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What's the Difference Between SaaS and PaaS?
3 Min Read

What's the Difference Between SaaS and PaaS?

SaaS? PaaS? What does it all mean?
Saas Paas Blog.jpg

SaaS, PaaS, what do all these acronyms mean? Let us help you break down what these different cloud offerings mean for your business. 

What’s the Difference Between SaaS and PaaS? 

PaaS and SaaS are just two of the major categories (a third being IaaS) of cloud computing provided by a third-party.

But what do Platform as a Service and Software as a Service really mean? 

“As a service” cloud computing allows businesses to offload IT responsibility to a vendor that can provide the infrastructure, security, uptime, and scalability needed to run modern digital solutions. And, unlike on-premise solutions, these can be easily accessed on any internet browser or through online apps. 

So, then, what do PaaS and SaaS mean? 

PaaS, or platform as a service, allows businesses and developers to host, build, and deploy consumer-facing apps. PaaS providers will host the hardware and software on their own infrastructure and then deliver this platform to users as an integrated solution. This means that developers can build, run, and manage apps in an environment that is available on day one. But businesses will need to manage their own applications and data. This gives the customizability that many developers look for, while providing the foundation for data protection, storage, and uptime that they desire.

Examples of PaaS solutions include Google App Engine, OpenShift, and Liferay Cloud

SaaS, or software as a service, is the most comprehensive form of cloud computing services, delivering an entire application, managed by a vendor, through a web browser. This means that everything, from software updates, bug fixes, and maintenance, is handled by the vendor. Customers don’t need to install anything; they simply connect to the app via a dashboard or API. 

Examples of SaaS solutions include Slack, Hubspot, and Dropbox. 

Additionally, there is also IaaS, or infrastructure as a service, where vendors provide the same technologies and capabilities as a traditional data center but customers are still responsible for managing their own applications, runtime, middleware, and data. Customers would still need to build out their own tech stack, making IaaS more similar to using on-premise systems from a practical standpoint. 

This visual gives a broad overview of what you can expect from each system.


Should We Use SaaS or Paas? 

SaaS, PaaS, and even on-premise solutions are not mutually exclusive; many organizations will use them in tandem. But the solution chosen must depend on what functionalities the business requires. 

You can use this chart to determine what features, control, and benefit each can provide to determine which will be the best for your business:






Costs associated with hosting an on-premise server include not only costs for hardware and dedicated staff, but also rent, air conditioning, energy, and security.

Users pay a fee or subscription to use the platform provided by the vendor. The fee is usually based on resources created for the project.

Users pay a monthly or annual fee to use a complete application from within a web browser or app. The fee is usually on a per-user basis.


Developers will need to build environments and procure a technology stack from scratch if the business is only using on-premise systems. 

PaaS solutions provide a complete tech stack with hardware and software to assist with development, testing, and deployment of apps.

SaaS offers minimal customization capabilities. Users will be limited to the specific functionality that is provided by the vendor. 


Since the server is on premise, businesses have the greatest control over their application between the three options. 

Using a PaaS solution means that while developers can build and run their own solutions, their data is secured on a third-party controlled server. 

Using a SaaS solution means that the third-party vendor controls everything regarding the application.

Data Security

Tied to control, on-premise servers provide the most direct access to your data. But it also comes with the complexity of implementing data security and compliance on your own. 

PaaS solutions also implement security and compliance and may offer controls such as Bring your Own Key for encryption, but risks remain similar to those in SaaS deployments.

The SaaS vendor implements security and compliance, however risks with unauthorized access and data theft remain and the SaaS vendor may not provide compliance on your specific regulatory requirements.

Performance and Uptime

IT and Development teams will need to monitor and manage the performance of the applications, servers, networking, and storage. 

Development teams are responsible for ensuring application performance. While, the vendor is responsible for maintaining performance of the underlying platform.

The vendor is responsible for maintaining performance and ensuring the application is running.


Building solutions from scratch allows developers to build with needed integrations in mind. However, badly designed integrations can create issues with performance and reliability.  

Customizations may be needed for legacy systems to work with PaaS solutions, requiring significant investment.

SaaS applications may not integrate easily with legacy systems or other applications, depending on if they were designed to follow open standards for integration. 

Capacity Elasticity 

Scaling can be implemented but is more complex and costly. An on-prem solution may require software procurement and the set up of additional physical servers.

The vendor provides the scaling capability, a small amount of tuning may be required.

Scaling is completely transparent to end users and all configuration and additional resources are provided by the vendor.


Time to Move to the Cloud 

Regardless of what solution is chosen, the future is in the cloud. Savvy business leaders understand that the wisest way to scale and grow their business is by deploying solutions through the cloud. 

Also See: 
Scale Your Business with the Cloud 
In a constantly shifting environment, businesses can depend on Liferay’s enterprise PaaS, Liferay DXP Cloud to future-proof their organization. Read this ebook to learn more about how the cloud can equip your business for success, no matter what the future brings. 
Download the E-Book
Originally published
January 18, 2022
 last updated
September 16, 2022
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