The Backend components illustration.

For over a decade, BaaS (Backend as a Service) has been quietly winning the hearts of both software developers and their clients. This is hardly surprising, given the dramatic speed boost it can deliver for the development process. But is BaaS a universal solution, or are there only specific BaaS use cases where this approach works?

Acropolium is a longtime fan of serverless, and BaaS is our favorite. We’ve built social media apps, chatbots, and other software using this low-code technique. And even though we genuinely believe that most applications will never need more backend than BaaS can offer, in certain setups, it just shines.

If BaaS is one of the backend choices for your upcoming project, this article will help you make an informed decision. We’ll cover the typical reasons to opt for this serverless option and support them with several BaaS case studies.

So, what makes BaaS so attractive, and should you jump on the bandwagon? Let’s find out.

Why businesses will continue to invest in BaaS

BaaS solutions are in demand. Most industries can benefit from using this serverless architecture.

Backend as a Service has come a long way since making its first appearance around 2011. The technology has passed its nascent stage and reached maturity, offering backend services for every taste. BaaS is making great strides in capturing the market, with about 50% of all mobile apps expected to rely on BaaS by 2023.

Let us quickly remind you of a few facts about Backend as a Service.

What BaaS offers

Backend as a Service came about to fill a gap in the market. See, the vast majority of web and mobile apps require similar backend infrastructure and services in order to function. We’re talking about physical servers that work in the cloud — and the code to run things like databases, file storage, authentication, social media integration, and so on.

With BaaS, we now have a way to outsource the most time-consuming, repeatable aspects of backend development. BaaS providers like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, and others are offering all-inclusive package deals. By purchasing a subscription plan, you get access to SDKs (Software Development Kits) and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to facilitate development and integrate services, respectively.

And there’s no need to worry about hardware, either — everything’s been taken care of. The setup usually takes a few clicks, and your engineers can start creating the frontend part of your software.

To sum up, here’s what you can get when using Backend as a Service:

  • Real-time database management
  • Cloud backup
  • File storage
  • Hosting
  • Tools for integration with social media and other services
  • Built-in security features like authentication, etc.
  • ML (Machine Learning) capabilities
  • Analytics and testing tools
  • Compliance with privacy regulations like GDPR and/or HIPAA
  • SDKs to boost the development of these and other features
  • APIs to make requests between programs

Sidenote: you can find detailed information about the nature of BaaS in our article right here.

A quick glance at the standard BaaS features is enough to see that it’s destined for success. But what’s causing its rapid adoption, and which industries use BaaS the most? Here’s our take on the matter.

Read also: BaaS Security and Privacy Explained.

Who uses BaaS and what drives the demand

As we’ve mentioned before, Backend as a Service was created to facilitate the development of mobile and web apps. Luckily, today’s consumer economy is largely smartphone-driven, and the pandemic is pushing for more remote services and tighter release timelines for new apps and features.

All of this makes BaaS a perfect fit for applications in multiple industries, including:

  • Healthcare
  • Fintech
  • Retail
  • HoReCa
  • Automotive
  • Construction
  • Gaming

Overall, BaaS comes to the rescue whenever there’s a need for tight integration of data management with basic user-end functionality and robust performance out of the box. That need keeps growing, and so does the popularity of the BaaS architecture.

What can your business expect to gain from using Backend as a Service on your next project? Scroll down to the next section, we have it figured out.

Backend as a Service benefits

Prepare to enjoy the multiple benefits BaaS can offer.

Integrating BaaS into your development pipeline will result in a number of advantages. A typical BaaS platform will allow your business to:

  • Cover typical server-side needs. That’s what BaaS is all about — giving your project a starting point, with most bases already covered.
  • Increase development speed. Building a quality backend takes time and effort, and BaaS is here to help you save both.
  • Focus on the frontend. BaaS helps your developers increase their productivity when working on the product’s business logic, design, and functionality.
  • Reduce time to market. With BaaS, you can deploy much faster and have your software ready for release within tight deadlines.
  • Get tools for testing and analysis. Most BaaS providers supply this out of the box. Analyze the stability and performance of your product on the fly.
  • Lower development and infrastructure expenses. With BaaS, there’s no need to spend a fortune on servers and their maintenance or hire a backend development team.

Once again, more information on the benefits of Backend as a Service is available in this article. Meanwhile, we’re moving on to some real-life BaaS examples to better illustrate our point.

5 BaaS use cases to learn from

We’ve compiled a list of 5 use cases of Backend as a Service based on information available from large vendors, as well as on our projects. Some project and client names are disclosed, while others are protected by NDAs. These examples of Backend as a Service usage showcase the benefits of the approach in various industries. Let’s get down to it!

App for a luxury clothing brand (Neiman Marcus)

Courtesy of Amazon and Neiman Marcus used AWS Amplify in its digital sales app.

When Neiman Marcus decided to create their omnichannel digital selling app Connect, they estimated it would take four months to launch it. This was already a narrow time frame, but the Covid-19 lockdowns were pushing the brand’s sales online. The company’s associates needed a reliable tool to manage customer data to make each interaction unique.

By employing Amazon’s serverless architecture through the use of AWS Amplify, the engineers at Neiman Marcus were able to beat their original deadline and reduce development costs by a whopping 90%!

The team at Neiman Marcus used multiple Amazon cloud services:

Here’s a brief summary of the results:

  • Speed to market up by 50%
  • Development costs down by 90%
  • Better agility and elasticity

Scaling a trivia game

French game developer Two4Tea leveraged the power of Parse customized by Back4App to scale its game.

Two4Tea is a mobile game developer from France, and Fight List is one of their top games. The development team initially went with the Parse platform but soon realized that its open-source implementation wasn’t ideal for their case.

See, Fight List’s popularity was snowballing, and the company didn’t want to lose momentum due to scalability issues. Parse, with its multitude of modular apps just wouldn’t cut it — Two4Tea devs didn’t have time on their hands to sift through the choices.

Ironically, they turned for help to Back4App, a serverless provider that customizes Parse for specific client needs. Back4App helped create the perfect backend that dealt with the peak 600 requests per second in the game and solved other challenges.

With the use of Back4App’s customized BaaS platform, Fight List received:

  • A database dashboard for user rankings, as well as for the questions and answers
  • Push notifications for iOS and Android
  • Cloud code for backend access and third-party API integration

As a result, the company was able to keep pace with the game’s growing success.

Here are some recent Fight List stats:

  • Over 55 million players worldwide
  • Available in 7 languages
  • Top-ranked in app stores in many countries
  • Over 1 million concurrent players at peak

Self-care habit tracking app (Fabulous)

The creators of the personal improvement app Fabulous achieved 2x better retention with Google's Firebase.

Fabulous is a mobile app for iOS and Android that uses behavioral science to help users build healthier habits. Its backend uses Google’s Firebase to improve customer onboarding.

When people download an app like Fabulous, they want to set their life on a new course. In order to maintain their resolutions, the app needs to offer a highly personalized, customizable experience. Firebase provided the necessary analytics tools and a flexible workflow to make changes within the app. It also helped track the user journey and simplified inviting new customers through email.

These are the results:

  • Retention rate: 2x higher
  • Time to implement custom onboarding: 1 day

Restaurant chatbot

This was an actual project developed by the team at Acropolium. Our client wanted an app that would automate the entire process of making orders and payments, along with delivery. Time wasn’t our ally, as Covid infections were on the rise, and the situation in HoReCa was deteriorating quickly.

We needed to create a cross-platform mobile app with a chatbot and a payment gateway fast.

It took Acropolium three weeks to design and develop a solution based on our internal BaaS system. Thanks to low-code backend automation, only two engineers were involved. Our client received their app faster than they could expect and were extremely satisfied with the results.

There were some added benefits, too:

  • Development costs reduced by 75 %
  • Time to market: down by 60%
  • Support expenses: 80% lower

Re-architecting the National Health Service

The creators of the personal improvement app Fabulous achieved 2x better retention with Google's Firebase.

The British National Health Service (NHS) hasn’t seen a threat as dangerous as Covid-19 in over 70 years of its history. The institution’s website was the country’s main source of information on the new virus. Facing continuous outages due to unprecedented surges in online traffic, the NHS turned to Microsoft and its Azure ecosystem for help.

The backend of the national healthcare operator’s website was in need of a complete overhaul. The system had to be able to scale in response to peak loads and deliver better performance overall.

The Microsoft team assigned to the project was able to quickly identify issues and make necessary changes. Backend services were moved to the cloud and supplemented with new features using a number of tools:

As a result, the new NHS backend framework allowed for the stable operation of the website. Here are some of the benefits of the new system:

  • Distribution of computing resources with better efficiency
  • Improved access time due to multiple server locations
  • Ability to quickly develop new features by replicating backend
  • Ability to stress-test functionality on the go

The NHS case concludes our BaaS case study section. As you can see, the technology can be successfully applied across many industries to achieve a variety of goals. However, BaaS has a direct competitor. Let’s see how they differ and who wins.

BaaS vs. custom backend

Custom backend and BaaS have different use cases.

The BaaS architecture promises a ton of benefits, but should you completely rule out custom backend development? Let’s have a look at the pros of each approach.

Pros of custom backend development

Building the frontend on the Lego-like BaaS backbone is quick and convenient, but some projects are more nuanced and require special treatment. Here are a few essential reasons for creating your backend from scratch.

Flexible and highly scalable

Although BaaS solutions do a great job of managing storage and network capacity, there can be some restrictions. For instance, as your product gains popularity and attracts more customers, you may find that the prices of your vendor’s plans increase exponentially.

If you look at the pricing of Google’s Firebase, you’ll notice that fees go up after you’ve used a certain limit of CPU time, storage, and function invocations. When you own the infrastructure of your custom backend and have a dedicated team of developers, you’ll be able to manage those expenses more efficiently.

Another perk is the freedom from vendor lock-ins which may eventually limit your app’s functionality.

More custom-tailored options

It’s true that Backend-as-a-Service solutions are meant to automate repeatable tasks and free your business from hardware-related headaches. However, even the best packages can’t possibly encompass every feature you might need for a particular customer BaaS use case.

A team of backend developers, on the other hand, will be able to implement each specific requirement with fastidious care. Not only that, they can fine-tune and optimize your software to a much higher degree than standardized BaaS tools will allow.

You own the code

Written specifically for your project, the codebase remains your property — unlike with BaaS, where the provider retains the right of ownership. The ultimate difference lies in the ability to modify the app’s components further down the road. You can always rewrite your code, but you won’t be able to alter proprietary BaaS modules.

One way to circumvent this restriction is to use open-source BaaS solutions.

Are you leaning towards a custom backend? Make no mistake, BaaS does have its advantages. Otherwise, why would we consistently use it in our projects?

Pros of using BaaS

When properly set up and integrated, Backend as a Service can be instrumental for a project of any scale. Here are some of its strengths.

Quick deployment of features

The fact that BaaS solutions rely on standard frameworks — packages of code that’s been tested and is ready for use — saves developers a lot of time. Even better, most of the functionality you may need is already built in. For instance, you can have your authentication procedures and push notifications ready for use almost immediately.

Less time to release

Another perk that comes from Backend as a Service technology use: you’ll release your software much sooner than if you had to develop a custom backend. BaaS vendors offer packs of components that have been tested for compatibility with each other, so you’re very unlikely to run into issues there. A very welcome speed boost in today’s competitive world.

Standardized environment & settings

BaaS providers ensure there are no discrepancies in the codebase and that their software complies with modern standards. Like GDPR and HIPAA — data privacy and security regulations for the EU market and the US healthcare industry, respectively. Imagine the time your backend developers would have to spend to guarantee adherence to those standards.

A ready-made infrastructure to rely on

BaaS helps you fully leverage the power of cloud computing. Since buying and maintaining server hardware isn’t your concern any longer, you can kick back and put the money you save to better use. And if your business is a multinational enterprise, having server clusters in every region is great for quick data access and short page load times. Large BaaS providers will have that on offer.

Based on all the information and arguments we’ve gone over so far, we can now formulate some recommendations on using BaaS.

Read also: How to find backend developers.

When to use BaaS for your project

Learn about the main reasons projects choose backend as a service.

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as it may seem. Our advice is to always discuss your backend architecture with your IT department or software partner. They should have the necessary experience to determine whether BaaS is the best option.

But let’s look at some typical scenarios and explain the advantages of using BaaS along the way.

You need to develop an MVP or a POC quickly

When a Minimum Viable Product needs to be released as soon as possible, BaaS is the way to go. Utilize its building blocks to save time on backend development and get your main functions in working order. The same goes for making a Proof of Concept. There’s simply no alternative to BaaS in terms of speed.

Your app does not require complex functionality

BaaS really packs a punch when it comes to delivering essential features for mobile and web apps. For instance, If you’re building a chat app and don’t plan to turn it into a full-fledged content platform later, BaaS will have all you need. On the contrary, if you plan to significantly alter or increase your app’s range of functions, consider custom backend development.

You want to save on testing and monitoring

Most big players among BaaS providers offer convenient testing and debugging tools in their standard packages. You can run your app and use crash analytics or define some of your users as beta testers. That means big savings on your in-house or outsourced testing team.

Your app will operate in multiple locations/regions

With industry giants like Amazon, you can rest assured that your product will perform equally well across Europe and in the US. Their arrays of servers all over the world will offer secure storage and quick access to data.

Have we answered all of your questions? It’s time to draw some conclusions.

BaaS is here to stay

Backend as a Service has proven its worth in battle — and the post-pandemic economy keeps us all on our toes. BaaS has given new impetus to backend development by making it simpler and speeding it up to a great extent. Part of the cloud universe, the architecture will definitely stay relevant for a while. Any business with ambitions in the software market should take a good look at it.

As developers, we’re excited about having a tool like BaaS in our arsenal. Don’t get us wrong — we love full-cycle development at Acropolium. But an opportunity to throw our every resource at creating the core functionality and design of your product and deploy it faster? We wouldn’t miss it for the world.

If you browse through our portfolio, you’ll find that in the 17+ years on the market, we’ve built solutions for every major industry. From transportation, oil & gas, and construction, to healthcare, fintech, and HoReCa — Acropolium’s engineers have the skills and experience to tackle the most diverse and complex challenges.

Let’s discuss your needs and get your project up and running.