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In just a few short years, cloud computing has evolved from “just another tech trend” and into a powerful force that has changed the way we do business, for the better and for all time.

Maybe the best example of this is the idea of platform-as-a-service, otherwise known as PaaS for short. This is a type of cloud computing in which a service provider delivers not only software to clients over an Internet connection, but the entire platform upon which that software operates. This enables those clients to develop, run and even manage business applications – all WITHOUT the need to build and maintain the type of infrastructure that such a process usually requires.

But what is PaaS in a larger sense, and why is it something you should care about? Read on to find out.

The Power of PaaS: Breaking Things Down

Because PaaS architectures tend to keep the underlying infrastructure “out of sight” of both developers and other users, it may be helpful to think of this model as being similar to other serverless computing concepts and function-as-a-service (FaaS) environments. During all of these, a cloud service provider provisions and runs the server and manages the allocation of resources while the end-users focus on everything else.

PaaS and serverless computing services are beneficial to smaller organizations in particular, as they usually only charge for factors like compute, storage and networking resources consumed. This means that you’re only paying for those resources that you’re actually using and not a penny more. This is very similar to the way that a SaaS development company would only charge for access to the software being used by an enterprise as opposed to the “pay per license” structure of a bygone era.

As is true with most other cloud servers, PaaS is offered via a cloud service provider’s hosted infrastructure. This means that users typically access ALL PaaS offerings via a web browser. Again, this is similar to the way in which you wouldn’t actually install the software provided to you by a SaaS development company locally and would instead access it via any computer or mobile device you had access to with an active Internet connection.

Because of its inherent flexibility, PaaS services can be delivered through public, private or even hybrid clouds. With a public cloud PaaS, for example, the customer would be in total control of the software development while the cloud provider delivered all the major IT components. With a private cloud, PaaS is delivered as software – or as an appliance within a customer’s firewall – usually in its on-premises data center.

Hybrid clouds, as their name suggests, are a mixture of these two types of cloud services.

The major thing to understand here is that rather than replace an organization’s entire IT infrastructure simply for the purposes of software development, PaaS provides key services in a far easier and more cost-effective way. Some PaaS offerings can include not only everything needed for application design but also development, testing, deployment, web service integration, development team collaboration and much, much more.

As stated, customers pay for PaaS on a per-use basis. Some providers even charge a flat monthly fee for access to both the platform and for applications hosted on that platform.

The Major Advantages of PaaS

Overall, PaaS brings with it a wide array of different benefits that can’t be ignored – especially for those smaller and more cost-conscious organizations out there.

One of the biggest is that enterprises can gain an environment that they can use to create and deploy new applications WITHOUT the need to spend time and money building and maintaining the infrastructure required. So instead of spending a lot of money on servers and databases, all of those funds can be funneled back into the project itself where they can do the most good.

All of this can lead to not only faster development, but also a far faster delivery of applications – something that is a huge plus for businesses looking to gain a competitive advantage or that need to get their products out and onto the market as quickly as possible.

Because most organizations using PaaS can manage both their applications and their data, losing control of those elements is not a major issue. The use of PaaS also forces enterprise software developers to use cloud techniques in their applications, helping them to better adopt modern principles while taking better advantage of cloud infrastructure (IaaS) platforms.

Given that PaaS is a cloud-based service, it comes with many of the same inherent risks that other cloud offerings have, such as information security threats. PaaS is based on the concept of using shared resources such as networks and servers, so the security risks include placing critical data into this environment. Having data stolen due to unauthorized access or attacks by hackers or other bad actors is, unfortunately, always a possibility.

On the other hand, the major cloud providers have been more effective at warding off such breaches than the typical enterprise data center, so the information security risk has not proven to be what many in IT initially feared.

Another risk with PaaS is when the service provider’s infrastructure experiences downtime for whatever reason, and the impact that might have on services. Also, what if the provider makes changes in its development strategy, programming languages, or in other areas?

But at the same time, there are risks inherent in literally any type of environment – particularly those that are stored locally. Hard drives can fail and physical theft can happen just as easily as troubles in the cloud.

All told, you shouldn’t let these potential pitfalls prevent you from taking the plunge into the wonderful world of PaaS. Not only does it provide more flexibility to the software development process because the vendor handles the platform, it also frees up the maximum amount of your time, money and attention so that you can focus on the actual programming – exactly the way you always wanted.