Are you a C-level executive in a startup or a senior manager in a corporation? Then it’s probably your responsibility to ensure organizational resilience to crises and maximum business performance. When it comes to launching a new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) project, this also translates into selecting the SaaS technology stack that will guarantee the timely completion of the project, operational stability, code maintainability, and the scalability of the resulting product.
In this article, we will teach you to select the best tech stack for your SaaS projects based on their unique requirements and discover the key components of the SaaS tech stack. We will also explore the ways to save the development time and costs by using BaaS — Backend-as-a-Service.
You will learn to:
- Pick not the shiniest tool, but the one that does the job best
- Choose the right technologies for building a SaaS application: frontend and backend software components and services, managed BaaS offers, etc.
- Consider multi-tenant software architecture pros and cons
- Recognize the factors that should affect your choice of tech stack for SaaS development
So keep reading to find out how to choose the right technology stack for your SaaS app.
Why picking the right tech stack for SaaS is so important
As you know, a technology stack is a set of programming languages, libraries and frameworks, cloud computing services, and databases used to create and maintain a web or mobile app.
According to Alexander Glib, CEO at Acropolium,
“the technology stack you select dictates the abilities and limitations your SaaS project will have, as well as its versatility and customizability. Some companies and clients like to pick unique stacks for their projects, but this will only make maintenance and product support harder and more expensive down the road.”
That is definitely an issue no one wants to deal with.
And here are more concerns to address when choosing a tech stack for your SaaS application:
- The tools you select must ensure speed. You need to deliver the product and introduce new features or change the existing ones rapidly, so it’s best to choose the programming languages, frameworks, and libraries your team is familiar with.
- You must be able to introduce new features to production seamlessly, with minimal human interaction, and in a predictable, error-free way, for example, by using Continuous Delivery DevOps tools.
- You should automate the processes of scaling and managing production and staging environments to require minimal human effort.
- You must onboard new team members quickly and ensure they’re productive in as little time as possible.
- You must ensure the technology you select has a predictable future, like a strong and passionate community behind it. Otherwise, you will have to replace the language or framework in a couple of years when its support stops.
Choosing exotic tools to deliver a simple app will make it rigid, hard to update and support in the long run. To avoid situations like these, go for the mainstream technologies — this will make hiring a lot easier.
Another tip is to work with consultants that analyze project requirements and select the best technology stack for every case. These consultants can also predict what tools and technologies will take off, which will lose their relevance, and pinpoint the ones that are most likely to maintain their status.
Here’s an example from Acropolium’s experience.
When Flash was found to be insecure, Microsoft offered an alternative — Silverlight. Just like Flash, it allowed creating browser games and in-page apps and was all the hype back in 2012.
Back then, we tried developing an app or two using Silverlight but quickly realized it’s not going to work out. Instead, we focused on the young but promising HTML5. And soon, the variety of functions supported out of the box made HTML5 mainstream. Yet, many apps still went with Microsoft Silverlight. The result?
They are now stuck with an outdated technology that’s very hard to support, as there are little to none Silverlight developers.
The same happened to Ruby on Rails. When it came out, clients all over the world asked software development vendors to use this new and cool framework for their projects and even migrate their existing apps to RoR. But it soon turned out that Ruby on Rails wasn’t as easy to work with as everyone had thought. So, as soon as Node.js gained popularity, engineers stopped developing new projects on RoR. Today, most Ruby projects are just being supported by a handful of experts who are still working with it.
But enough history about what not to do. Let’s see what tools and technologies you should look into when developing a modern, secure, and scalable SaaS.
Key components of a SaaS tech stack
Every SaaS is a useful piece of software that should operate in the most user-friendly way. The journey begins with the frontend and mobile apps. Then, any meaningful app will be connected to the backend via APIs, and the backend is responsible for all business logic and data processing. Finally, everything should be saved in databases and storages. And each of these steps will require technologies of its own.
The frontend of a SaaS
However, we can’t stress this enough: no matter what you choose, make sure it’s a framework that is popular to easily find engineers working with it.
The backend of a SaaS
The backend stack of your SaaS will include databases, languages and frameworks, security, business logic, and more.
- Programming languages and frameworks. The most popular backend programming languages and their frameworks are Java, C#, Python (Django, Flask), and PHP (Laravel, Symphony).
- Server. You will likely choose Apache, IIS, and Nginx, which could be running on-premises or in AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, DigitalOcean, etc.
- Database. Examples include MySQL, Redis, MongoDB, and PostgreSQL, with a wide range of both NoSQL and SQL databases available.
- DevOps tools. Terraform, Docker, Kubernetes, Ansible, Jenkins, ELK stack, Prometheus + Grafana, and others are needed to build Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery pipelines (CI/CD).
- AI/ML. Your SaaS can benefit from in-detail data analytics powered by purpose-built AI algorithms. Such services are available on AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure or can be built using a variety of Python, R, or Go libraries if you’re skilled enough.
- Event brokers. Kafka or RabbitMQ help streamline backend events in CQRS architectures, distributed data sources, and other complex backend structures.
All these are essential in SaaS development. But choosing the best one isn’t as important as selecting an optimal set of tools for your particular project. This is where Backend-as-a-Service comes forward.
BaaS as a way to speed up time to market
Instead of designing and implementing complex backend systems for your SaaS, you can use BaaS from a specialized managed services provider. This way, you save time and costs by not needing to design, build, and maintain such complex software. You also don’t need to hire and retain talents necessary to do the job — the BaaS provider will do that for you.
Now, have you thought about the architecture of your SaaS? We bet it will be multi-tenant, but you need to learn about the single-tenant approach too.
Software architecture for SaaS development
You can design your SaaS to run a separate instance of a database for every customer or store all customer data within a single database and separate them on other levels. And, of course, there are pros and cons to each approach.
With the single-tenant approach, you dedicate separate computational resources to every customer, so everyone runs a separate instance and does not have to share anything with other tenants. This is more secure but usually requires more resources.
With a multi-tenant approach, your customers can share the same web-based app, database, and/or infrastructure behind it. This is obviously more resource-efficient but requires extra security measures. Besides, this simplifies updates, in-app marketing, A/B testing, and other business processes and activities.
Factors that influence the choice of a tech stack for SaaS
Picking the right technology stack for SaaS development when you have fewer options at every step is easier. There are just several factors left to consider.
Think several years ahead. Will you have access to the same talents who wrote the code? Will the language and framework used to build the app still be popular, or will they be considered legacy? Will you be able to hire new talents to make adjustments easily?
Going for a popular language and framework combination is a safer bet for a futureproof app. And even if new tools emerge daily, few of them deserve your attention. Ensure the technologies you choose are popular and have strong support from their community.
You probably want to extend and improve your SaaS for a long time, but will it scale easily? Angular apps scale much better than React apps because Angular was built with scalability in mind from the get-go.
Time to market
The shorter it is, the bigger the chances of you outperforming your competitors. So select the technologies and approaches that boost your software delivery rate through automating and simplifying repetitive operations. This includes automated unit tests for code, CI/CD pipelines for environments, automated analytics, and more.
We shortlisted these factors because we see managers neglecting them or not giving them enough thought. Believe us, they are as important as choosing the database. How do we know that?
Acropolium has built multiple SaaS solutions of different sizes. And, based on our experience, here are the final considerations that influence the selection of the tech stack:
- Product requirements. Select the simplest tools that get the job done with regard to your unique product requirements.
- Software grade. Small, lightweight, and standalone apps can be easily built using literally any tool kit. But enterprise-grade software is expected to support a wide range of integrations to form an ecosystem of products. This means it requires C#, Java, and other heavy-duty tools.
- The existing skill set. It’s much easier to add several missing talents to the team and use the skills you already have in-house than hire an entirely new team to deliver a product.
- One app—one subdomain. This way, you won’t need to adjust your company’s homepage every time you launch a new product. The approach streamlines frontend-backend interactions.
Here are some examples of how Acropolium implemented these principles in real-life projects:
- Building a SaaS CMMS for remote device management for a healthcare provider
- Hotel chain management software app development
- Leading UK event management software development
How to choose the best tech stack for a SaaS project
Choosing the right SaaS tech stack is no easy feat. But we recommend going for the simple and reliable technologies and tools available on every layer of the stack. You shouldn’t search out niche tools without LTS support; instead, focus on selecting the most popular technology on the market.
In the end, only the expertise gained with years of software development can help define the most relevant SaaS tech stack for every project. This is why Acropolium is happy to lend our expertise and provide consulting on how to choose a tech stack for the SaaS product you plan to build. Acropolium can offer its BaaS services or help you develop a SaaS from scratch — we have ample experience in both. So get in touch with us today, and let’s talk business!