The Advantages of Using a BaaS Platform in Mobile Development

We all know that when it comes to mobile app development, you have to decide on two things: which tech stack to use for FrontEnd, and how to develop the Backend part of the application. Today we will talk about the alternatives to writing Backend from scratch.

We all know that when it comes to mobile app development, you have to decide on two things: which tech stack to use for FrontEnd, and how to develop the Backend part of the application. Today we will talk about the alternatives to writing Backend from scratch.

What is Backend?

Backend

In case some of you don’t know what Backend is, here is a simple illustration of the difference between FrontEnd and Backend.

In a nutshell, FrontEnd is the visible and clickable part of the product in terms of the end user’s vision, while Backend is the invisible part – the engine that is making the product work, process the requests and respond to the users’ clicks on the FrontEnd.

Backend development is one of the most complex and delicate stages of creating a mobile product. It happens pretty often that the team underestimates the time and resources needed to create the server part of the application. And sometimes teams overestimate the number of available resources. The process can take up more time than it has been expected since developers have to utilize only the tools and technologies they are capable of exploiting. As a result, the application itself may appear too complicated and costly in terms of maintenance and also result in other risks like interoperability issues, etc.

Is there an alternative to custom written Backend using your own resources?

In this situation, such a thing as BaaS (Backend as a Service, sometimes also called MBaaS or Mobile Backend as a Service) comes in like a superman and saves a product from being too slowly developed and does everything in order to make the mobile application development process more comfortable for your team.

What is this Backend as a Service? BaaS refers to ready server services, that, finely combined all together, can form a universal Backend for application of any difficulty levels. BaaS is a great friend for IT companies since it enables to cut down on costs connected with developing and supporting server Backend. Having an adequate BaaS by his side, just one mobile developer is capable of writing a full-fledged mobile application without the help of backend-developers. This is also a good solution for an MVP when start-up’ers just want to test their idea’s viability first, without any complex business logic and third-party-services integrations.

In other words, BaaS platform automates server side development and manages cloud infrastructure. It enables your team to concentrate more on the FrontEnd part and take care of the proper User Experience while outsourcing Backend development to a third-party platform. Moreover, most of the modern BaaS platforms are equipped with tons of useful features such as data management, social media integrations, file storage, APIs, and a lot more. However, only an experienced custom mobile application development services provider is able to integrate such a platform in the most beneficial and profitable way possible.

So what are the real benefits?

A  Backend as a Service platform allows the developers to not waste their precious time on such things as:

  • Physical servers;
  • Database;
  • Client-server library;
  • Admin panel development;
  • API design;
  • Hosting issues, and others.

Let’s take as an example one of the first steps of creating a product – servers set up. If your team is doing it on its own – they will have to face such comprehensive tasks as launching an instance which includes configuring size, type, number of instances, the network, IP, Auto Scaling, storage, security setting – and of all that can take up from a few hours to several working days (if the designed environment is large).  With a Backend as a Service platform, the same set of processes will only demand to make a few clicks on the interface – sounds amazing, isn’t it? A few minutes compared to lots of hours!

In terms of business, BaaS platforms bring such benefits as labor costs savings due to outsourcing a part of Backend engineer’s responsibilities. And the biggest advantage is the reduced time needed for the product to be released on the market. Sometimes a few months or even days make a huge difference when speaking of market release, sometimes it can have a big influence on the market opportunity. Release the product the day after your main competitor did it – and you fail.  So in this particular case outsourcing Backend development can do business a big favor.

It sounds like an entrepreneur’s dream come true – a solution that allows to save labor resources, reduce development costs and deliver the solution to the market even faster at the same time.

Are there any drawbacks?

Any technology has its pros and cons and, by far, we didn’t mention any of the opposite sides of this “developer’s paradise”.

The biggest problem of Backend as a Service platform is their low flexibility level in comparison with custom “live” coding by real software engineers. So, yeah, they have quite a lot of in-built useful features, but, in general, there is insufficient space for complex customization. So for now, BaaS software is more suitable in 3 cases: MVP, applications that don’t require lots of integrations, enterprise software without any difficult and strategically important functionality.

Okay then, what providers are there on the market?

The pioneer of Backend as a Service was Google’s platform Parse. It was a reference model for all the BaaS/MBaaS platforms that exist now. Parse had economically effective and easy to use tools. Unfortunately, Facebook shut down the Parse platform in 2016, although it’s still alive in “self-hosted” status.

Talking about more mature and stable platforms, the first one that should necessarily be mentioned is Google Firebase. This BaaS platform is the most widespread among software developers these days and is the most alike with Parse. Firebase is so popular for decent reasons. First and foremost, it enables fast data processing, and second – its SDK is intuitive.

Firebase has such in-built features as authentication via Google, Facebook, Twitter and/or e-mail, a real-time database that is perfect for creating chats, for example. It has easy-to-set-up push-notifications as well as useful analytics tools powered by Google that enable to analyze not only user events, but also high-level data and demographic information. There are also 2 unique components: Ad Mob – a module, via which any application can be monetized. And another one is a Machine Learning module – no other modern Backend as a Service platform has this feature.

Firebase has a free version, but you should pay as your platform starts growing. The more it scales – the more you pay, obviously.

There are some disadvantages to it though: it is vendor-lock in, closed-source, and it’s a bit difficult to learn to deal with. So will surely spend more time learning the patterns of working with Firebase, but in the end, you will get much since it’s so feature-rich.

Firebase is suitable for both mobile applications (Android/iOS/cross-platform) and web.

Then there is a very promising Backend as a Service platform called CloudKit. It does provide absolutely seamless integration for any iOS products. CloudKit includes such features as a data warehouse, authentification, iCloud integration, and APIs. It’s a bit expensive, starting with 10$ per 1 request. However, we would suggest using it for iOS-only projects, since CloudKit provides all the BaaS advantages along with improved application performance thanks to native SDK.

What about Amazon Web Services?

Another platform – AWS Amplify – basically an open-source library, that is supported by Amazon Web  Services. You can deliver web, mobile and cross-platform applications via Amplify. This platform also provides data storage, authentication options, analytics, and notifications. But in addition to standard advantages of a BaaS platform they Amplify can also boast of AR/VR modules, integration with CloudFront for worldwide content delivery and such peculiar feature as Atomic Deployment – it helps keep the app working, even if there are crashes in the new releases. AWS Amplify suggests a free tier with up to 1000 free building minutes per month. Then, you pay as you go – again, the more your product scales – the more you pay.

There is also a solution for game developers – Kii Cloud, that is suitable for IoT projects as well, and has some niche solutions, e.g. beacons.

There is even a solution for russian-speaking development teams, that are struggling with english language – a russian product called Scorocode, that is adaptable to startups and governmental organisations. Scorocode has a pack of standard BaaS modules, and some unique ones like Kubernetes support, Websockets and in-built service for business process management.

Apart from the listed above, there are plenty of other quite pretentious Backend as a Service platforms like enterprise-focused Kinvey, Back4App and Backendless, that are also worth paying attention to.

How to choose a vendor that will cover all your needs?

How to choose the right MBaas/Baas platform? First of all you need to decide whether using a BaaS platform will be suitable for your project in general. If your project requires a lot of custom complex elements, then a Backend as a Service platform won’t help you reduce the need in backend experts, perhaps it will only help you outsource 10% of the overall project – probably not worth it. Then your decision will depend on the price, the size of your project as well as the industry specifics (for example – if you want an AR project – better to use AWS Amplify with its VR/AR SDK, or Kii for IoT projects).

Whatever you choose, you should always keep in mind while planning, that BaaS will automate only a PART of your backend development processes. But it’s worth using it in most of the case for the sake of reducing the development time in general, leaving the most routine and time-consuming task to the platform. And it’s good for its ability to reduce the costs up to 55% percent, as an independent survey shows.

Conclusion:

Backend is the engine, the core of any application, so don’t let it become the weakest part of your project – use the advantages of BaaS platforms and create a future-proof and scalable product. And to avoid any mistakes in the process – don’t hesitate to hire the best team, that have experience in using such platforms as Firebase, AWS Amplify, and others. Contact Smartym Pro now to have a free consultation and we will tell you whether it is time for you to use a BaaS platform or will suggest a more suitable solution.

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Tags: BaaS , BaaS Platform , BaaS platform in mobile development , Backend , Backend development , mobile development
Mashum Mollah

Mashum Mollah is the feature writer of Search Engine Magazine and an SEO Analyst at Real Wealth Business. Over the last 3 years, He has successfully developed and implemented online marketing, SEO, and conversion campaigns for 50+ businesses of all sizes. He is the co-founder of Social Media Magazine.

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