PaaS vs. SaaS: What’s the Difference?

Which is better for your business, PaaS or SaaS? That depends on what you want to achieve.

PaaS vs. SaaSWhich is better for your business, PaaS or SaaS? Well, that depends on what you’re looking to achieve. Platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) are cloud-computing solutions that enable companies to delegate certain tiers of IT management to a vendor to promote the protection, reliability and scalability required to run modern digital services. In contrast to on-premise systems, these are simple to access via any web browser or online app.

Choosing PaaS or SaaS should ultimately be based on how the organization plans to use their technology and what kind of internal resources they have available:

  • PaaS is designed for programmers who have experience creating software and applications
  • SaaS is preferable if the developer has limited experience with system management

Which is best for your business needs?

PaaS vs. SaaS

From a technical perspective, the difference between PaaS and SaaS comes down to whether the cloud-computing solution is used as an out-of-the-box tool or as part of a suite of customizable software.

The PaaS Approach

The PaaS approach involves tools that work together from a single provider which can be programmed to meet individual business needs.

Examples of PaaS include:

  • Microsoft Azure Pipelines
  • Google Cloud

The SaaS Approach

SaaS tools are applications that are used separately from larger platforms and for a specific purpose.

Examples of SaaS include:

  • Slack
  • Hubspot
  • Dropbox

Whereas Google Cloud has multiple applications that work together to provide comprehensive functionality and form an entire suite, Slack is a dedicated messaging app and users only have access to out-of-the-box capabilities.

What Is PaaS?

PaaS is all about customization and flexibility. It enables companies and developers to plan, create and deploy custom consumer-facing applications and business solutions. PaaS applications require programming knowledge and are developed to perform specific functions. Developers create, deploy and maintain apps while providers manage and house the onsite infrastructure. PaaS provides the framework for the data security, storage and uptime that developers want, while enabling the configurability many seek.

PaaS Benefits

The primary benefits of PaaS involve the ability to customize functionality. Pricing can vary depending on complexity, but you have more flexibility if you can accommodate programming needs with internal resources. 

Employing PaaS has several benefits, such as:

  • You can create and deploy apps without having to pay for hardware. Operating systems, networks and databases will still be controlled separately by organizations. Additionally, many PaaS offerings come with analytics that you can utilize to guide your business decisions.
  • You have complete control over the platform's features and functions with PaaS. Depending on the app you want to create, you can configure only the required services, eliminating the need to over or under provision infrastructure.
  • You benefit from frictionless updates and improvements. You can focus on developing your app by giving the vendor the responsibility for monitoring, managing, upgrading and reintegrating components.

PaaS Use Cases

Using PaaS is convenient and, in some circumstances, even essential. For instance, when several developers collaborate on the same project, PaaS helps simplify procedures. If more vendors are required, PaaS can significantly speed up the process and adapt quickly. PaaS is beneficial if you need to develop unique apps. This cloud service also significantly lowers expenses and makes certain difficult situations easier when you're quickly creating or deploying an application.

Let’s look at an example use case.

Scenario: Company A is a business that operates several physical locations. Company A provides a variety of products that can be personalized with messages from the recipient. Company A needs an app that allows users to choose their product, and also design those within the user interface. This app also needs to track payment, fulfillment and shipping. Plus, the company is using an AI-driven application to provide extremely granular customization options to each customer.

Solution: Rather than choosing a ready-made SaaS solution, Company A decides instead to use a PaaS solution. This is because the product they are selling requires extensive customization.

The AI-driven customization solution is cloud based but is not something that can be easily added to a SaaS solution. Therefore, Company A needs to leverage its own software developers to create an app with these capabilities, while also designing enhanced tracking and user metrics.

PaaS can also help to advance various IT and development efforts, such as:

  • PaaS makes it simpler for teams to design, run, maintain and secure APIs for exchanging functionalities and data between apps thanks to its built-in frameworks
  • PaaS offers a variety of programming language software (Java, Python, Swift, etc.) and strategies that can be applied to creating IoT applications and processing data from IoT devices in real time

PaaS lets developers build, deploy and manage applications across clouds, enabling developers to develop cloud-native applications. These solutions support microservices, containers, Kubernetes, serverless computing and cloud-native development technologies.

Examples of PaaS

Popular PaaS applications include:

AWS Elastic Beanstalk

Allows developers to provide customized, scalable applications using a variety of programming languages from Java, .NET, Python and more. You don’t need to provide physical architecture – the platform is ready for developers to work.

Azure App Service

Similar to Elastic Beanstalk, this service allows developers to create custom applications.

Google App Engine

Enables developers to create and host web apps in Google-managed, cloud-based data centers.


Offers applications, databases and managed WordPress hosting options, enabling rapid and easy online application deployment in minutes without the hassle of managing the hosting environment.

Red Hat OpenShift

A PaaS application for on-premises containerization.


Allows developers to create, maintain and expand consumer-facing applications.


Enables programmers and companies to host a whole application portfolio and create and distribute applications of any kind.

What Is SaaS?

SaaS is currently the most popular solution for a lot of businesses, mainly because it provides a complete, scalable software solution that comes ready to use. Today, SaaS is utilized by anyone who uses a computer or mobile device. People use SaaS applications and services daily in their personal lives. Examples of SaaS include email software, social networking, cloud storage services, marketing software, workflow management programs, and collaboration and messaging platforms. Many formerly desktop-only, on-premise platforms are now cloud-based SaaS programs. For companies that are looking to implement a specific function or a singular business process, SaaS is a good choice.

SaaS Benefits

The primary benefits of SaaS involve convenience. Companies that are looking for a cost-effective solution with quick and easy implementation may be a good fit for SaaS solutions.

Employing SaaS has several benefits, such as:

  • You only pay for what you use. This is typically in the form of a user license. You don’t need to maintain any hardware or upgrades and there are usually no upfront costs to get started.
  • You can distribute to a decentralized team who can access the SaaS app via any connected device. SaaS takes much of the guesswork out of business software. You can quickly implement SaaS software without any development cycles.

SaaS Use Cases

Companies often choose SaaS when they lack sophisticated internal IT capabilities and are looking to have a simple, straightforward tool designed for a specific purpose. In most circumstances, a SaaS solution will offer a substantially more accessible, flexible and affordable alternative to a PaaS platform.

Let’s look at an example use case.

Scenario: Company Z has decided to use contractors to fulfill some content services, such as email marketing and developing informational articles. In order to help them stay connected across different geographical regions, Company Z needs to implement project management and communication capabilities to help keep all the projects stay on track.

Solution: Company Z decides to use, a SaaS provider, to manage their deadlines and communicate with one another.

SaaS could also be an appropriate choice in other circumstances, including:

  • Startups or small businesses that must immediately establish ecommerce functions but don't have the security capabilities to manage PII or server problems
  • Initiatives that call for quick, simple and reasonably priced partnerships
  • Applications that aren't associated with core functionality to a business, such as tax preparation software in a non-account-based business

Examples of SaaS

Well-known SaaS applications include:

Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft’s Office Suite, available via the cloud, which includes well-known applications such as Microsoft Word and Outlook email.

Salesforce Sales Cloud

A customer relationship management (CRM) product. It allows organizations to document, track and analyze an organization’s sales activities.


Platform organizations use to engage with and keep customers combining CRM, marketing management, sales and customer support.


Tool for managing projects offered by Atlassian that is available to clients as a subscription.


Cloud file sharing that enables several users in a team or company to save, access and download various files.


Businesses use this to communicate contracts and other documentation that needs signatures.


A messaging and collaboration app that allows users to communicate and share files, while easily organizing conversations by topic or groups.

What about infrastructure as a service (IaaS)?

Learn how IaaS compares to PaaS and SaaS.

How to Choose the Right PaaS or SaaS Provider

When properly mapped to business needs, PaaS and SaaS have the power to profoundly alter how businesses function. The market for solutions has expanded exponentially and these cloud computing services remain on the rise. Even though you now have many more alternatives, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the options, especially when each service claims to be the finest. It’s important to evaluate your needs before determining which solution is right for you.

Security Is a Top Priority

What steps can you take to make sure you choose the best PaaS or SaaS supplier for your company? One of the top concerns in today’s business environment is security. Here are three of the most important factors to consider:

  1. Compliance: Confirm that any cloud service provider you choose complies with industry norms, best practices and legal requirements.
  2. Reliability: To guarantee reliability and availability during scheduled and unforeseen downtime, the vendor must have adequate emergency recovery policies and plans for both platforms and software products.
  3. Data security: PaaS and SaaS models provide ease of use, but safety is still a concern. Verify the legitimacy of security certifications and search company records for any evidence of prior data breaches. Make sure any supplier you are considering has the safeguards, procedures and policies required to ensure the confidentiality of your data.

Whether you adopt PaaS or SaaS, the cloud is the way of the future. Savvy business executives know that using the cloud to deliver solutions is the best way to scale and expand. Your business can develop more quickly, save money and maintain client relationships by switching to the cloud.

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