpenShiftm Windows Azure, Force.com, Heroku, Apache Stratos, etc. 

When to Choose PaaS

This is often going to be seen as the most cost-effective and efficient option for developers because menial task regarding security patches or managing software updates are handled by a third-party. Clients can direct their time, efforts, energy, and brainpower into the creation of, testing, and running of their applications when:

  • Multiple developers are working on the same development project simultaneously
  • When you have paying customers using your application
  • The inclusion of additional vendors is required
  • If you are aiming for the creation of customized applications
  • If you are in a situation that requires rapid development and deployment of an application this cloud service is a good companion

Still Confused?


SaaS PaaS
Delivery mode Software delivered over the internet A platform for software creation
Management Data, applications, and software Fully managed by other company Products can be used as a foundation for building new applications, software, products, etc. on top of platforms network
Ideal For Companies looking for a unique ease of use Companies searching for ways to build a solution on existing network
Tools Software via third-party Hardware and software via third-party
Client Control Applications: No
Data: No
Runtime: No Networking: No Storage: No
Middleware: No O/S: No
Virtualization: No
Applications: Yes Data: Yes Runtime: No Networking: No Storage: No Middleware: No O/S: No
Virtualization: No
Examples BigCommerce, GoogleApps, DropBox, MailChimp, HubSpot, etc.
OpenShift, Heroku, Windows Azure, AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Force.com, etc.
Abstraction High level Lower Level
Use Replacing traditional on-device software Increase developer productivity Increase utilization rates Decrease application’s deployment time to market

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