Just like a vehicle is of no use without a powerful engine, a mobile application can not perform desired functions without a backend – no matter how beautiful or attractive is the app’s UI.
Without a robust backend, an application can not process data, implement business logic, provide security, or interact with users in real time. Thus, if you want your business application to perform dynamic functions, you will have to understand what goes inside a mobile app backend development process carefully and understand how you should invest in it.
To help you get started, in this article, we will explore the topic of backend development for a mobile app in detail to understand what it is and what options you have for building a robust backend to support your business application. So, let’s get started.
Basically, backend development is the “behind the scene” setup of a mobile app development project. It is defined as the creation of logic using which the app functions. An app’s backend incorporates three components – servers, middleware, and databases that can be accessed over the internet using an Application Programming Interface (API).
Mobile app backend takes care of functions like:
Basically, the mobile app backend is where the magic happens. While a user never sees the backend of a mobile app, all the functions that the app’s front end performs are powered by the backend. Let’s now discuss the component of the backend:
On the other hand, a growth-oriented or new-gen backend architecture could include a load balancer and other integrations like push notifications, email notifications, and queuing services. We have discussed the basic components below:
Doesn’t matter if your backend is on-site or in the cloud, your app will require a server to operate. It listens to the user requests and allocates resources that the whole network requires to function. These resources can include databases, web services, file storage, security, and encryption.
Generally, servers come as a part of a complete package of related programs for downloading requests for FTP, serving emails, and creating and publishing web pages. Choosing the right server for your mobile application will depend on your business needs.
For example, a shared cloud server will work for you if you want to launch a small-scale solution. However, if you are planning to develop a highly-scalable and global solution, you would require a dedicated physical server to ensure zero downtime and top-notch performance.
The database is a crucial component of a mobile app that makes it dynamic. Whenever an app user makes a request on the front end, the database accepts that query, fetches the data, processes the query, and delivers it back to the user.
The database is also responsible for accepting and editing data requests. Just like web servers, there are several database tools that developers use.
Middleware is software that functions on the server connecting an app’s backend to its frontend. It facilitates connectivity between the server and client and can be managed in several layers – both presentation and business layers.
It allows cloud apps and on-premise applications to interact and provide services like data integration and error handling. A good middleware can improve user engagement, process management, content management, authentication, etc.
Now that you know what a mobile app backend is and its major components, let’s figure out what options you have while investing in mobile application backend development and how shall you choose the one that best suits your needs.
Basically, you can develop the backend of your app in three ways – using a third-party SAAS provider, MBaaS solution, or you can invest in custom backend development. You can choose one of these methods depending on your scalability needs and business logic. We will discuss all these options below in detail.
Backends can be classified into many types depending on technology, their architecture, and the way they interact with frontend apps. However, as an app owner, you must classify mobile app backend according to the efforts and money required to develop one:
In the mobile app development world, it is not necessary to spend a fortune to get the best possible solution. All you need to do is find an option that fulfills your business needs and saves you some bucks. Two types of mobile app backends that several brands use these days are third-party services or SAAS and MBaaS (Mobile Backend as a Service).
1.Third-Party Services or SAAS
You can easily compare this type of service to the service provided by a restaurant. You feel hungry, go to the restaurant, eat a meal, and pay – that’s it. SAAS are third-party service providers that offer ready-to-use backend solutions for front-end apps. As an app owner, you just need to register and buy a subscription, and you are ready to use the backend right away.
Here are the types of mobile apps for which you can use such a service:
If you are planning to build an online shop to launch your products on mobile, third-party backend services are well-suited for your needs. You don’t need to develop a custom backend from scratch.
For example, there is Shopify. Basically, it is a platform that provides ready-to-use backend solutions for your app. Moreover, it also helps you manage processes like payments, shipment, and updating content or products on your app. Not just Shopify, there are many other platforms available in the market and you can choose depending on your needs.
Suppose you plan to launch a weather app and need weather data, you can simply develop a frontend and it can fetch the data from an already existing service like OpenWeatherMap. You will have to pay a monthly subscription fee to access the service but you won’t face any problems. Furthermore, it is a better alternative than developing your own backend.
If you are planning to build an app that requires content management (including text, images, videos, or movies), you can use a Headless Content Management Service like Contentful. The process is as simple as creating a Facebook account. Your frontend application can fetch the content via API.
Here are some of the pros and cons of using third-party backend services or SAAS:
2.MBaaS (Mobile Backend as a Service)
While third-party backend or SAAS solutions are enough for creating simple applications, if you think that your app’s functionality requires something more, you must explore the MBaaS option before deciding to build your custom backend. These solutions are perfect for apps that need proper authentication and authorization, store customer data, and require the use of features like push notifications.
MBaaS is a more flexible option than SaaS and provides you with better customizability and scalability. It basically provides you with a basic structure that you can customize as per your business requirements. You pay a monthly fee for the resource you utilize depending on your app’s traffic volume, the number of users, push notifications sent, etc.
Here are the types of apps for which you can use MBaaS:
While developing a messaging app like Whatsapp is a bit tedious, you can ease your task with the help of an efficient server-side service. MBaaS solutions are good at providing server storage, RESTful APIs, messaging protocols, and notification facilities that are crucial for developing a messaging application.
Kinvey is a perfect example of an MBaaS that you can use to develop such a chat application. It is a cloud platform that lets developers build the server side of their chat apps easily. Offering quick integration, Kinvey is also very popular in industries like health and manufacturing, and insurance.
Yes, you can also launch a robust game app without investing in developing your own backend with an efficient MBaaS platform. There are many MBaaS solutions that you can use for game apps. However, one of the best ones is AWS.
Amazon Web Service lets you easily deploy mobile backend game services like chat, push notification, and leaderboard features. Its mobile SDK lets developers build game apps seamlessly using services like NoSQL database, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon S3 for cloud storage, and you can also use Amazon Cognito for data synchronization and user identity management.
The popularity of on-demand mobile applications like Uber, Lyft, and Zomato is increasing with every passing day. However, it is not possible to create a custom backend for every app idea. You can use an MBaaS platform like Firebase to ease your task.
Big brands like Alibaba and Lyft are proud clients of Firebase as the solution is backed by Google and provides amazing functionalities. It is a legendary open-source backend development platform that is the perfect choice for startups because of its affordability and top-notch functionality.
Here are some of the pros and cons of using MBaaS (Mobile Backend as a Service):
While you will save a lot of money if you use any of the above-mentioned options to build the backend of your mobile application, you can always invest in custom mobile app backend development if these options do not suit your needs and you also don’t have budget constraints. Let’s see what its process looks like:
3.Build a Custom Mobile App Backend
This is probably the most powerful but expensive option that provides you full control and flexibility. Everything that can’t be achieved by a SAAS or MBaaS solution, can be easily built using this option. However, the obvious disadvantage is the cost and efforts required. Your custom backend can be a simple app or a tedious bunch of technologies depending on the app features and business logic. So, you will need to proceed accordingly.
To develop a custom backend, you will first need to choose the tech stack for your project. Or, you can also hire backend developers who can guide you to choose the right technologies for the development of an efficient backend at less cost.
The choice of technology stacks includes selecting the right:
Once you select the development team and technology stack as per your business needs, it is time to jump into development and build a robust backend to support your application.
At Apptunix, we have helped numerous businesses develop a robust backend to support the logic of their apps and run their operations seamlessly. We analyze business needs first and then recommend the most suitable type of backend for you so that you do not pay more than what’s required. Thus, you can rely on Apptunix’s expert team to select and implement the best mobile app backend solution for you. Get in touch with us, today!
Get the weekly updates on the newest brand stories, business models and technology right in your inbox.