Develop a custom backend with Backend as a Service

Software as a Service or SaaS is already a common fixture in cloud computing. It describes software that can be used via an Internet connection without the need for a local version. New services in the cloud are on the rise in areas such as web development too. In this article, we take a closer look at one such area – Backend as a Service.

What is Backend as a Service (BaaS)?

Backend as a Service is an area of cloud computing and refers to a hosted backend infrastructure on the basis of which developers can quickly and easily set up a backend. The advantage is that developers don’t need to program the entire infrastructure for a web application and can focus instead on designing the front end. Front-end developers can also set up a functional server in just a few steps.

Fact

On the basics of web-based application development: Distinctions are made between the frontend and the backend – both of which provide different functionalities to create an application. In the frontend, users see the interface of the application, for example, in the form of menus, tables, graphics and text on a web page. In the backend, on the other hand, the functions of these elements and the server configurations are defined. The frontend is designed in the backend. Using the example of a content management system, text-graphics modules would be defined in the backend so that users can then compile content for web pages through text and images in the frontend. In this manner, the interaction of backend and frontend results in a finished web application such as apps or online stores.

BaaS solutions contain a number of different functions such as automated backend updates, managed databases, user authentication, and social log-ins.

Another example from cloud computing besides BaaS and SaaS is Function as a Service (FaaS).

How does Backend as a Service work?

The way the backend version works is similar to hosting a website. The BaaS provider delivers the application with different functions so that developers can combine the available data to create an individual backend. The developers then access the backend configuration via interfaces issued by the service provider using APIs or a REST interface and design the architecture of the desired web application as required.

For larger providers, registration is sufficient to get started with a free starter package. Depending on your chosen provider, you may be able to register by using your Facebook or Google account. Generic registration steps include selecting the first application and the desired target platform, for example, HTML5, iOS or Android. The BaaS solution then generates API keys and, depending on the provider, JavaScript libraries are created and additional standard functions are defined.

Advanced developers will usually not need any training to configure the backend. Setting up the backend via BaaS is quick and easy.

What are the pros and cons of Baas?

Backend as a Service can simplify and accelerate app development. But BaaS is not necessarily the right choice for all scenarios.

Advantages of Backend as a Service

  • The main advantage of the vendor solution is the simple configuration of the backend. In just a few clicks, you can create, for example, templates for tables. Database connections are also taken care of.
  • Another advantage is the backend maintenance which is the responsibility of the service provider.
  • BaaS solutions can be cloud-based which means infrastructures can be managed independent of your location or server location.
  • At the same time, designated backend developers are no longer needed, which renders the often time-consuming communication between frontend and backend a thing of the past, saving both time and money.
  • Since BaaS models are predominantly pay-as-you-use, users only pay for the contingents they require. Providers tend to offer different package levels (similar to hosting packages) so that users get an overview of costs in advance. Manageable contingents also make Backend as a Service solutions suitable for smaller companies that aren’t able to implement their own backend development due to limited resources.
  • Scalability is a decisive factor when it comes to web applications and can impact costs majorly. At first glance, Backend as a Service offers an advantage, since scaling and handling are the responsibility of the BaaS provider or are specified by the provider and may be carried out automatically. This means that the server doesn’t need to be upgraded or migrated manually. Depending on type and scope, packages may include standard functions, such as sending push messages, coverage of iOS and Android, and access to social media functions from Facebook or Twitter.

Disadvantages of Backend as a Service

  • As a result of the point made before, unforeseen costs can arise due to automatic scaling if, for example, the number of incoming requests and required data storage quantities are unknown or far exceed estimated values. In contrast, capacities and associated prices are known in advance with dedicated servers. The costs of BaaS beyond a basic package are harder to estimate in advance, making it difficult to compare the costs.
  • Security aspects, for example in the form of regular storage of server data, vary from one provider to another. Users should figure out well in advance what the BaaS provider’s storage cycles are to ensure that the data is backed up at the required intervals. This also includes backups in the event of a server failure. Check with the provider in advance how soon after a failure a server is usable again and which data is backed up in the event of failure. Where user data is collected and processed, protecting sensitive information must be a top priority.
  • Another disadvantage arises when switching from a Backend as a Service provider to a new service provider. This is because the providers use their own server interface and software development kits, thus storing the API, drivers, or network protocols in separate locations. In that case, it’s not enough to change a server address or redirect incoming requests. In addition, there are different implementation approaches developers may prefer. Often, a backend has to be re-implemented when switching providers.
  • Server locations tend to differ depending on the provider. This may hamper your BaaS ambitions or reduce your choice of potential provider. For example, if server locations in the EU are an important criterion for you.

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