Baas up your App
When speaking to potential customers about an app they would like to have developed, I suspect that they sometimes feel like I do when visiting a mechanic. Namely that the language and terminology used in the industry can be a little bit confusing and at times intimidating, especially if it’s a discipline that you are not familiar with, of course the flip side can be that because so many people have smart phones, they see themselves as having more of an understanding of the app development process than they actually do. Whatever your initial disposition may be, the one thing that is certain is that there is a lot to learn when embarking on the process of the creation of your first app.
One area of app development that is seldom appreciated is that of how to manage the services that are needed in an app such as the storage and retrieval of information, notifications, customized security and user management. And of course all of these services need to be compatible with whatever type of device you are running the app on, for example on an iPhone or an Android smartphone or any other that the user chooses to have the app written to run on. In fact without something that can easily facilitate these services, writing an app becomes a very difficult proposition especially for a individual developer or a smaller company that does not have resources dedicated to being able to offer these types of services.
This is where a MBAAS adds massive value; an MBAAS is an acronym meaning a ‘Mobile Backend As A Service’. This entity allows you as an app developer to focus on what your core skill set and job requirement is, namely creating business value for your customer, while all the other ‘plumbing’ and additional services that are part of an app development such as those mentioned earlier in this blog, can be provided by a specialist company and hopefully easily incorporated into your app. This ultimately save huge amounts of time by not having to reinvent the proverbial wheel and instead be able to reuse functionality that’s been pre-packaged for integration into your app. This industry is estimated to be worth about 28 billion USD by 2020, such is the significance and importance of the services that are offered by these providers. In fact without the availability of such services, many app development companies would simply not have been able to operate, if you have downloaded any apps from an app store, you have most probably have used at least one app that makes use of these services.
Of course, a danger of being reliant on one of these providers is their sustainability affects your app, in such that if they shut down or get bought out by a competitor and the pricing model changes to be something unpalatable, then your app suddenly faces the perilous prospect of extinction. It is also a fairly new industry and the playing field is constantly changing as the providers are growing, failing or getting bought out.
As a business we make use of the services offered by these providers and have experienced the complexity of being reliant on one of them that shut down, an amazing product called Parse, that seemed the perfect tool to be using in our business and formed the backbone of our app offerings. Until one fateful morning when we received an email informing us that they were shutting down in a years time. Gone were hundred of hours of development, and so started the search for an able replacement, the list of requirements was long – must accommodate Android, iOS and Windows devices, must be easily to implement, must have some form of documentation and real life examples, must hopefully still be around for at least three years, and of course, must be either really cost effective or free. Backendless to the rescue, a product in many ways similar to Parse, that ticked all the required boxes and enabled us to keep on operating. We were in fact fortunate that there was that grace period of having a years worth of warning that Parse, who were owned by Facebook were changing their business model.
There are now a proliferation of companies offering MBAAS specific products, one of the current crowd favourites being FireBase, Androids offering. Whichever one you choose, it has the potential to greatly simplify your app development process but at a risk of their fate being tied to that of your apps, so choose wisely and good luck.