How secure and scalable are low-code platforms?
Low-code development has transformed the speed with which businesses build and run apps, websites, and processes across their organisations. This rapid approach to innovation has created an era of citizen developers, employees with little to no experience with traditional coding. Not only have low-code platforms given these employees tools to boost efficiency, but also foster collaboration between teams, introduce automation, and increase output—and growing companies are taking notice.
While there are many benefits, the adoption of low code also brings up valid concerns for business and IT leaders.
Purchasing a low-code platform without thinking of long-term growth could mean ending up with a platform unable to scale—and costing more time and money than you expected or budgeted for. Also, if the team planning to use the platform makes the purchase without involving IT, they may be putting your company and customer data at risk if the software isn’t secure.
Determining the security and scalability of a low-code platform requires a closer look into its capabilities and aligning them with your organisation’s goals and needs.
How to find out if a low-code platform is scalable
It’s easy to assume that any platform you purchase is capable of low-code scalability. For a platform to be truly scalable, it needs to be able to handle increases in the number of users, applications, data, and processes. Additionally, for professional developers assisting with low-code development, their goal is to write code that does not regularly need to be updated as things change.
If your platform cannot keep up with these growth rates, it can negatively impact your productivity, profits, and customer satisfaction.
What features support scalability?
To make sure the low-code platform you choose aligns with your long-term growth goals, look for the following:
APIs allow your apps to communicate with each other. When creating scalable low-code applications, the ability to send data between apps and sites is useful when integrating with third-party applications, other apps in your organisation, and legacy systems. Without the capabilities to set up APIs across your low-code apps and websites, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to manage data and run processes across your business.
When you’re in the process of introducing a low-code platform in which users will be creating applications rapidly and developers may work on scalable code, make sure your architecture is flexible enough to store and manage the data that your apps collect. Many growing organisations choose cloud-based architecture, which offers a secure, centralised location designed to manage large amounts of data.
In addition to APIs, you can further support scalability with options like microservices, which allow you to break down each of your applications by the activities they perform—like modules. If developers plan to use your low-code platform, this allows them to easily work across apps and spend less time managing, validating, and fixing issues.
Scalability isn’t dependent on product features and infrastructure alone. Here are a few other important things to settle on before buying and implementing a low-code platform.
Your options for adjusting the capacity of your platform, accessing important documentation, getting support, and maintaining control over your data and workflows are all dependent on the supplier you choose. Read your supplier agreement thoroughly and consult IT decision makers for their expertise. Otherwise, you may end up experiencing supplier lock-in, meaning you won’t be able to scale past a certain limit due to what’s agreed upon when you buy licences.
To properly manage scaling, keep documentation of who uses the platform, what access rights they have, and what parts of your organisation will interact with some part of the platform or its products. If there aren’t best practices in place, it’ll only get harder to track usage and properly plan and execute scaling over time.
Measuring the scalability of your platform
When determining the right platform for your team, think about not only the number of apps you want to develop, but also who will be working on them. Some teams rely more heavily on professional developers to write scalable code to support low-code initiatives, while others consist of a collaboration between developers and other employees.
Based on this information, you can determine the speed at which you may need to scale, represented by dev-time and runtime scalability.
Dev-time scalability represents the time it takes to build and launch apps. Measurement focuses on how long it takes to perform activities like:
- Collaboration between citizen and professional developers.
- Code customisation.
- Communication and integration between tools.
Runtime scalability represents the performance time of the applications created on a platform. Measurement focuses on how quickly a platform can:
- Automate tasks.
- Rapidly deploy apps using containerization.
- Deploy to multi- and hybrid cloud platforms.
- Support on-demand app deployment.
The importance of low-code security
A scalable low-code platform gives your teams the ability to build more in less time. However, the desire to grow rapidly and give more users access can come with its dangers if you choose the wrong platform. Many aren’t properly tested and vetted by cybersecurity professionals—which can pose several potential security risks to your organisation if you don’t take the right precautions.
Common low-code platform security concerns
Having a thorough understanding of your supplier isn’t just essential for scalability. Third-party products are not built equally. It’s up to the provider to secure the source code and run vulnerability testing. If you purchase a product from an organisation that’s lacking in standardised practices and proper certifications, you may pay the price later.
When members of an organisation purchase, install, and share software in and outside their organisation without input from their IT and security teams, they run the risk of exposing sensitive data and creating openings that invite potential breaches, which in turn lead to violations, fines, and downtime.
As mentioned above, a platform that has not been properly tested by security professionals may include code that leaves the platform vulnerable to issues that may potentially expose both organisational and customer data.
Lack of business continuity
Beyond security best practices, if you lack a business continuity plan, in the event of a data breach or platform outage, you’re at risk of losing data and profits due to increased down time, last-minute solutions, and hefty fines.
Like scalability, security is dependent on the platform you choose and how you manage it. When assessing your options, keep the following in mind:
9 keys to establishing low-code security
- IT and security buy-in. You can avoid many issues simply by including your IT and security leadership in the decision making and implementation of your low-code platform. They’ll bring a wealth of knowledge about suppliers, certifications and industry standards, vulnerabilities, and policy—and will make sure you’re making the best investment for your business’s ongoing needs.
- Supplier requirements. It’s critical to research the third-party suppliers you are considering purchasing software from. You can request documentation of their own security testing and certifications, and learn about the operational and security controls they have in place.
- Security culture. To establish the importance of low-code security across your organisation, all your security policies, governance rules, and best practices should be enforced everywhere. When secure practices are commonplace, you reduce the chances of a breach due to user error.
- Threat modelling. Before implementing a platform, have your IT team do a thorough threat analysis to review all entry points into the platform, identify potential threats, and make sure the platform’s design does not come with any significant risks.
- Static code analysis. Another test your tech experts can perform is an analysis to find any errors within the code that may interact with outside sources and not align with industry security standards.
- Vulnerability testing. You’ll be able to determine if your low-code platform is truly secure by having your cybersecurity professionals look for access points that hackers could use to try and compromise your apps and data.
- Access control. Make sure the platform you choose offers options for controlling who can access your platform, what activities they can perform, and what they can share in and outside of your organisation. Many data breaches come from user error, so it’s important to decrease the chance of an issue happening by limiting unauthorised usage from the start.
- Hosting. Find out where your platform hosts data to ensure your data will be safe and restorable in the event of a breach or data loss. Even if you have your own in-house IT and security teams, it’s important to review your licensing agreement to find out who you should contact if you run into security issues within the platform that need to be addressed by your supplier.
Low-code platforms are still evolving, as are learnings about the associated benefits and risks. With informed decision making, business and IT buy-in, and ongoing efforts to adhere to process, your company will be prepared to successfully implement a secure platform and produce scalable applications that contributes to your organisation’s growth.
Frequently asked questions
What is scaling in coding?
Scaling in coding refers to a platform's ability to function while supporting increases in users, data, activities, and resources. Users can expect a scalable low-code platform to perform properly and offer the same accessible user experience once you start creating more applications, websites, and programs.
What makes a program scalable?
A program is scalable when it can handle increasing amounts of information and does not require regular changes to the initial coding and design in order to grow. Low-code programs offer scalability by allowing users to add more functions or steps to their applications using drag-and-drop functionality, reducing the amount of time developers would need to spend working on actual code.
How do you scale up a program?
You scale up a program by adding new functionality that expands beyond the original usage—or entirely new applications within the platform. Oftentimes with low-code applications, users will add more processes, tasks, and ways to interact with customers based on their demands and interactions.
What is scaling out and scaling up?
Scaling out is like scaling horizontally—where you add new infrastructures, such as applications, to perform new functions and handle different datasets. Scaling up is like scaling vertically—where you build on your current infrastructure to perform more functions and activities.
How do you know if a code is scalable?
You know if code is scalable when there is not a constant need to update it for your programs to continue functioning alongside growth. In low-code development, there's already a decreased need for traditional coding, and because of this, developers don't need to spend much time adding or reworking code. Users can simply drag and drop features to create something new or make changes.
How do you make scalable code?
You can make scalable code by leveraging tools such as AI and automation to reduce the amount of repetition and support quicker updates; minimise loops and other variables; and look for opportunities to scale out. Low code supports this by offering tools that non-developers can use to build and grow their projects based on their needs.
How do you make a program scalable?
You can make a program scalable before you create it by determining what it’s for, who will use it, and what might need to change as time goes on. If you are using a low-code platform, you can also designate roles between citizen developers and professional developers to make sure app creation, launches, updates, and changes are all properly managed.
What is low-code security?
Low-code security represents the processes and solutions in place to ensure a low-code platform and the data collected and stored in it are protected against potential threats. Additionally, it's important to include compliance and governance rules to decrease the chance of issues caused by user error.
Why is low code important?
Low code is important because it speeds up the time to create, release, and scale applications and websites with easy-to-use tools. This reduces the amount of traditional coding required and allows non-developers to create applications that reduce repetitive tasks, support productivity, and engage customers with the help of AI and automation.