You know SaaS— (Software as a Service) because includes things like your CRM, your project management software, your Google Apps (even Netflix is SaaS!). But more than just software can be delivered to you over the internet. PaaS, or Platform as a Service, is letting developers build their own software and applications faster and with less complex processes.
What is PaaS?
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a type of cloud-computing service that gives a platform for users to develop, run, and manage applications without needing to build and maintain the infrastructure associated with developing and launching an app.
Now you’re probably nodding along thinking, “Neat! So what does it do?” Let’s look at this definition in three pieces:
This one you’ve probably heard before. Cloud-computing refers to software products and services and data accessible from any device. The Google Suite is a common example: Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Forms can be accessed on any device where an account with access is logged in.
The term “application” isn’t limited to mobile or desktop apps, but it certainly includes them. Application could also mean a program that runs analytics, your company website’s chatbot, or a web-based application (perhaps you have Word Counter or Adblock as Chrome extensions).
Infrastructure, in the information technology sense, refers to two things: the physical hardware and the network and software application development is based in. Hardware would be the server(s) where data is stored, and the network is how all of that data is connected.
So with all of that, PaaS is a platform accessed through the cloud to build applications that doesn’t require the physical-space components. The data your organization creates is hosted elsewhere as part of the service.
How does this benefit organizations?
Before ready-made clothes were widely available, there was a much longer process to getting a new outfit, and a lot of that process fell on the individual, or that individual’s family or community. Someone had to gather the raw materials, someone had to turn those materials into a useable material, someone had to cut and sew the material into something wearable.
Before PaaS, application development was a similar process. There had to be a physical set up for the platform, someone had to build the platform, and then someone could develop an application. But like a shepherd would have to manage the sheep the town sheared for wool, there’s a lot of maintenance and upkeep involved with managing the servers and platforms. This meant organizations with the budget and space for the equipment and staff to run it were at an advantage for producing useful software quickly, like the single town shepherd would be responsible for all the wool to make everyone’s clothes.
Several advances in technology allowed ready-made clothing to become more available, but we’ll focus on the sewing machine. The sewing machine made the production of clothes faster, and it required a specialized knowledge but has advanced so anyone with the instruction book and some patience can learn the basics. PaaS is a sewing machine (with unlimited access to thread and fabric, to be exact). The sewing machine gave more people the ability to produce their own clothes, like PaaS gives more organizations the power to build applications both for internal use (analytics apps or database capabilities) or external product creation.
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Why use PaaS?
The biggest advantage of PaaS is the removal of the equipment. PaaS lets developers focus on making applications instead of maintaining servers or updating the platform. This means it takes less time for an app to be developed and deployed, and there’s more opportunity for app development to happen. And more opportunity leads to more innovation.
Removing the responsibility of the hardware from your organization is also beneficial in the event of an unforeseen shutdown. Whether that is a part of the server breaking and needing a replacement or a natural disaster wiping out the entire data center, a large company providing PaaS (like Amazon, Google, or Microsoft) will have that data backed up and stored in another center somewhere else. This is called redundancy, and it lessens the chances of data being lost due to broken hardware.
Should my organization have PaaS?
A lot of people and organizations benefit from PaaS, but there are a few industries that prefer all data be hosted and maintained on site.
As with all cloud-based services, PaaS does pose a data security threat. If all your business development is in the cloud, there is a chance that data could be intercepted or stolen. This is why some industries that deal with sensitive information, like healthcare and insurance providers, often prefer to have data on-site.
Large organizations with security concerns might also chose to build their own private cloud service. In this case, the organization still maintains all the hardware in their own data centers and provide a cloud service to the people within the organization. These companies are getting all the benefits of cloud storage with a lower security risk.
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