Exploring mobile app backend options

If you are planning to develop a mobile app, chances are that you will require a backend for storing information, or managing content. These days, there are very few apps that do not require a backend at all. So here are the options for developing a backend:

Custom server

You can set up your own server and host the backend on it. But many developers find it time consuming to set up a dedicated server, assign static IP addresses and manage the server in case things go wrong.

The advantage of setting up your own server would be that you will have complete control over the server and you can customize it to your specific requirements. But if you don’t have the time to monitor your own server you can consider a cloud server.

Cloud servers

Cloud servers seem to be a favourite choice for all types of app requirements. These are a flexible and affordable solution for most applications, including mobile apps. This is the reason why hundreds of thousands of developers use cloud servers for their apps. Following are a few popular cloud server options:

Amazon AWS: AWS SDK for iOS and Android is the most widely used cloud service for mobile apps. It is well documented and includes useful libraries to get you started.

Google App Engine: This is also a popular choice, and is easy to manage and scale if your app becomes hugely popular over night.

Windows Azure: Again a strong player in cloud servers. Can be a great option if you are developing apps for windows phone 8 and even offers services such as user authentication and push notifications for iOS.

All three platforms allow developers to use the service for free initially. Thus opening up more avenues for testing your apps, and once your app gets enough users you can easily scale.

mobile app backend options


Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS)

Relatively new, as most MBaaS startups have emerged in the last few years, MBaaS can be a great option if you don’t want to write your own backend.

APIs and SDKs offered by MBaaS providers allow you to easily connect to cloud servers and have functionalities such as user authentication, management and push notifications. So these services can offer many advantages:

  • Eliminates the hassle of configuring cloud servers.
  • Easy to use through RESTful API’s
  • Allow developers to focus on core functionality of the app and thus reduce development time
  • Some providers allow integrated analytics to monitor your apps

Here are some startups offering MBaaS:

StackMob: Techcrunch called it Heroku for Mobile, StackMob offers a range of back-end services a mobile app will require such as: Social media, storage, authentication, messaging, analytics and so on.

Kinvey: One of the oldest, and probably the first MBaaS vendor. Make it super easy for developers to setup their cloud backend.

Appcelerator: Allows developers to create cross platform apps and also provides services such as geo location and sharing.

Parse: Offering a fermium model, parse allows developers to quickly get started on their platform and only pay once they cross a certain API threshold.

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30 Sep 2015, 3:06 p.m.

MBaaS are ok for some cases. However in many cases better leave backend to those who can get the job done effectively, the proper way. So a backend team might be better in the long term.