Skip to main content

5 min read

What’s the difference between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS?

Neal Riley
15 February 23 Cloud
Cloud with arrows

Want more clarity around cloud solutions? If things are a bit foggy, you’re not alone. 

In this blog, we take a look at the three main types of cloud computing and explain what the benefits (and drawbacks) are of each – so you can be better informed when it comes to cloud migration. 

Keep reading to uncloud your judgement and be in-the-know when it comes to the variety of virtual solutions on offer.

copy_text Icon

What do we mean by ‘cloud computing’?

The cloud’s been around for a long time in computer years: hello Hotmail, we’re looking at you! But with the demand for scaling, increased volatility, and widely distributed teams becoming the norm, the need for robust virtual solutions has grown too. 

Organisations have embraced cloud computing like never before, with new providers of virtual infrastructure, platforms, and software solutions popping up all the time.

Cloud computing helps IT departments and developers cut out labour-intensive and unpredictable work – like maintenance, capacity planning, and procurement – to focus their time on more high-value initiatives within the organisation. 

copy_text Icon

What are the different types of cloud computing?

There are three main types of cloud computing – infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS). 

As their monikers suggest, they’re each related to a different part of the cloud computing stack and provide businesses with varying degrees of control, flexibility, and responsibility. Let’s take a closer look…

copy_text Icon

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

With IaaS, rather than owning and operating your own hardware, network infrastructure, and storage devices in a data centre, your chosen provider – like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, or Microsoft Azure – hosts and maintains a virtual data centre on your behalf.

IaaS cuts out much of the manual labour, complex technicalities, and risk of on-prem IT. Instead, you define what you want, and it appears at the push of a button. Need more CPU or memory? Just slide the bar to the right. Need more IP addresses? Just extend your CIDR range. Need another server? It’s just a few clicks away.

You remain in control of what that infrastructure looks like, your operating system, the software you run, and how it’s architected and secured. But keep in mind the burden of designing, configuring, maintaining, and operating the infrastructure is still yours – it’s just the physical costs, effort, and risks you’re handing over.

Moving to the IaaS cloud 

This involves very little change in terms of your business’s day-to-day operations. While that sounds good, if there were performance or security problems before migration, it’s likely you’ll still experience the same problems in the cloud. You’ll need to change your architecture and network policies to notice a real difference. 

IaaS for Atlassian tools

In the Atlassian context this is typically a Server or Data Center deployment for private cloud infrastructure, such as AWS. 

You can transfer your current Jira, Confluence, Bitbucket, etc. server or data center instances to your new cloud infrastructure with no changes to features, just the removal of in-house equipment. 

copy_text Icon

Platform as a service (PaaS)

This is where a third-party provider delivers hardware and software tools over the internet using its own infrastructure. 

These providers are offering more of the application stack than IaaS. So these are typically tools for hosting, development, testing, security, and app integration accessed through a web browser. 

PaaS solutions mean developers don’t have to install in-house hardware and software to create a new app. These products offer compute and storage infrastructure, not to mention version management, compiling and testing services, and collaboration tools to help your globally distributed devs build new software together with speed.

Moving to PaaS cloud

With PaaS, you’re essentially bringing a business partner on board, so think about the long-haul. Be sure to shop around, assessing the variety of features, functionality, and performance on offer before testing them out. And think about the life cycle of the product you’re planning to invest in.

Typically you’ll pay for PaaS on a per-use basis, but some providers charge a monthly fee to access their platform. Make sure you know the costs and that the billing model works with your business.

The move to PaaS can be risky – there’s always a chance your provider will close down or not implement the features they’ve promised. Check there’s a robust SLA and make sure you understand exactly what support you’ll get from the provider. If the worst happens, how will this impact your business? Will you be able to migrate elsewhere?

PaaS for Atlassian tools

Since 2012, when Atlassian introduced its Marketplace, over 25,000 third-party developers have used the Atlassian platform to create innovative new solutions for customers. This vast ecosystem of third-party vendors and developers also includes 500 Solution Partners, and Adaptavist is one of them. 

We create apps for Jira, Confluence, Bitbucket and Bamboo using Atlassian PaaS tools. 

copy_text Icon

Software as a service (SaaS)

Where PaaS offers you the tools you need to perform complex tasks and manage your own workload, with SaaS you typically pay a subscription (per user, per gigabyte) to access a finished application, hosted and managed remotely by the provider. 

There’s no need to configure, install, deploy or maintain that app in house – think web-based email or Salesforce. This out-of-the-box software is ready to be used as soon as you sign up.

On the flip side, with SaaS you also typically don’t get a say in when these changes take place, causing unexpected outages, and when features come and go. Restoration of backups and data retention periods aren’t your responsibility either, but this means that you’re bound by the terms of service when it comes to rolling back user errors.

While you’re at your provider’s mercy when it comes to changes, any issues around data security and compliance are their responsibility. They’ll be the ones spending the money and time to gain accreditations. They will also back up, restore, patch, and upgrade the operating systems and software.

Moving to the SaaS cloud

The biggest change here is moving from services that sit within a single set of networks controlled by the business, operated either themselves or by an IaaS provider, over to a network of disparate services that are often hosted by the same people that build the software.

While the risk is someone else’s responsibility, you might face integration challenges and struggle to keep a common identity across all your SaaS applications. 

For example, you’ll probably want to retain control of onboarding, security controls, and auditing of access and usage. And you’ll need to consider how information now spreads across an array of disparate services and how they will operate seamlessly together.

SaaS for Atlassian tools

Atlassian provides a SaaS option for businesses that want to access their tools without any advance customisation or complex data and security needs. With services like Jira Cloud, Confluence Cloud, and Bitbucket Cloud, you buy your licence based on the number of users and just sign on to access the software.

Some partners, like Adaptavist, also have super-charged SaaS solutions, where you can control more of your setup while removing the burden of back-end infrastructure management, support, and administration still required with an IaaS approach.

Adaptavist Operate and Adaptavist Enterprise Cloud typically include a packaged Server or Data Center cloud deployment with a suite of back-end platform management services. While Adaptavist Assist delivers application administration for both Atlassian software and your other collaboration tools.

copy_text Icon

What deployment method do I need?

Whether you’re looking for IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS solutions, there are three degrees of cloud deployment to choose from: public cloud, hybrid, and private cloud (essentially using virtualisation and resource management tools to deploy resources on-prem). 

To maximise the benefits of cloud computing, you’ll need to deploy on public cloud. This is where all cloud resources, such as applications and infrastructure, are delivered over the internet by a third-party server provider like world-leading AWS. 

With a public cloud deployment, while you’ll have no control and limited visibility over where the service is hosted, you’ll only pay for the computing resources you use. And you’ll enjoy high deployment speeds, automated deployments, and flexible scaling options to meet your business’s changing demands. 

copy_text Icon

Moving to public cloud

There are several challenges your organisation might face when it comes to migration. Accepting this new technology is a big one. Everyone needs to understand the benefits moving to the cloud can bring for adoption to soar, including the industry-compliant security embedded into AWS (or your preferred provider). Otherwise, people won’t trust their tools and they’ll continue to keep data on local servers.

In some cases, it might make sense to take a hybrid approach to migration and move your legacy systems to the cloud slowly – it’s a complex process and should be given the time and attention it deserves.

If AWS is the provider for you, working with an experienced partner like Adaptavist is key for a smooth migration process. We can help to ensure quality, reliability, and performance in the cloud with minimal downtime during your migration.

A clear way to the cloud

Want to know more about IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and cloud migration? 

Get in touch
copy_text Icon