I am stuck at how to classify Dropbox and other cloud storage services within the ISP (IaaS,PaaS,SaaS) model. At their core, such services provide a cloud-backed file system which can be read and written to from any location as long as there's a connection.

  • A file system is sort of Infrastructure in that it's an essential resource for computing, but IaaS seems to be more about providing virtual machines and such.

  • It might be classified as a Platform, as in it's a specialized service which can be (and is) used to add common functionality (synchronization and unification of user data in this case) to applications. On the other hand, it also can be and is used as an end-user application/service.

  • Finally, we might argue that since services like Dropbox are end-user services, they are thus SaaS. But SaaS is defined by the application being online and used via a thin client, while most cloud storage providers use native software to do the syncing.

So, what is the proper classification for such products?

  • 1
    What about cloud storage?
    – user188153
    Nov 24, 2016 at 15:06
  • @ThomasKilian: CSaaS? Nov 24, 2016 at 15:47
  • If you're after buzz-words: right on.
    – user188153
    Nov 24, 2016 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


The real answer is that it doesn't matter. No one is going to ding you for calling Dropbox a "Platform" or a "Service".

SaaS or PaaS are both fine. I would personally use SaaS as that is what most people are used to reading and hearing. After all, you don't write documents for people like you, you write them for "others", so be aware of your target audience.

That said, Dropbox, in particular, is more of a Platform with many clients including one on your computer. You files are replicated, but not totally stored in the cloud. There is an API and many different integration points. Different providers/services will fit differently though. For example I would consider Google Drive as a Service, because it's main focus is aimed at online access, and the "Cloud" version is consider authoritative.

Keep in mind, however, that if I had to explain either of theses to anyone, I would use SaaS. I would try to budget it under SaaS, and would treat security concerns as SaaS.

  • Well, I'm writing a conference thesis, so it kind of does matter. Still, thanks for the input. Nov 25, 2016 at 15:54

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