IaaS, PaaS and SaaS: what are the differences?

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IaaS, PaaS and SaaS are cloud-based services you have undoubtedly heard of. These 3 terms are only 1 letter apart, but the differences are bigger than that.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) are all cloud services and in this article, we explain exactly what they are, for whom it is suitable and what are the benefits and downsides of those cloud services.

Hipex’ service can also be placed between those variants, however it does not fit perfect into one category and we will show that ;).

Differences between IaaS, PaaS or SaaS

The differences are easily understandable when you place the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS services in a pyramid. Every layer has its own properties.

You can see that at the bottom layer, the IaaS layer, you have a lot of control over the cloud service and this is the best suitable solution for DevOps or system administrators.

PaaS is the middle layer, and you get a little less control over the service you purchase. This service is often-seen among developers.

The top layer is the SaaS layer. In this layer, you have little control over your service and so, we often see SaaS solutions returning to end-users (Often as a subscription to a cloud service).

You can see that the higher you get on this pyramid, the less control you get. The lower you get in this cloud pyramid, the more control you have (with all its advantages and disadvantages).

More control means you need to have more knowledge about the technology, you have to spend more time on this and you have more responsibilities for keeping the service running.

Let’s start by explaining the SaaS solution, because this is the service most people will probably know and use.

What is SaaS (Software as a Service)?

SaaS is a complete software that will be delivered as a service in the cloud. Usability is key and therefore, customers don’t have to purchase or manage the software.

For example, some well-known SaaS services are: Google Drive, Salesforce, Paypal, Slack, Trello or Mailchimp.

An important hallmark of a SaaS-model is that you often don’t have to install software locally, you don’t have to purchase it separately and you can start using it on-demand.

Often, this is through a subscription model, what we see frequently nowadays. Some SaaS services also offer payment models based on the use or the purchase.

The big advantage for the end user is that you purchase a complete service and do not longer have to worry about configurations or maintenance. You just use it.

If you don’t want to use it anymore, you simply cancel the subscription. Many subscriptions are based on a monthly subscription model, and therefore it is easy to unsubscribe.

These advantages also have a downside at the same time. Having a bigger say on the configuration of the service (for example to optimize your actual use) is not possible. The complete service you get, and the way in which you are relieved ensures that you sacrifice flexibility.

E-Commerce & SaaS

When we relate a SaaS service to hosting or e-commerce software, for example BigCommerce. Unlike, for example, Magento for example (where you have a lot of control) BigCommerce gives you less flexibility. Hosting is sorted for you and you have little impact on the further development of the platform.

In the starting phase, small webshops often opt for SaaS solutions. Big e-commerce companies want more and are more likely to go for a PaaS solution.

What is PaaS (Platform as a Service)?

PaaS stands for: Platform as a Service and is a cloud solution that allows customers to develop, run and manage their applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure.

You often see that PaaS is ideal for developers who desire to have more control over the products or services they purchase.

In this case, as a developer, you get access to an infrastructure where you can start with setting up your ideal system (within the resources that have been made available for you).

If we look at hosting environments, you get a server room at your disposal. On this server, control systems and applications like MySQL, Apache and Nginx are already installed.

As a user of a PaaS solution, you have the choice which applications you will run on this. This can be Magento, but also Shopware for example.

So you will have more flexibility over the application you use, which you can fine-tune how you’d like.

However, you are dependent on the hosting company that chooses which operating system and other middleware to install on the server. Although, for many users it is not a big deal as they do not want to take care of it at all.

The big difference between PaaS and SaaS is that PaaS comes with a platform (such as Hipex's hosting platform) which you can configure further.

Is Hipex a PaaS?

No, Hipex cannot be categorized as a PaaS service. Yes, we will provide you the server and the standard software and middleware. You have a lot of freedom in which applications you install. For example, Magento, Akeneo or Shopware.

However, within these applications we have also implemented many optimizations and tweaks that ensure, within the flexibility you have, you also benefit from optimized hosting for the e-commerce platform you use.

What is IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)?

Iaas is the bottom layer of the cloud pyramid and is a cloud service that offers you an Infrastructure, like servers, storage and network resources. In other words, you can see IaaS as a virtual data center. IaaS services can be used for different purposes, from hosting websites until analyzing big data.

When you look at hosting, a VPS comes closest to an IaaS. For example, an IaaS can be renting an empty server space and that you are fully responsible for it yourself.

With an IaaS solution, you have a lot more freedom when it comes to installing software and configuring the server. With SaaS, you don’t have flexibility, a little more flexibility with PaaS and the most with an IaaS solution.

Obviously, you need a lot of technical knowledge of hardware AND software. This solution is not suitable for everyone and is more suitable for the experienced system and/or network administrators.

With many IaaS services, pay-as-use is used as a pricing model. This means that you pay for what you use.

Examples of IaaS providers are: Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine and Rackspace Open Cloud.

Which cloud service is suitable for you?

You may have already read this throughout the text, but the choice between a SaaS, PaaS or IaaS depends on your needs, knowledge and your desire for flexibility.

In the image below, you can see which components are managed for you and which are not.

Hipex can be seen as a PaaS with a major upgrade. So, we are between an IaaS and a PaaS solution. According to us, the ideal combination, because:

  • We know how to set up servers optimally for our users (we do this on a daily base)
  • We want to give you as much freedom and flexibility within the environment as possible
  • We want your site running as stable and as fast as possible.

We combine this with our technical support team that consists of developers, who speak the language of our target group.

Do you want to receive more information about our service and want to have the best hosting solution? Please let us know!

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