With the rise of cloud computing, Software as a Service (SaaS) has become an increasingly popular model for delivering software applications. SaaS provides users with access to software that is hosted in the cloud, rather than installed locally on their devices.

This online, subscription-based model offers many benefits over traditional, non-SaaS software, but also has some drawbacks. In this article, we will examine the key differences between SaaS and non-SaaS software to help you determine which solution makes the most sense for your needs.

We will compare and contrast the two approaches in terms of functionality, accessibility, pricing, security, and more. Whether you are a business owner looking to implement new systems, an IT professional evaluating options, or an end user trying to understand the technology you use every day, this overview will provide valuable insights into the SaaS vs non-SaaS debate.

With the key distinctions laid out, you can make an informed decision about which model is right for your specific circumstances.

Key Differences Between SaaS and Non-SaaS


The most fundamental difference between SaaS and non-SaaS software is where the software logic resides and how it is accessed.

  • SaaS: The software application runs on servers in the cloud, rather than being installed directly on user devices. This means users can access the software via a web browser instead of having to download, install, and update it locally.
  • Non-SaaS: Software is installed locally on each user’s device. This requires downloads, updates, and maintenance to be handled at the user level.

The cloud-based nature of SaaS also enables seamless compatibility across devices, allowing users to switch between desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone without disruption. Non-SaaS software may have limitations based on operating systems or specific device requirements.


A major advantage of SaaS is enhanced accessibility and availability of the software.

  • SaaS: Users can access applications from any internet-connected device, anywhere in the world. This allows for use on-the-go and easy collaboration across teams and locations.
  • Non-SaaS: Requires the user to be on the specific device where the software is installed, limiting accessibility. Sharing access and collaborating can also prove challenging.


  • SaaS: Utilizes a subscription-based pricing model, often with monthly or yearly payments. Provides flexibility to scale up or down.
  • Non-SaaS: Typically requires large upfront license fees and one-time payments. Involves fixed costs regardless of usage levels.


  • Non-SaaS: Software is under the full control of the user, which allows for stringent security measures configured and managed internally.
  • SaaS: Applications rely on vendor-controlled security. However, reputable SaaS providers implement robust security practices and redundancy measures that often exceed the capabilities of individual organizations.


  • Non-SaaS: Can typically be highly customized by technical users to meet specialized needs. However, requires hands-on effort and expertise.
  • SaaS: Applications are generally more standardized as multi-tenant cloud services. Customization options are more limited, but configuration is easier and requires less technical knowledge.

SaaS vs Non-SaaS Examples

SaaS Examples:

  • Gmail, Outlook365 – Email and collaboration
  • Slack, Microsoft Teams – Team communication
  • Zoom, Google Meet – Video conferencing
  • Dropbox, Google Drive – File storage and sharing
  • Salesforce, HubSpot – CRM software
  • DocuSign – Electronic signature
  • Adobe Creative Cloud – Design and creative tools
  • Shopify – Ecommerce platform
  • Zendesk – Customer service software
  • Square – POS and payments
  • Box – Content management

Non-SaaS Examples:

  • Microsoft Office – Productivity suite
  • Adobe Creative Suite – Design tools
  • Sage 50 – Accounting software
  • AutoCAD – Design and modeling
  • Act! – CRM software
  • Alteryx – Data analytics
  • McAfee, Norton – Antivirus software
  • MATLAB – Numerical computing
  • TurboTax – Tax preparation software
  • Tableau – Business intelligence
  • QuickBooks – Accounting
  • Sage 300 – ERP system

SaaS vs On-Premise

Software as a Service (SaaS) and On-Premise software represent two different models of software deployment. SaaS refers to cloud-based services where the software is hosted on remote servers and accessed via the internet, typically through a web browser. This model allows for high accessibility from any internet-connected device, subscription-based pricing, and vendor-controlled security, but customization options are generally more limited.

On the other hand, On-Premise software is installed and run on local devices or servers within the user’s premises. This allows for greater control over security and customization, but requires upfront licensing fees, potentially complex installation and maintenance, and limits access to the specific devices where the software is installed.

SaaS vs Hosted

Software as a Service (SaaS) and Hosted Software represent two different models of software delivery. SaaS is a cloud-based model where the software is hosted on the vendor’s servers and accessed via the internet, typically through a web browser. It offers high accessibility, subscription-based pricing, and vendor-controlled security but has more limited customization options.

On the other hand, Hosted Software refers to applications that are installed and run on servers owned by the user or rented from a third-party service provider. These servers could be located on-premises or in a data center. While this model still provides remote access, it requires more involvement from the user in terms of server management, maintenance, and security, but it offers greater control and customization possibilities compared to SaaS.

SaaS vs Cloud

Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud Computing are two concepts that often go hand in hand, but they represent different aspects of online computing. SaaS is a delivery model for software where instead of purchasing and installing software on individual machines, users access the software over the internet, typically through a web browser.

The software itself is hosted on remote servers, which is where the term “cloud” comes in. Cloud Computing refers to the broader concept of using remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than local servers or personal computers. Therefore, while all SaaS is based on cloud computing, not all cloud computing involves SaaS – it can also include other services like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS).

SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS

Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) are three primary categories of cloud computing services.

  • SaaS provides users with access to software applications over the internet, typically through a web browser, eliminating the need for local installation or maintenance. Examples include Gmail, Salesforce, or Microsoft Office 365.
  • PaaS provides a platform for developers to build, test, and deploy software applications without worrying about underlying infrastructure, including servers, storage, network, and databases. Examples include Google App Engine or Heroku.
  • IaaS, on the other hand, offers the raw computing resources for businesses, such as virtual machines, servers, storage, and network. Users have more control over these resources but also bear more responsibility for managing them. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are examples of IaaS.

Is SaaS a Good Choice For Your Business?

When considering whether SaaS is a good choice for your business, there are several factors to take into account. One of the main advantages of SaaS is its high accessibility, allowing users to access software applications from anywhere with an internet connection. This can be particularly beneficial for businesses with remote or distributed teams. Additionally, the subscription-based pricing model of SaaS often offers more flexibility and cost-effectiveness compared to purchasing and maintaining software licenses.

However, it’s important to consider the specific needs and requirements of your business. SaaS solutions typically have more limited customization options compared to hosted software. If your business relies heavily on highly customized software applications, a hosted software model might provide greater control and flexibility. With hosted software, you have the ability to manage and maintain your own servers, which can be advantageous if you require specific security measures or have strict compliance regulations to adhere to.

Another aspect to consider is the level of involvement and responsibility you are willing to take on in terms of server management, maintenance, and security. SaaS offloads these responsibilities to the vendor, allowing you to focus more on your core business activities. On the other hand, hosted software requires more hands-on involvement from your team, as you will be responsible for managing and securing your own servers.

Ultimately, the decision between SaaS and hosted software depends on your business’s unique circumstances, priorities, and IT capabilities. It may be beneficial to assess your specific software needs, budget, and long-term growth plans before making a decision. Additionally, consulting with IT professionals or seeking advice from businesses in similar industries can provide valuable insights to help you make an informed choice.