This content is part of the Essential Guide: Comprehensive mobile app development guide

How MBaaS fits into a mobile app development strategy

Mobile backend as a service lets developers use existing APIs and SDKs to connect mobile apps to company data. Explore the good and bad of MBaaS as well as what to look for in a vendor.

There are a lot of mobile application development tools on the market that simplify the entire app development process. One such option is mobile backend as a service.

Mobile backend as a service (MBaaS), a cloud computing offering, connects a company's mobile apps to its data, servers, databases and more using application program interfaces (APIs) and software developer kits (SDKs). Because MBaaS is middleware and it takes care of all of the back-end connections, developers can focus on delivering the best possible user experience for mobile apps.

Take some time to learn more about how MBaaS can fit into a mobile app development strategy, what to look for in a vendor, concerns with the technology and more.

What are the benefits of MBaaS?

Developing custom apps from scratch is time-consuming and expensive. Developers need to know what data the app will access, how the app will access that data and how to keep that data secure. MBaaS takes the hassle out of the back end by connecting apps to the required resources, including the code for basic application features such as authentication. MBaaS also takes care of connecting mobile apps to company data, including databases and RSS feeds.

MBaaS sends the data to mobile apps through APIs, and developers do not have to modify any data sources to work with MBaaS apps. Developers can work with on-premises APIs they've already built or public APIs in the cloud to lay the foundation for mobile apps. And MBaaS has security and management controls in place.

What are the major concerns with MBaaS?

Developers can focus on delivering the best possible user experience for mobile apps.

MBaaS comes with some issues to keep in mind when forming a mobile app development strategy. Version control can be problematic. If a company's developer used an MBaaS vendor's API and that vendor updates its API version, the update may not be compatible with the company's systems or a specific mobile app.

MBaaS APIs also present another attack surface for hackers, who can use denial of service attacks and other methods to steal private information from an app.

Vendor lock-in is another potential problem. If developers rely on a third-party MBaaS vendor APIs, for example, and their mobile apps won't work without them, then the organization can't just move to a new MBaaS vendor. If the vendor is failing or makes major changes then their mobile apps won't work.

What should organizations look for in an MBaaS vendor?

Every MBaaS vendor is a little different, but there are a few common features organizations should look for. First of all, application integration is essential. Developers who want to deliver apps to users through an enterprise app store find a vendor that allows them to integrate MBaaS apps into their existing store. MBaaS apps also have to work with an organization's existing version control systems and development tools.

Organizations that support a wide variety of devices and operating systems, need to make sure the MBaaS vendor they choose supports OSes beyond iOS and Android so their mobile apps work across multiple platforms.

A good enterprise MBaaS vendor should include an analytics dashboard for monitoring and collecting mobile app usage data as well. It should also offer user management capabilities to support profiling, personalization and access controls. Other key features to look for include user interface testing, custom server-side scripting and support for push notifications.

When is MBaaS a good fit and when is it not?

Any company that needs to deliver apps fast should consider MBaaS. MBaaS speeds up the entire development process because it allows developers to build an app once and have it work on multiple operating systems. Developers don't have to rewrite common code. They also have access to the code for application features such as geolocation through their MBaaS provider.

If a company's developers want control over back-end infrastructure MBaaS might not be an ideal fit. Even minor changes to the back end may be impossible with MBaaS because developers do not have complete access to the infrastructure located in the vendor's data center Also, overly complex apps do not work well with MBaaS because the back-end infrastructure is designed to be universal and does not usually support features unique to one particular app.

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