What’s the Difference Between SaaS and the Cloud?

MARCH 7TH, 2024
Vitali Edrenkine
EVP, Worldwide Sales & Marketing

Cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) are pervasive in today’s business environment. The numbers bear this out, with IDC forecasting worldwide spending on public cloud services will reach $1.35 trillion in 2027, a nearly 20 percent CAGR. IDC also says that “Cloud now dominates tech spending…Most organizations have adopted public cloud as a cost-effective platform.” 

SaaS usage also continues to soar. Flexera’s 2023 State of the Cloud Report found that nearly half of the respondents plan to move from on-premises software to SaaS. That’s on top of the 70 percent of companies already using SaaS applications. Meanwhile, Statista says that the SaaS market will grow from $197 billion in 2023 to $232 billion in 2024.  

What Is Cloud Computing?

While it was once seen as an accessible-anywhere data retention repository, today, cloud computing covers a massive array of services provided over the Internet. The “cloud” isn’t a singular, tangible place. Think of it as networks of remote servers worldwide designed to perform specific functions, ranging from storage to databases, networking, software, and analytics

The three top cloud computing companies—Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS)—along with upstart Wasabi and others, offer a robust infrastructure for doing the above and more. Costs for these services are based on usage, giving you the flexibility to scale resources on demand, optimize costs, and accelerate innovation by letting your internal IT team focus on your core business instead of IT infrastructure management.

Examples of cloud computing include GCP’s Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, AWS cloud computing services, and Apple iCloud for personal data storage across Apple devices.

What is SaaS?

Here’s TechTarget’s SaaS definition: “SaaS is a software distribution model in which a cloud provider hosts applications and makes them available to end users over the internet. In this model, an independent software vendor (ISV) may contract a third-party cloud provider to host the application. With larger companies, such as Microsoft, the cloud provider might also be the software vendor.” Given that SaaS is typically delivered over the internet or via a private network, it is essentially a subset of cloud computing.

SaaS eliminates the need to install and run software on your company computers or your data center. This means there are no upfront costs like those associated with buying software, and maintenance, updates, and security are the SaaS provider’s responsibility.

However, your SaaS providers’ responsibility for advanced data protection has some limitations—see our recent post on the Shared Responsibility Model. Given that, according to IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million, SaaS data protection is the one area where added defenses, such as Arcserve SaaS Backup, are a worthwhile investment.

Popular SaaS examples include QuickBooks, Salesforce, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Slack.

SaaS vs. Cloud Computing: Key Differences

While SaaS is a subset of cloud computing, it’s crucial to understand what sets each apart from the other.

Scope and Flexibility
Cloud computing offers a broad framework for delivering a vast array of computing services. SaaS is one of these services, specifically focused on software delivery. Others include everything from infrastructure as a service (IaaS), a pay-as-you-go service that provides compute, storage, and networking resources, and platform as a service (PaaS), a cloud-based development environment that lets you create or test software applications. 

Data Management and Privacy Protection
Cloud computing gives you more autonomy regarding storing, managing, and securing your data. You can configure your cloud environment according to your privacy and compliance requirements. Conversely, while convenient, using SaaS applications means trusting your data to a third-party provider, which may impact data security and privacy. Once again, Arcserve SaaS Backup fills gaps by ensuring your SaaS data is always backed up and can be recovered following a ransomware attack or data loss.

SaaS Is Cloud-Dependent
Put simply, you can take advantage of cloud services independently from SaaS, but the opposite isn’t true. SaaS only exists with a supporting cloud computing infrastructure to host and deliver the software service.

Cloud Computing and SaaS Benefits

Both cloud computing and SaaS offer substantial benefits that you can leverage to support your business’s technology strategy. For smaller companies and those with limited IT resources, SaaS gives you a straightforward, cost-effective solution for accessing sophisticated software without making a considerable investment in hardware or IT staffing. At the same time, cloud computing offers businesses of any size access to infrastructure and platform solutions that help drive innovation while ensuring scalability.


Given the adoption rate, you probably already rely on SaaS and cloud computing to run your business. Understanding the nuanced differences can be helpful as you adapt your operations to today’s quickly evolving marketplaces. 

Arcserve Technology Partners can provide expert guidance, support, and services that simplify and strengthen your infrastructure and data protection efforts. 

Find an Arcserve Technology Partner.

To learn more about Arcserve SaaS Backup, request a demo

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