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Backend-as-a-Service: The What, Why and How

By Benjamin Haynes on May 31, 2022

Data is the foundation of any digital project – whether internal or external – but there is a lot that needs to be in place before you can connect that data to your application. First, you need a robust physical infrastructure, including the database, file storage, serverless autoscaling, and global content delivery. You also need properly documented middleware to handle authentication, access control, API connectivity, integration hooks, alerting, transactional email – the list goes on.

Setting this up is time-consuming and costly, and it delays time-to-market for whatever it is you’re building. Depending on the type of project, long lead times and delays can impact competitive advantage, revenue, even feasibility.

Enter Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS), an approach to providing all the backend infrastructure and functionality you need to run a digital project. This article explains BaaS and its many benefits, and what to look for when choosing a BaaS provider.

What Is Backend-as-a-Service?

Delivered in the cloud, BaaS enables developers to outsource the backend infrastructure for any data-driven project, and focus solely on the application’s frontend. Using APIs, SDKs, and even raw SQL, developers can quickly and easily connect their digital projects to backend cloud data and logic. In this way, they can benefit from built-in features such as permissions management, authentication and authorization, backup and recovery, and more. Leveraging the power of a cloud-based solution also provides performance and scalability at a much more affordable price point.

What are the benefits of Backend-as-a-Service?

Using BaaS, you don’t have to start from scratch every time you set out to build a new digital project. In fact, you can skip months of boilerplate work and move straight to building your unique and differentiated application. Not only do you save on the capital expense of adding physical servers and other infrastructure, you eliminate the overhead associated with standing up that infrastructure and maintaining it – and you can fast-forward development and get your solution to market sooner.

In addition to efficiency and faster time-to-market, BaaS offers a myriad of benefits to developers and their organizations, including:

  • Reduces need for technical expertise: Since the backend is taken care of, you don’t need to hire specialized DevOps or full-stack engineers. Instead, you can invest more in frontend developers to ensure the UI/UX is top-notch, or reallocate your current technical resources to other business-critical projects.
  • Improves security: BaaS offerings include built-in security and compliance, eliminating headaches and ensuring your apps are stable and protected.
  • Provides access to differentiated features: BaaS providers often bundle their offerings with differentiating features, out-of-the-box, which you would have to implement separately if you were building out the backend on your own. You benefit from cutting-edge features that are tested and proven, all delivered seamlessly in the cloud.

What should you look for in a BaaS offering?

Not all BaaS offerings are created equally. Here are some key characteristics to look for:

  • Unopinionated: There should be no single way to connect to your data. Whether you connect your data using a REST API, GraphQL API, a CLI or an SDK – or via direct SQL queries – you should be able to maintain complete freedom of choice and work in any language you want.
  • Migration-Free: An extension of being unopinionated, a proper BaaS should support any new or existing database model. This allows you to use any new or existing database without the need of migrating to a proprietary schema or architecture.
  • Auth flexibility: The API should go beyond basic database permissions, enabling granular rule-based permissions for access control. An agnostic set of authentication options must also be supported, including OAuth2, OpenID and LDAP.
  • Asset Management: Integrated file storage on the local filesystem or S3 will improve scalability, without having to rely on piecemealed integrations. Additionally, look for a platform that offers full digital asset management and API-driven file transformations.
  • Caching & Global CDN: Reducing latency is critical for optimizing the user experience. Proper caching and a global CDN will ensure your assets and data are served from the “edge” for fastest possible responses.
  • Analytics and Reporting: Access to real-time metrics about your digital project enables you to understand how it’s performing, how users are using it, and how you can improve upon it to best meet their needs.

Directus: Backend On-Demand for Any Digital Project

Directus enables you to quickly build customized digital projects by streamlining data connectivity and providing a feature-rich toolkit for configuring your backend logic.

Directus is completely unopinionated. Through the process of introspection, Directus instantly creates a dynamic REST+GraphQL API based on your database schema. This means developers get an agile backend that is reactive to their project’s data architecture, adapting as needed to changes during development or in subsequent project iterations. You can easily build your API by defining a data model or providing an existing SQL export, and then endlessly tailor the platform through integration hooks, automation workflows, data transformations, alerting and more.

Best of all, beyond the core BaaS offering outlined above, Directus includes a no-code Data Studio where developers, data scientists, and non-technical business users alike, can collaborate. This application instantly democratizes your project’s database, enabling your entire team to intuitively browse, manage, and visualize data.

Why reinvent the wheel every time you roll out a new digital project? Try Directus today and get started building your next data-driven project in minutes.

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With over 22 million downloads, Directus is the world's first Open Data Platform for instantly turning any SQL database into an API and beautiful no-code app.

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