Solutions & Products

Differences between SaaS, PaaS & On Prem

Explained by using the example of a CMS

Differences between SaaS, PaaS and On-premise Solutions
Customer Experience

In this blog post, I would like to highlight the key differences between Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and on-premise solutions. Many of our customers already have a web focus and are partly familiar with web technologies, so I will try to illustrate the whole thing using a content management system and the hosting of a website.


Let's start with SaaS. Imagine a situation where you want easy access to a software solution without the hassle of managing an infrastructure. With SaaS, the software is hosted and maintained by a third-party provider, so you no longer have ownership. This means that the content management system is operated by the provider and you do not have to install the management software yourself. 


On paper, this also frees you from further expenses in terms of backups, security and operation, depending on what your provider enables. However, it would probably also be wrong to say that you don't have to worry about ensuring continuous operation. Updates in SaaS and external changes can lead to the need to constantly check whether everything is still running smoothly. However, you can concentrate more on your core business objectives than with any other solution. Most modern SaaS solutions are highly scalable and this is often in the hands of the operator. 


However, once we talk about ownership, we also need to talk about the elephant in the room - flexibility. SaaS solutions strive to achieve a specific goal in the most efficient way for ALL customers. However, this may come at the expense of their own individual freedom. If you want to break away from the predefined workflow and have to implement personal ideas, this often becomes a difficult, if not impossible, undertaking.


If we look at the example of SaaS-based content management, there are, for example, classic modular systems. These are designed to be more of a visual designer, but it quickly becomes clear that it is difficult to control thousands of pages using such a sophisticated method. Other SaaS approaches include headless CMS. These only provide structured data and can therefore be scaled considerably more. However, it should be noted that you also need a front-end server for these systems. This usually has to be operated on a different infrastructure. This may destroy the advantages mentioned above. With SaaS, it is therefore always advantageous to consider the dependencies on other software solutions.


If you want to have a little more control over the development and deployment environment without having to manage the infrastructure yourself, PaaS is a robust solution. The PaaS model often gives you access to a preconfigured platform for development and deployment. This means you can focus entirely on building and customizing your digital experiences without getting lost in the intricacies of infrastructure configuration. It's a happy medium that combines flexibility with convenience. PaaS is usually the more expensive option on paper. However, you have to weigh things up. On the one hand, the third-party service provider offers a corresponding platform that, in contrast to on-premise, is much more optimized to the needs of the software; on the other hand, it solves the rigid structure of a SaaS solution for which, in contrast, support must be provided. Depending on how far a PaaS solution goes, there may also be additional costs for build pipelines, logging or tests. Therefore, always ask your provider whether such solutions are included in the scope of services. 


If we look at our example again, content management in this scenario would have to be installed by you or your service provider. PaaS provides you with a similar form of hosting as most people are probably used to from shared web hosting. With these, an environment is created in which you upload a program via an FTP connection. These hosting offers usually use a specific PHP version. In the enterprise segment, a PaaS often also uses .net or Java. The hosting provider therefore provides a certain environment for users to work with. Upgrades to these programming languages are installed by the provider. From time to time, the operator may ask you to make adjustments to the application in order to close security-relevant gaps.


Many PaaS providers also offer the option of installing the necessary front-end server. Everything is located on the same platform and can be monitored and supported in the same way. PaaS environments are often located in public clouds, which means that they can be scaled up considerably. However, this also leads us to option 3.


For those who want to maintain control over the entire value chain, on-premise is the most suitable approach. This option offers ultimate control over your environment and is ideal for organizations with strict security and compliance requirements. You retain full autonomy over your infrastructure, data and configurations. This control can be particularly attractive for companies in regulated industries or with unique technical requirements. 


In addition to SaaS and PaaS solutions, we at Arvato Systems offer on-premise solutions on our own data centers or in private and public clouds. So you can decide how sovereign you want to be. We close the gaps that on-premise has over SaaS and PaaS solutions for you.


Now you may be asking yourself: Which option is right for me? Well, that depends on your specific needs, preferences and resources. Are you looking for maximum agility and scalability? SaaS could be the way to go. Do you value flexibility and control over your development environment? Then PaaS could be the best choice. Or are security and compliance top priorities? In this case, on-premises deployment could be the perfect solution. If you have any further questions, we can answer them at any time. 

Written by

Marvin Kerkhoff
Marvin Kerkhoff
Expert for CMS and E-Commerce