Custom Backend or BaaS: Which Should You Choose?
BaaS, or Backend as a Service, is one of the growing number of cloud-based as-a-Service options available to startups (as well as other businesses of all sizes and structures). Since mobile apps are quickly becoming essential for connecting with customers as well as powering a mobile workforce, most businesses will, at some point, have to decide whether to opt for BaaS or to build a custom backend. What do you need to know before delving into this decision-making process?
The Pros of BaaS Versus Custom Backend
If your app is primarily built for your workforce to use, you can probably manage the growing capacity needs, as those will be modest. But for consumer apps that have the potential to go viral, BaaS assures you have the scalability to handle that kind of explosive growth.
What are the particular benefits of mobile backend as a service?
BaaS is gaining tremendous popularity, primarily because it enables businesses to develop a mobile app fast, affordably, and with little in the way of business risk. What would take weeks or months to develop in-house can be up and running in a matter of days (potentially hours) with BaaS. It also cuts development and deployment costs tremendously.
With backend as a service, you don’t need to have a server to run the application. Most part of BaaS provide such features as data storage user management, user authentication right, search and many others, thus saving many hours of your time. Moreover, "go-to-market" time is significantly reduced as well, since your developer doesn’t need to code the application and tie it with database. Besides, instead of hiring several backend specialists, you enjoy life, backend services and invest money into urgent needs of your business.
BaaS is also an ideal solution for businesses that need to be able to deploy and manage mobile apps across platforms -- Android, iPhone, Windows phones, etc. -- because it streamlines alignment and compatibility so that the business' IT department doesn't have to develop separate systems for each mobile platform. This is essential for most apps developed for consumers, and is important for business apps in a BYOD environment where the company doesn't control what devices the workers use.
BaaS can also solve an issue that you can't necessarily foresee before deploying an app: it can handle the unexpected and powerful growth associated with a mobile app that suddenly goes viral. Most custom backend systems would crash and burn if user numbers grew by thousands or tens of thousands within just a few days, whereas BaaS is usually scalable and flexible enough to accommodate viral apps. While this is a problem most developers would relish, it could be devastating to an in-house infrastructure that isn't prepared for it. Building the resources necessary to provide a spectacular user experience to hundreds of thousands of users takes time, money, and resources that most startups and small businesses can't muster so quickly.
The Cons of BaaS Versus Custom Backend
Before you decide that BaaS is the best solution, you need to be aware that there are downsides. Primarily, BaaS platforms are developed to accommodate a wide range of apps, which means that these are rarely set up to allow for a truly unique app. Sometimes, uniqueness requires some savvy work-arounds. Other BaaS platforms simply don't allow enough flexibility to build something too out of the ordinary.
Another downside is that when your user base becomes substantial, fees and charges kick in. If this happens to occur when the advertising and/or user revenue can accommodate it, great! But that doesn't usually happen. What most startups find is that they have to start paying the fees before revenue grows to absorb those costs, making it hard to turn a profit after the service is paid for. Still, there is the option to build on BaaS while developing a custom backend, so that the business can migrate operations once the in-house development project is ready. The timing just has to be right. In addition, we should mention some lack of control over the backend of your application and hosted code. However, it is the case for those enthusiasts who like to optimize code endlessly.
You may ask - what are the best PHP frameworks to create backend for mobile app? If you want to build cross platform application, such popular frameworks as PhoneGap or Zend are at your service. They both provide options for modular building, high performance and great support. These tools will help you make great hybrid applications, so that your customers are able to use your services regardless of their device, iOS or Android platform.
Making a Smart Decision for Your Business
Most startups simply don't have the time, money, and resources in place to build a custom backend; at least, not at first. BaaS makes sense for small- and mid-size companies that want to keep in-house IT at a minimum in order to be able to afford other capital investments. BaaS comes with tech support and an SLA, assuring you that your infrastructure will be up and running, so that your team can focus on building extraordinary mobile apps. After all, backend services for mobile apps is a good alternative to custom backend.
Want to see how it worked out for other businesses like yours? See our work here.
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