Custom Backend

Custom Backend: A Lifesaver When BaaS Doesn’t Cut It

January 17, 2024

While Backend as a Service offers a time and cost-efficient approach, it’s not always the panacea for every business requirement. If you’re planning to develop a web or mobile application that:

  1. Requires a distinct set of features not covered by any single BaaS provider,
  2. Demands long-term support,
  3. Has the potential to continually draw in more users,

then opting for a custom backend might be the better choice. In the latter part of this article, I’ll demonstrate how developing your product’s backend from scratch can address scenarios where Backend as a Service falls short and helps in achieving highly specific business goals.

No Risk Of Vendor Lock-In

On one hand, Backend as a Service offers convenience by providing ready-made solutions, which frees developers from writing superfluous code. On the other hand, it puts you at the mercy of the BaaS provider, who might unexpectedly discontinue their service. You might be familiar with notable examples of this, like the Parse shutdown.

Parse, a Mobile Backend as a Service launched in 2011, quickly gained fame after being acquired by Facebook in 2013. The sudden announcement of its shutdown in 2016 left many entrepreneurs and organizations stranded.

This instance illustrates how a single decision by a BaaS provider can drastically alter your development strategy and significantly impact your business. In contrast, opting for a custom backend, built on a widely-used, open-source stack like Python, gives you the flexibility to transfer development internally or to another team.

Another point in favor of custom backend development is the challenge of transitioning away from a BaaS once it’s actively used, despite data export options. At the start of a business venture, predicting long-term product development is tricky. Therefore, choosing a Backend as a Service that suits future needs is challenging. When the time comes to expand into new markets, you might find that migrating from one BaaS to another poses risks like downtime, errors, unsupported features, or is at least very time-consuming.

What Does Backend As A Service Entail & When Is It Advantageous To Use It?

Backend as a Service (BaaS) is a platform that aids in the development of web and mobile applications by allowing developers to connect their digital offerings to a backend stored in the cloud, using application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs). Thus, BaaS emerges as a prime choice for certain types of projects:

  1. Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), where the focus is on reducing time to market, decreasing development expenses, and quickly obtaining initial user feedback.
  2. Applications that are unlikely to need significant scaling in the near future.
  3. Non-essential products where changes implemented by the BaaS provider won’t cause major disruptions.

According to the report “Backend-as-a-Service: A Global Strategic Business Report,” it’s projected that the worldwide BaaS market will hit a valuation of $31.6 billion by 2020. The report, published by Global Industry Analysts, Inc., links this forecast to the continuously increasing significance of mobile apps in shaping the global economy. The rising popularity of this solution is attributed to several factors – let’s start by discussing three key ones.

Software development is not an overnight task. While the time required for product launch varies per project, analyzing real-world examples can give us a rough estimate of the timeline. A study by Ask Your Target Market, an online market research firm, commissioned by Progress, offers insight into this. They surveyed 100 developers about the time needed to create an MVP-quality native application. The findings revealed that backend development alone could take up to 10 weeks.

With this timeframe in mind, it’s clear that one of the primary benefits of using Backend as a Service is the accelerated development pace. When you opt for a suitable BaaS, there’s no need to worry about server setup or initial boilerplate coding. Simply connecting the pre-built backend to your frontend readies the app for launch. Based on the aforementioned infographics, employing Backend as a Service could halve the app development duration.

This advantage is significant whether you’re a CTO of a major company or a founder of a new startup. For a CTO, BaaS allows for quick app cloning to gauge audience reception and assess feature viability. For startup founders, BaaS not only speeds up the development cycle but also reduces costs, leading to earlier revenue generation for your product.

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