You must’ve read countless research papers about cloud-based software and services helping businesses “stay competitive,” “enable economic growth,” and “boost operational efficiencies.” Despite the stereotypical nature of these claims, investing in cloud-based development is invaluable for many companies. Migrating to the cloud might improve your business as well, given that you know what you’re doing.
Speaking of papers. Based on the 2021 MarketsandMarkets research, the global cloud computing market is forecasted to grow from $445.3 billion in 2021 to $947.3 billion by 2026. With seemingly every company going to the cloud, we understand if this triggers your FOMO.
Before you begin your journey to the cloud app development, we should prepare you for the roadblocks and tell you how to bypass them. But what if you only have a vague idea about the cloud?
Read on, as that’s going to be our starting point.
What is cloud-based software?
A cloud-based application refers to software whose data, processing logic, and supporting infrastructure are partially stored online. This software is accessible through the internet, but the data can be cached on local devices for offline use.
If that sounds complicated, remember this: a cloud-based application is software in the cloud.
Differences between web and cloud-based apps
Some people tend to confuse cloud-native applications with web apps. So, let’s go through their similarities and distinctions to clear things out.
Both web and cloud-based have a frontend (client-side) and a backend (server-side). The frontend is what you interact with on your device, whereas the backend is responsible for databases, servers, and application logic. The server-side processes your interactions with the app and delivers data to the client-side.
But here’s what sets these apps apart:
- Web apps are accessible only via internet browsers, while most cloud-based apps usually have native apps for specific platforms (like Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, or iOS)
- Unlike most web apps, cloud software can work offline and sync the data in the background when connected to the internet
- Cloud-based applications use your local resources, which improves their performance
- Cloud services can provide on-demand IT resources and infrastructure to power your software and business operations
Hopefully, this makes the difference clear, and we can move to some examples.
Popular examples of cloud-based applications
There’s no better way to understand what cloud-based apps are than to look at the ones you’re familiar with. Here are some of the most widely-used web, desktop, and mobile cloud computing applications examples.
- TripAdvisor helps millions of people review popular tourist destinations, plan their travels, and make reservations via seamlessly integrated booking features.
- Airbnb lets you turn your apartment or spare room into a cash flow or find a vacation place from non-commercial entities.
- Dropbox is an online storage and collaboration platform that helps you manage, access, and modify files online and offline.
- Jira is synonymous with project management and progress tracking, and, chances are, you’re already using it for your software projects.
- MyFitnessPal might be the most popular physical activity, nutrition management, and diet tracker with a gigantic food database (and user base).
- Uber is THE mobile car-hailing app with a wealth of convenient features that popularized it across customers and freelance drivers.
Notice that most of them are available across platforms, even though they may have differences.
Take Atlassian’s Jira for Windows and Mac. It offers advanced tracking, customization options, and script support. Compared to this functionality, mobile versions are nothing more than companion apps.
The examples we’ve shown are mostly SaaS apps, but some cloud-based products can also help you in software development and IT operations. Let’s classify all these services to clear things out.
Types of cloud computing services
Cloud services offer storage, computing power, and software tools to improve your cloud applications development and business processes. These services differ in deployment strategies and levels of flexibility and control. The most popular ones include:
- Software as a service (SaaS) — an end-to-end application deployed in the cloud infrastructure that’s owned by a third-party provider. Basically, you rent servers, databases, and computing power for your software. Plus, in multi-tenant SaaS architectures, the cloud provider does all the IT management.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) — a virtualized IT environment with servers, networking features, and storage to power your business operations. This type of service offers the highest level of control, as you can manage operating systems, databases, middleware, and applications.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) — a platform for developing cloud-based applications, complete with hardware, operating systems, frameworks, and development tools. These platforms provide a framework to help you build, test, deploy, and update cloud-based products.
- Low-code platforms — a dedicated PaaS environment that allows building software with graphical interfaces, templates, and pre-made code. Low-code solutions minimize manual coding and make development possible even for non-technical staff.
- Backend as a Service (BaaS) — a cloud-based application development model where you outsource backend processes to providers. BaaS platforms can link your frontend with services like authentication management, social media integrations, notification, and cloud storage via APIs and SDKs. This allows your teams to save time and money on redeveloping the backend for these services.
By now, you should have an idea of how these cloud services help companies like yours. But to be exact, we must explore their advantages and potential problems.
Read also: Best cloud provider to choose.
Benefits of cloud-based app development for businesses
Let’s start from the bright side and show you how integrating cloud-based services and tools contributes to your business.
Operational scalability and flexibility are the biggest benefits of cloud services for 62% of companies. Cloud infrastructures with scalable architectures help adjust the storage, memory, and CPU based on your workflow and budget. This way, you can maintain high performance despite the large volumes of daily generated business data and users.
According to the 2020 Statista survey, the average cost of hourly server downtime for enterprises stands between $301,000 and $400,000 (roughly $5,000-$6,600 per minute). However, cloud environments can help you avoid these risks.
Cloud infrastructures improve the availability and reliability of production environments, development and testing. You also get to back up and restore your data in case of natural disasters and hacker attacks. So, you can make cloud-based software to maintain your critical operations at all times.
Nine out of ten companies agree that moving to the cloud can shave 10-30% off their IT budgets. In addition to that, about half consider cloud platforms the soundest way to prevent large capital expenditures.
For example, IaaS allows you to save money on building your IT infrastructure and license purchases. You get a secure and scalable environment with servers, databases, and computing resources for IT and cloud app development. Providers also upgrade and maintain the platform, reducing troubleshooting and allowing your teams to focus on business goals.
Read also: 13 ways to reduce cloud cost for your product.
Improved development process
Cloud services offer middleware, software tools, and pre-built integrations to help your development team design a cloud-based application without unnecessary backend work.
PaaS solutions offer built-in frameworks and support APIs to help you share data between applications. They support a wide range of programming languages, Agile methodologies, and DevOps practices for effective integration, testing, and deployment. Plus, reliable providers have a protected infrastructure and come with built-in mechanisms to ensure your application’s safety.
But it isn’t always sunny in the cloud, and it’s about time we mentioned some of the challenges you might face with it.
Challenges of developing cloud applications
We’re not saying that cloud-based services can cause more problems than they solve, but you definitely have to be on the lookout for the following issues.
According to the 2020 Future of the Cloud study, security is the top challenge for 66% of IT professionals. Other concerns include attaining governance and compliance (60%) and data privacy (57%).
It’s hard to overestimate the financial and reputational damage data leaks can cause. Besides, companies in healthcare and finance have to pay enormous fines for infringing data regulation laws (like HIPAA or PCI DS). So, security should be a number one priority during cloud applications development for enterprises.
To protect yourself from internal and external threats, implement security mechanisms like multi-factor authentication, role-based access control, and automatic log-off. You may encrypt your databases and communication channels to make the data unreadable to hackers. Last but not least, create data backups and recovery mechanisms in the event of natural disasters, emergencies, or ransomware attacks.
Migrating data to cloud systems is a major obstacle for 15% of businesses. Companies often lack the skills or established policies to maintain confidentiality and integrity of data during the transfer.
On top of that, companies have to train their IT teams to work within the new environment. Over 19% of companies state that they lack experienced cloud practitioners to manage their infrastructure effectively.
The complexity of the migration depends on your system’s size and architecture. Obviously, you’ll have a much harder time moving data from legacy systems with monolithic architectures.
Here’s what can help you ease the transition:
- Audit and list all systems within your organization (custom and third-party)
- Identify logical components, groups, and dependencies
- Turn your system’s components and software into loosely-coupled microservices
- Start by migrating small, non-critical subsystems to the cloud
- Use different migration approaches for your microservices
A clear strategy, relevant tech stack, and expertise — these are the critical ingredients for a successful migration. So, it’s best to consider a professional cloud computing company to move your existing systems to the cloud with minimal disruptions.
Read also: How to migrate your software to the cloud.
A part of customers in shared environments can monopolize your resources, leaving some users with less RAM, CPU, or storage. You need to ensure your architecture scales horizontally (by adding data nodes) or vertically (adding resources per data node).
Enterprises should implement performance monitoring and analytics tools to identify the cause of network, CPU, or RAM bottlenecks. And don’t forget about load balancers that process and distribute traffic across servers and databases to optimize the load.
Cloud vendor lock-in
Nearly half of IT specialists consider vendor lock-in a potential problem because some architectures can’t communicate with other cloud environments. In this case, migrating to other platforms may require you to map out dependencies or rearchitect your entire app. The hassle and costs of such an ordeal lock you in with the current provider.
About 75% of companies expect to use multisourcing for their business requirements, in part to avoid such lock-ins. You can bypass these problems by dividing your software into independent microservices and opting for cloud vendors with interoperability standards. For example, AWS supports a nearly limitless number of third-party integrations and offers tools to help you migrate from other platforms.
We’re by no means backtracking what we’ve said earlier, but switching to the cloud doesn’t guarantee that you’ll reduce your infrastructure management costs. Your expenses depend on many factors, including your application’s complexity and architecture.
Most companies won’t know how much their IT will cost them until they deploy their apps and test them in actual usage scenarios. However, you can use third-party tools like Google’s cloud pricing calculator to estimate your budget.
Cloud providers allow you to auto-scale your applications to maintain a steady performance at predetermined costs. For example, you can set a maximum number of instances for some service to ensure you don’t pay more than you’re willing to.
Now, let’s look at how you can refine your development process and maximize your application’s performance.
Methodologies to improve your cloud application development
Planning can go a long way to improve the quality of your cloud-based app. Let’s start with the phases of the software development lifecycle for your app:
1. Research. Before development, you should analyze the target audience, its needs and pains, and competitors’ cloud solutions. Focus on a specific audience and try to solve its problems in a unique way.
2. Requirement gathering. Document software requirements and design specifications for your product. Your teams should have a clear picture of the essential features, user interface choices, architecture, app logic, and security capabilities.
3. Coding. Transform the approved design according to the documented requirements. We recommend developing an MVP (minimum viable product) — a simplified app version with barebone functionality — to validate your concept and business model with minimal investment. After perfecting the foundations, you can gradually add secondary features to the app.
4. Testing. Review separate components (unit testing) and verify how they interact within a system (integration testing). Streamline both types of testing to identify the possible bugs, security gaps, data spaces, and unnecessary dependencies that may impact the performance.
5. Deployment. Launch the product after meeting the predefined criteria and technical requirements. It would help to create tutorials and maintenance documents for new team members or in case you change an outsourcing provider.
The development methodologies influence the sequences of these phases. Choosing the right one can help you enhance productivity and resource management. It also outlines the roles of engineers, testers, managers, and other stakeholders.
A sequential Waterfall approach provides clear deliverables and structure but lacks flexibility, whereas iterative models like Agile let you start small and continuously improve. Based on the 2021 State of Agile report, 60% of adopters say it boosted their productivity and time-to-market. Another 23% say it helped them reduce costs. This makes Agile an excellent option for complex cloud-based development projects.
In any case, you should adopt practices that align with your team’s skill, workflow, and project scope. But it’s never too late to adopt efficient techniques or hire a development company that follows them in their projects.
Cloud-based app architecture practices to adopt
Now, let’s look at the modern architecture practices that can help you reduce costs, maximize performance, and mitigate risks during development.
Loosely-coupled services (microservices)
Microservices architecture divides complex applications into smaller isolated, independent services. It makes system management and upgrading light years ahead of monolithic architecture with its perplexing dependencies.
For example, a healthcare cloud app may have modules for document management, video calls (telehealth), product catalog, invoice management, and customer portal. Having each module as a microservice allows your team to work on them independently without affecting the rest of the application.
Container orchestration (Kubernetes)
Containerization refers to packaging operating systems together with libraries and supporting dependencies into lightweight executables (containers). This technology makes your software easily portable to any platform and cloud environment.
You need a container orchestration platform like Kubernetes to fully implement containers in your production environment. It can ease such tasks as deployment, rolling out updates, and scaling your containerized software across multiple hosts.
Adopting Kubernetes (or other orchestration platforms) to your workflow requires experience. Still, you shouldn’t throw the idea away because of its complexity: a cloud migration company will help you transfer your apps into Kubernetes.
Continuous integration allows multiple contributors to build and deliver code changes into your app simultaneously without disrupting each other’s work. CI tools check whether changes create errors, bugs, or dependency issues. Continuous delivery expands on this practice by automatically deploying the new code to your production environment.
These practices help split cloud-based web and mobile application development into independently managed increments to validate updates. It also allows you to save resources and time by automating most testing and deployment processes.
Read also: How to hire a cloud engineer.
Accelerated mobile pages
Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) allow you to improve web app loading speed for mobile devices. It’s an open-source HTML framework used for scaled-down web pages that load instantly even with a slower connection.
With page loading speed and mobile experience being critical ranking factors on Google, creating AMP versions for some of your pages is a good idea. Just make these pages consistent with the design and functionality of your app to maintain the conversion rates.
API-first development approach
This approach places APIs as the foundation for your software. You start building your cloud app by designing a mockup of your interface. And after validating the design, your team writes the code around it.
This methodology makes a world of difference compared to the code-first approach. Instead of building the code and trying to make use of it, the API-first method laser-focuses your efforts on making the app user-centric.
Besides, the services you create with this approach are easily connected to other platforms via — you guessed it — APIs. It ensures your developers don’t have to create new code from scratch for other projects.
Speaking of developers, we know someone who could help you develop your cloud-based application professionally yet cost-effectively — Acropolium.
Developing a cloud-based application with Acropolium
Acropolium has been helping companies ideate, design, and develop cloud-based applications over the last 15 years. Our services range from IT consulting and cloud migrations to custom web and mobile development.
We also help businesses with outdated and underperforming systems embrace all benefits of cloud-based architecture.
Here are some of the cases that highlight our experience.
Cloud platform for a trading company
An international trade provider wanted us to migrate its legacy infrastructure to a scalable cloud platform.
The challenge was to transfer the company’s paper-based workflows online. To go paperless, we had to automate all processes within the company (which was quite a lot). Plus, we had to account for massive volumes of regularly generated information.
Our team had developed a cloud-based platform with automation features and advanced management tools. In addition to that, we ensured that our system was future-proof, supporting integrations and additional modules. This helped the client reduce over half of its personnel costs and attract over 37% of new enterprise customers.
Scalable hotel management application
We were excited to develop cloud-based hotel management software for a leading Ukrainian hotel chain.
The company’s original solution was slow and couldn’t scale because of its outdated architecture. So, our specialists made the cloud-based application on the multi-tenancy SaaS architecture, which greatly improved its speed and uptime. Then, our cloud specialists gradually migrated the old app into the cloud environment and implemented new functionality via APIs. We’ve also built a cloud-based mobile app for Android and iOS.
The new solution was scalable, secure, and supported various integrations and features like online booking, payment processing management, room availability control, and more. Thanks to our work, the client reduced the IT costs by 40% and increased its profits by 30%.
High-capacity airport operation system
One of Germany’s largest airport companies chose us to develop a staff operation system. The initial goal was to install the solution on their local server, but we quickly found that the company’s infrastructure couldn’t handle the load. Eventually, we decided on cloud-based architecture.
We created a smoothly-running system with modules for staff management, video surveillance, and emergency rescue services. This helped the client minimize delays and eliminate nearly half of the administration expenses.
Read also: How much does it cost to build a SaaS in 2022.
Need help building your cloud-based application?
Cloud computing services have become so widespread it’s nearly impossible to imagine a successful enterprise that ignores them. Secure and scalable infrastructures and platforms are known to help businesses enhance their operational capabilities and shave off their expenses.
It’s also no secret how challenging, time- and budget-consuming cloud-based development can be. However, an experienced provider can share effective practices and steer you away from the harmful ones.
Do you want to switch to a scalable architecture, modernize your legacy software, or build a new app from scratch? Acropolium has the technical stack, expertise, and strategy to make it happen. Drop us a call, and let’s see what we can do for you.