IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS: A Quick Overview for Business Leaders

25 Jul 2023

by Roy Emmerson

Cloud-based solutions are one of the hottest things in the tech space, and they will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS are becoming more prominent for several reasons, and as a business leader, it’s important to know how they can best help your organization. 

Let’s break down the different categories of cloud-based solutions and reflect on how they can be beneficial to your business. 

What is IaaS?

IaaS, or Infrastructure as a service, provides companies with network-based alternatives to having infrastructure on location.

IaaS is often packaged as services for: 

  • Storage
  • Networking
  • Virtualization

As an individual consumer, IaaS platforms you may be familiar with are iCloud or Google Drive. These storage solutions allow you to keep your information on the cloud without having to manage physical data storage. 

Some of the most common enterprise-level solutions are: 

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Oracle Cloud
  • Google Compute Engine

The Advantages of IaaS

As the world evolves and the human need for data storage increases, so do the costs of IT infrastructure. The cost of in-house servers can be substantial as organizations scale, requiring the involvement of skilled IT experts to implement and maintain.

Here are some of the most valuable advantages of IaaS: 

  1. Cost Efficiency: As we’ve established, infrastructure can be very expensive. Smaller businesses that don’t have as much cash or funding behind them may not be able to build their own infrastructure. This is where IaaS comes in handy by providing server hosting services without the need for developing local infrastructure. Companies can simply subscribe to IaaS platforms and have their storage and servers hosted by a third party. 
  2. Flexibility: IaaS subscriptions also allow for more flexibility. Because businesses can simply purchase storage as needed, they can be flexible with how much storage they want to purchase. For business leaders, this can be an incredibly valuable aspect of operations because it reduces the opportunity costs of making a decision. 
  3. Ease of Use: With IaaS, your company will no longer have to hire an IT expert because much of the infrastructure aspect will be handled by the IaaS company. This means lower overhead costs overall, as many support areas should be covered by your IaaS subscription. 

The Disadvantages of IaaS

Of course, just like any other service, IaaS is not without its faults. 

  1. A steep learning curve: Although you don’t need to hire IT experts for infrastructure if you subscribe to IaaS, there will still be the need to train your current team to adapt to the new platform. Doing this isn’t a disadvantage per se, but if your company keeps switching between IaaS providers, then training and retraining will take time and negatively impact efficiency.
  2. Incompatible legacy systems: Although the cloud is a relatively new phenomenon, infrastructure has existed for several decades—and some of these older legacy systems are still in effect today. One issue that may come up with using cloud-based infrastructure is integration and compatibility issues with these on-premise legacy systems.
  3. Security threats: Because IaaS is a cloud-based solution, there will always be some amount of security risk. If security is a critical point in your company’s operations, make sure to choose an IaaS provider that is sufficiently secure to align with your organization’s needs.

What is PaaS?

PaaS, or Platform as a Service, is often referred to as a more toned-down version of IaaS. In a nutshell, PaaS gives users all the tools and infrastructure required to build the software that they want.

Unlike IaaS, which provides infrastructure, and SaaS, which has the software ready for end-user access, PaaS is somewhere in between these two. Essentially, users purchase access to the servers and infrastructure necessary to deploy their software. Some common PaaS products are: 

  • Google App Engine
  • Outsystems
  • Quickbase
  • Adobe Commerce

The Advantages of PaaS

There are reasons why PaaS is slowly becoming a more desirable solution for dev teams worldwide, such as: 

  1. Customizability: PaaS products offer a good degree of customizability without too much of a hassle with software maintenance. This allows developers and product teams to create what they want, even with limited resources. 
  2. Reduced coding work: Thanks to PaaS products, developers can utilize already existing libraries and significantly reduce the amount of work it would take to develop a feature or functionality. This is incredibly valuable for smaller teams with limited capabilities. 

The Disadvantages of PaaS

Despite how valuable PaaS can be for dev teams, there are still some things to consider when it comes to choosing PaaS for your business. 

  1. Operational limitations: By its nature, there are always going to be some cloud operations that are incompatible with PaaS solutions. As such, your business might be somewhat limited by the capacities of PaaS products. 
  2. Data security: As always, anything delegated to a third-party will always carry some security risk. Although PaaS is simply a platform, you should still be cautious of how your data will be protected during use.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS products are useful for organizations of all sizes, and you will see anything from small startups to global enterprises utilize the power of SaaS. Ardoq is an enterprise SaaS product, although many may be more familiar with some of the following:

  • Salesforce
  • Slack
  • HubSpot
  • Shopify
  • Google Workspace Apps
  • Zoom
  • Asana

What is SaaS?

Although many of us already use SaaS products, let’s do a quick primer on what Software as a Service really entails and how they are helpful to daily operations. 

SaaS is a cloud computing model that relies on the Internet to provide you with software applications, usually on a subscription basis. In effect, you can gain access to the features a specific software application has available without needing to install it on your local machine. SaaS products will often also have desktop applications but will still be primarily accessible via the web. 

One of the core concepts behind SaaS is that users and IT teams no longer need to spend as much time on installation and maintenance. Essential aspects like servers and security are all handled by the SaaS company. 

The common characteristics of SaaS platforms are: 

  • Availability on the Internet;
  • Scalability
  • Feature inclusivity with security and maintenance often being part of the cost
  • Remote hosting by a third party

The Advantages of SaaS

The speed and ease of using a SaaS Product can really accelerate the way a company operates and what it is capable of in various functions. When it comes to collaboration for example, UCaaS is a SaaS product that takes the convenience of cloud-based communication to the next level. UCaaS features allow users to leverage a wide range of tools and features without the need for complex installation or maintenance processes. This allows teams to streamline their daily operations and focus on productive collaboration anywhere as long as they have stable internet connectivity.

Clearly, SaaS platforms would not be so popular unless they brought true value to a company. Here are some of the top advantages that companies enjoy with SaaS products:

  1. Accessibility and Flexibility: They can be accessed from anywhere, on any device, as long as there is an Internet connection. SaaS platforms are also generally built to be compatible with the most common desktop and mobile operating systems, making it easier for users on different devices to experience the same features and benefits. This was not the case in the old days of on-premise systems that were tied to individual computers. However, make sure to understand the difference between Brave and Chrome and other browsers as their different features may affect your access. 
  2. Personalization: Thanks to personalized log-ins at varying access levels, companies no longer need to hire or contract with IT specialists to control platform access. Most SaaS platforms allow users to share usage with other people using limited access. This allows companies to easily control software across company roles. 
  3. Payment: SaaS platforms have several different approaches to pricing but most allow for scaling up or down depending on usage, users or time periods.  With the reduced risk of pricey disruptions or failure, SaaS platforms are also more consistent expenses to the organization and make for more effective cost control over IT compared to on-premise alternatives.

The Disadvantages of SaaS

As wonderful as SaaS may be, it is not without its limitations. There are still several valid concerns over SaaS utilization, such as: 

  1. Limited Control: SaaS products, by their nature, have a specific set of features and functionality that they can give users. When you subscribe to SaaS, you are paying for the use of these features as they are. Sure, the functionality may increase with higher-tier subscriptions, but still limited in many ways. By using SaaS, you are less able to customize features to your organization’s needs.
  2. Security: Because your data will be processed by a third party on off-premise servers, there is no absolute guarantee that your data is safe. While security is not necessarily going to be a problem, it should still be a major thinking point when choosing a SaaS platform. You have to ensure your data will be processed in a manner that does not betray confidentiality and sacrifice security.  Ensure that the SaaS product you choose has undergone the necessary security certifications and audits. Ardoq, for example, is ISO 27001:2017 certified and undergoes annual SOC 2 audits to provide customers with assurance and validation of good security practices. 
  3. Limited integrations: Another one of the primary disadvantages of using SaaS is the lack of open integration. While many SaaS platforms do offer integrations to some extent, these can be limited and may not always be fully suitable for your organization. Although it is possible to use tools like Zapier for automation and integrations across web applications, be sure to carefully consider the other tools or systems that will need integration with a given SaaS product to avoid tedious workarounds.


Cloud-based solutions are here to stay and are already deeply embedded in how many organizations operate. It is important for business leaders to know the differences between these various cloud solutions as well as their corresponding benefits and risks.

The insight into what these different solutions offer is vital to planning an effective cloud migration that will provide the business with the most cost-effective, reliable, and efficient balance of on-premise and cloud alternatives.

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Roy Emmerson Roy Emmerson Roy Emmerson is a passionate technology enthusiast with a deep interest in software development. In addition to being a skilled programmer at a custom software company, he is also a loving father of twins who inspire him to stay up-to-date with the latest technological advancements.
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