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These days it is difficult to peruse through a technology journal or blog without finding the term ‘app cloud.’ Nowadays, it’s impossible to find a company that has never employed a cloud app for any of its SaaS products. While some might believe that this is just a new buzzword, however, cloud apps are transforming the manner in which we deploy mobile technology. So, to shed more light on this ambiguous phenomenon, let’s start from the basics.
What Are Cloud Apps?
In the simplest sense, cloud apps are mobile applications that run on the remote server and are accessible to users through a web browser or local client. Essentially, these web-based applications require the use of a web browser on the smartphone to display the content. However, unlike web apps, they aren’t entirely dependent on a web browser to function. Though they maintain a unique combination of characteristics from both desktop and web apps.
Furthermore, cloud apps usually take up little to no storage space on users’ smart devices since data is kept on a remote data center. This means that back-end elements such as authentication, integration, and security, all occur off-device.
What’s the Difference Between Cloud Apps and Traditional Apps?
Generally speaking, the key differentiator between cloud and traditional apps is the architecture (the systems and structures that constitute a piece of software). Fundamentally, traditional apps tend to be more rigid, with three principle tiers: logic tier, presentation tier, and database tier.
All these tiers are typically hosted on their own individual server, which remains the case in the event that the app is moved to a virtual server. As such, the app infrastructure is harder to scale and static, whereby if any of the infrastructure fails, it all fails. That being said, while traditional apps may seem ‘cloud-ready,’ they are not purposefully designed to be used on the cloud. As a result, they tend to cost more to maintain and do not benefit much from moving to the cloud.
On the other hand, cloud apps are deployed in the cloud from start to finish. This means that they are less dependent on physical infrastructure and much more versatile. Furthermore, they are typically constructed using service-oriented architecture (SOA). The benefit of this architectural type is that data can be delivered employing individual components. Furthermore, cloud mobile apps are easier to scale and maintain as cloud providers offer multiple managed services to help in this regard. As such, cloud apps are increasingly becoming the go-to solution for companies that desire to build modern, scalable apps from the very beginning.
Why Mobile App Cloud?
1. Multi-platform Compatibility
Cloud platforms offer the freedom to opt for any platform. This means that mobile developers can launch a cloud app concurrently on Android as well as iOS. This multi-platform compatibility reduces workload and makes app execution easier while enabling the mobile app to reach a broader user base.
Furthermore, developers don’t have to worry about fixing the different types of smartphone resolutions for the devices they are targeting while building the mobile app.
2. Shorter Development Time
Since cloud apps are built leveraging containers and microservices, they can be deployed and updated within a shorter time frame. In contrast, traditional apps require an integrated set of services to performantly function, thus dictating longer development time.
Furthermore, cloud apps can rely on serverless architecture, which reduces the time developers spend on infrastructure and can prioritize code. As such, expeditiously build a cloud app from scratch, or quickly convert a legacy app into a cloud-ready version.
For many modern businesses, time is everything since features are often built iteratively and quickly to achieve faster time to market. So, with cloud apps, integration of security features and back-end connections is typically facilitated by pre-packaged functions and APIs that are already configured. As a result, developers are empowered to focus on creating apps with rapid and efficient iterations, from coding and testing through debugging.
3. No Installations for Users
With app clouds, users are not required to install or download the app from App Stores to their smartphone devices. This means that users can view and use the app directly off the mobile browser.
Relatedly, this means that cloud apps do not require frequent updating by the user to remain operational as the apps run directly from the cloud.
4. Scalability and Reliability
In terms of scalability and reliability, cloud apps rely on the cloud service provider’s competence. This means that they tend to be easier to scale up or down, depending on the volume of the incoming traffic (auto-scaling), if user demand increases.
Furthermore, it is imperative to keep updating a mobile app in line with users’ needs. Because cloud apps can be automatically updated and tweaked for improvements on a regular basis, they tend to be more reliable. As such, whenever new features are added, users do not have to install a new update to benefit from the improved experience.
5. Secure Data Storage
Since native mobile applications store data locally on mobile devices, the data can occasionally get lost, or the device can encounter data errors and malfunctions. In contrast, this is not the case with app clouds. For the most part, if crucial data is stored in the cloud, there is minimal risk of it getting lost.
This merit is particularly vital as one’s application has to collect and store sensitive data about users. For instance, if a mobile app collects payments, it will have to securely store customer billing information. This is because a data breach can destroy a company’s reputation, and restoring it is nearly impossible.
Application development and maintenance can be expensive undertakings. From R&D to unit and usability testing, these discrete phases can end up costing an arm and a leg depending on the app’s scope and purpose. Furthermore, it is exceedingly difficult to continually institute changes based on feedback from users.
Mobile cloud apps offer an undeniable cost-benefit for entrepreneurs and start-up founders. By opting for cloud apps, entrepreneurs can accelerate time to market and have a prototype ready in record time.
This can be very helpful for start-ups with limited funds as developing a native application for Android typically takes two or three times longer than for an iOS application. In contrast, with a cloud app, you only have to construct the app once, and it will work on both OS platforms.
7. Data Recovery
Data recovery is much easier with cloud apps. This is because data is typically stored on different servers and backed up on a regular basis, which ensures that no incident will lead to total data loss.
On the other hand, some native apps with data stored on-device do not offer the same assurances and fail-safes. For example, if the device crashes or gets damaged.
8. Better Performance
Arguably, cloud apps offer the best performance due to their self-monitoring features. Modern cloud apps know the health of their cloud instances, and can self-correct where needed. For instance, through load balancing and auto-restarting. Furthermore, cloud apps are more resilient than other apps as the failure of individual instances does not typically affect the entire service.
The Caveat for Cloud Apps.
Since cloud apps typically communicate with a wide range of services through their APIs, they can occasionally be susceptible to data breaches and other types of cyber threats. However, a counter benefit of cloud apps is that the distributed nature of their components diminishes the risk of brute force attacks that can easily take down a single enterprise server. The good thing is that a host of security measures exist to mitigate such scenarios, such as using SSL, proxy servers, and data encryption.
Furthermore, the increased modularity and scalability of cloud apps sometimes demands additional resource requirements. For example, some cloud apps may constitute numerous components for developers to keep track of, like hundreds or even thousands of microservices.
And, lastly, developers may have to regularly perform some extra work to track the usage of cloud services. Also, since cloud hosting fees are often based on usage, the developer’s costs may rise and fall based on how much data or bandwidth their cloud app uses. For example, if you set up an automated testing routine on your cloud app and forget to turn it off, you may end up paying fees that you shouldn’t be paying.
All things considered, cloud apps are becoming prevalent and gaining adoption because of their responsiveness, scalability, quick development time, and the fact that they do not need to be stored permanently on a smartphone. Essentially, suppose there is a decent internet connection, and the mobile cloud application is well written. In that case, it will surely provide the same experience as a native app while offering the portability of a traditional web application.
As has been noted, app cloud development focuses on speeding up an application’s performance, generating more results as a company conducts business. Furthermore, cloud apps also tend to help increase customer engagement through fast and personalized online experiences, which is beneficial in a fast-paced world where users expect immediate, reliable, and safe access to services.