What is BaaS (Backend-as-a-service)?

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Backend-as-a-service is tending to become a driver of app-based projects. This is supported by the expansion of mBaaS solutions. They help the companies mitigate the risks, reduce administrative, operational, and compliance costs, and improve small & medium businesses’ efficiency in other ways.

The companies outsource the responsibilities of backend development and focus on the frontend. That is why developers, managers, and investors need to understand how it works and what value it can bring.

This article will consider the features and benefits of BaaS platforms, the most common use cases, and trustworthy BaaS providers.

BaaS Market Overview

According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the Backend-as-a-Service market reached $2 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $5.9 billion by 2025. Currently, the USA holds the biggest BaaS & mobile BaaS market share.

The market is growing thanks to an increased usage of cloud-based applications for mobile devices. There are 6.95 billion mobile users worldwide, and this number will only grow. 

Mobile users worldwide

The number of mobile apps is increasing every day. The companies’ main goal is to cut the development time and release an application earlier than a competitor does. Here BaaS comes to the rescue. At least half of all mobile applications are expected to use the BaaS model by 2023.

What is BaaS in Cloud Computing?

We can define BaaS as a partnership model allowing the companies to delegate backend and focus on the production and client-side. The backend providers offer APIs and SDK that help integrate all backend services you need without writing them. You also needn’t manage servers to maintain the work of the application.

Using BaaS, you outsource cloud infrastructure management to your partner. Doing it by yourself, you will have to spend a lot of money to install and manage. BaaS providers will offer you their infrastructure and team for its maintenance. 

Here is a list of server-side features that a BaaS vendor can provide:

  • Database management and optimization
  • Cloud storage and hosting
  • User authentication, verification, management, and storage of user-generated content
  • Push- and email-notifications
  • Integrations (Google Maps, social media, etc.)
  • Infrastructure management, scaling, data backup, and security settings)

BaaS vendor

Benefits of BaaS

Backend development is the most consuming stage of creating an application. The project’s complexity affects time, money, computer capacity, and the number of developers you will need to develop and deploy it. Taking advantage of a BaaS provider, you outsource and automate the backend development.

The vendor will offer you automatically generated code according to your specific requests. The developers will need to build on top of the existing architecture but not start writing each feature from scratch.

Business Benefits 

From the business point of view, it’s necessary to cut time and money investments without affecting the final product’s quality. By choosing the BaaS model, you save your resources by automating the routine tasks.

Business benefits

  • Reduced time to market & cost-effectiveness

These two points come together since time is money. Outsourcing the development, you buy additional time to polish the features, optimize business processes, and improve customer service. Reducing the development time will help to release a new product or update faster than your competitors. 

  • Focus on business logic

Taking advantage of a BaaS provider, you no longer need to do routine coding. This will help you free the resources and use them to focus on the business side of the application. Instead of routine coding, the developers will be able to work on business-specific functionality.

  • Focus on frontend and UX

The frontend part of an application is in charge of the interface the user will interact with. Outsourcing backend coding, you dedicate more resources to creating an awesome user experience. If the frontend is perfect, the customers are happy!

  • Cross-platform development

Coding for web, desktop, and mobile apps has a lot of difference. Developing an app for different platforms, you will have to build several applications. This will take the corresponding number of money and effort. Considering BaaS/mBaaS vendors’ service, you will get the corresponding SDKs instead of doing the same thing several times.

Tech Benefits

The development team has to plan the app’s architecture and spend hundreds of hours developing the functionality. Additionally, the app requires investments in security, backup, scaling, and maintenance. The following parts of app development can be automated using the BaaS model:

  • Code quality

The more complex your app is, the more time it takes to fix any issue. The developers have to concentrate on developing new features, and there is never enough time for the bugfix. It leads to a quick duct tape solution and the growth of technical debt. The code becomes more complex and challenging to understand. 

With BaaS, you get ready-made APIs and SDKs from a reliable company. There is almost no need to do boilerplate work and read & maintain tons of weird coding.

  • Scalability

Every business starts with a small project with few resources. Later, it needs to expand, adapt to the market realities without losing its quality. With BaaS, you can use your provider’s resources for scaling up and down without a lot of extra investments. There is no need to change the application — you request more computing power or upgrade to a higher plan.

  • Performance

The quality of performance depends on the capacity of the servers where the application is deployed. BaaS vendors have the powerful infrastructure at their disposal. They offer their computing power and DevOps team to the clients. In this case, the performance will be higher compared to deploying the app with your resources.

  • Out-of-the-box backup procedures

You never know when exactly you will face the need to restore your backups after a downtime. An hour of downtime will cost about $7000 for a small company and up to $700.000 — for a large enterprise. The BaaS provider will offer your ready-to-use backup procedures so that your clients’ data is safe and sound.

  • Continuous Delivery & Integration (CI\CD)

CI\CD is a development practice that implies frequent implementation of minor changes and continuous version control. With a BaaS model, you will not need to spend a lot of effort deploying each minor update. All the changes will be instantly integrated into the application.

Security Benefits

The software projects must protect client data and follow international privacy requirements, like GDPR. There are lots of hackers targeting to affect the system and steal/damage the customer data. For the company, this is a substantial financial and reputational risk.

The BaaS platform has enough resources to enhance security, comply the international requirements, prevent unauthorized access to your application, and restore the affected data.

Is BaaS a Good Choice for my Project?

As we’ve already mentioned, BaaS is useful for the business and technical side of the project. It will be an ideal model for most businesses, but are there areas where BaaS doesn’t fit? Let’s consider this closer.

BaaS Perfect Fits

The main advantage of the BaaS model is plenty of ready-made APIs and SDKs. It sounds like a perfect solution for a startup or an MVP, doesn’t it?

The main thing for a startup is to find a product-market fit. This is an unpredictable process with lots of cuts and tries. The only to shoot the moon is to experiment by testing different hypotheses and releasing MVPs. Since each unsuccessful experiment is a money loss, it is a must for a startup to reduce the cost of each unsuccessful try.

With its out-of-the-box solutions, a startup saves hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars on software development. It can use the saved resources to study the market, develop the business side, and look for investments. And if the try isn’t successful, the money loss is not so critical for the company.

Here are the examples of applications that can be constructed with the help of BaaS. The common feature of these applications is their typical functionality. Its framework can be bought from BaaS vendors and then customized by a developer according to your needs.

  • On-demand services: transportation (Uber), food delivery (Glovo), different types of marketplaces (freelance, real estate, services, e-commerce). Functionality: 
    • vendor & customer profiles
    • listings of goods and services
    • in-app search, shopping cart
    • geolocation
    • paying & delivery
  • Social networks & real-time messengers (Tinder, Whatsapp, Slack, Discord). Functionality: 
    • user account
    • chat with file sharing, audio & video calling
    • in-app search with different criteria
  • E-commerce apps, online shops (ebay, brand shops). Functionality: 
    • advanced search
    • in-app messenger (buyer-seller/buyer-support service)
    • customer rates, reviews
    • shopping cart, checkout, delivery options
  • Productivity apps (Trello, Todoist, OneNote). Functionality: 
    • to-do lists, ticket creation
    • advanced search
    • note sharing, attachments, comments
  • Gaming without complex gameplay (business, three-in-row, hidden objects, logical quizzes). Functionality: 
    • levels and mini-games
    • in-app currency 

custom backend

Think Twice

Let’s remember that the BaaS model offers ready-made solutions for implementing typical functionality instead of coding it from scratch. This is an indisputable benefit in the cases we considered above. But there are some business models where the BaaS model might not be a good fit.

  • Heavy apps for large enterprises

Building a complex software solution may be impossible using ready-made solutions from a BaaS vendor. Besides, such apps require huge amounts of resources, and it might be even cheaper for you to hire your backend & DevOps team rather than use the operational capacity of a third-party vendor.

  • Apps with strict security requirements (healthcare, government, finance)

Of course, a BaaS vendor will take care of security and offer you the corresponding solutions. But some projects deal with particularly sensitive information: 

  1. Governmental ones storing the personal data of millions of people
  2. Healthcare ones with sensitive medical records
  3. Banking, insurance, trading apps working with personal finance

These apps cannot afford to store their customer data with a third-party provider. That is why, for them, it is preferable to build and manage their infrastructure on their own.

  • Heavy games with complex gameplay

BaaS is ideal for casual games, but its functionality isn’t designed to handle complex scenarios and heavy graphics. If you are working on a great demanding game, not saying about augmented & virtual reality gaming, we recommend considering other models. 

mobile backend-as-a-service

BaaS Use Case: 1001 Dubai and Back4App BaaS platform

You already know about the benefits of building your platform using BaaS. Let’s take a look at a real-life example of how a startup built its SaaS platform with a backend-as-a-service provider.

1001 Dubai is an e-commerce startup helping supermarkets, pharmacies, and convenience stores to service their clients directly. The company offers an application and backend order management system for their customer’s internal use. 

Using the BaaS model helped 1001 Dubai to manage their cross-platform application via a single infrastructure, without creating a separate Android, iOS, desktop, and web app. As a startup, the company managed to save about $370.000 on hiring full-time iOS or Android developers during four years.

With backend-as-a-service, 1001 Dubai automates server-side matters, like scaling, load balancing, or security. For releasing an update, the company can easily add new logic to the server, pull in the features, and save time on deploying and maintenance.

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Read more about the most common software development strategies and take a look at their benefits and drawbacks.

Top-3 BaaS Providers

Now you know about the advantages of using the backend-as-a-service model and are able to define if it will fit your project. We have prepared a list of the most reliable BaaS providers and a brief overview of their offerings.

Firebase

Firebase platform

Initially, it was a real-time database platform with the possibility of embedding the chat functionality into a website or application. After being acquired by Google in 2014, it was gradually transformed into a BaaS platform. Now its services are divided into three main groups:

  • Development. The user can find everything for app development: database, hosting, cloud services, authentication, and even ML tools.
  • Release & monitoring include analytic tools for analyzing the user behavior and tracking the app performance. The user can also get testing, remote configuration, and distribution instruments.
  • Engagement. Here they offer robust tools for analytics and predicting user behavior with the help of ML. Also, there are instruments for sending push notifications and setting up in-app messaging.

AWS Mobile Services

Although AWS is not an entirely BaaS provider, they offer a wide pool of solutions for mobile development automation:

  • AWS Amplify. It provides a framework for easy backend management and its integration with the frontend. You just select the feature you need, and it will automatically manage your application and release process.
  • Amazon Cognito adds many options for building, securing, scaling the application, and automating the user management process. Cognito also provides an opportunity to save the data on user devices and synchronize it across different ones.
  • Amazon Pinpoint. This is a tool for interacting with app users and increasing engagement. You can integrate Pinpoint into your application to analyze the user behavior and send targeted campaigns via email, SMS, or push notifications.
  • AWS Device Farm. Here you will find the tools for testing the app, analyzing performance data, and fixing the issues before release.
  • AWS AppSync. It is a serverless backend for building data-driven applications. Here you can find the tools for handling tasks for management, access, synchronization, and manipulation of the data from many sources. 

Backendless

It provides the serverless backend for app development without any coding or APIs for integrating different app features:

  • API Management. If you use API solutions from the different backend-as-a-service providers, you will appreciate the possibility of storing and managing them on one platform.
  • User Management. Backendless provides out-of-the-box user management tools: authentication via social networks, session control, automated data validation, and user profile management.
  • Real-Time Apps. Here you will find the tools for integration the real-time data management and messaging features into your app.
  • Legacy Data to Mobile. If your app uses not mobile-friendly systems, this tool will help you integrate your solution into modern mobile or web applications.
  • Location-Aware Apps. Use this feature for integrating geolocation into an app for businesses with a local presence. 
  • Document Management. This is a file management system for instant storing, editing, and sharing documents. Using the SDK, you needn’t worry about storage space management, security, or compliance — Backendless will do everything for you.

Kinvey

This is a serverless platform providing backend and frontend SDKs for effective app development. Kinvey allows the developers to build meaningful parts of their application, such as UX and business logic. Here is a brief overview of Kinvey’s functionality:

  • Data. This is the functionality for built-in data storage, modeling, encryption, caching, etc.
  • User management. Here you find basic functionality for any app, like sign-up, authentication, verification, password reset, social media integration, user groups, updating & deleting the user profile.
  • Serverless Code. Here you can create low-code lightweight microservices for data and features integration. 
  • Security. Manage access control and update the user permission with the Kinvey security tool pack.
  • Collaboration. Take advantage of code sharing functionality for collaborative work on app development.
  • Files. Here you can upload, store, download, and delete files of different formats of up to 5 Pb.
  • Push notifications. Use Kinvey integration with Google Cloud Messaging or iOS Push notifications for reaching out to your users.
  • Troubleshooting. Find, report, and fix the errors with Kinvey REST API responses.
  • Web Hosting. Take advantage of the following Kinvey’s hosting functionality: Content Delivery Network (CDN), TLS encryption, publishing under kinveyweb.com, continuous integration & delivery.

Azure Mobile Apps

Microsoft also offers their customers their cloud services and related mobile backend-as-a-service automation tools:

  • Visual Studio. Here you can set up the cloud within minutes, run the tests on thousands of real devices, and access real-word analytic data.
  • Azure Cosmos DB. A fully-managed NoSQL database offers millisecond response time, backend by SLA, automatic scalability, and open-source APIs for MongoDB and Cassandra DB.
  • Kubernetes on Azure. Use real-time personalized recommendations for configuration of your Kubernetes Service cluster and identify potential issues, get guidance from Azure Advisor.

How to use Baas

Conclusion

Along with the growth of the IT-market, the demands of the applications grow as well. Robust functionality, perfect performance, friendly UX are must-haves for applications from any industry. The competitors release new products every day, and speeding up the development is the main task of every app-based business. That is the main success factor of the BaaS model.

Backend-as-a-service has many benefits both from the business and technical point of view. It will suit the majority of the applications, but for some types of them, BaaS won’t be a perfect option. To make the right decision, you need to study the offerings of different providers. 

If you decide to choose to build a custom backend, you are welcome to contact our team to discuss the idea.

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