MBaaS Platforms: Choosing the Right Mobile Backend Provider

Every mobile app developer knows that establishing the backend connection is an essential part of any development process. But here is the deal – to build an mBaaS platform yourself or to rely on the third-party service? And if the answer is ‘yes’ on the second part, then which provider is better for your project?

Choosing the right one mBaaS service could be tricky since the decision will depend on the final goal you want to achieve with your application. So, we’ll try to help you sort some things out.

What is the mBaaS and why do you need it

Everything starts with a definition, right? Also known as Backend-as-a-Service, mBaaS stands for backend server infrastructures for mobile app making that allow developers to avoid coding of the most common functions in applications. Such services let you handle a centralized database that clients use for sharing their content through the cloud.

Nowadays, mobile backend providers pushed out of the competition the mobile enterprise application platforms and became the saviors for startups that can’t afford their own servers. Why?

Simply put, the mobile app backend development is a pretty demanding and complicated process. It requires a special skills’ set – like the professional managing of server-side technologies (Ruby or PHP) and secure authentication system. Not every iOS or Android developer is trained in this field.

The process is also time-consuming and difficult to scale, but today you don’t need to waste your money and efforts on developing a backend yourself. There are plenty of mBaaS providers, from the giant vendors to the small but reliable platforms, who will guarantee you receiving a proper server for your application. 

What does the mBaaS offer to its clients?

What does the mBaaS offer to its clients?

User interface and experience of your app have to be distinguishing and flawless along with the complete security of the data storages. Usually, most of the mBaaS platforms provide developers with a somewhat typical set of functions for that purposes, which we’ll name below.

High-quality backend-as-a-service product for multiple mobile OS’s must provide you with the following:

1. Admin section

  • Programming interface for user management
  • Host-side: Server Code; Cloud & File Storage
  • Database’s architecture with processing capabilities
  • REST APIs for connection between the app and cloud service
  • Tools for the custom backend data handling
  • Secure channel for client-server communication
  • Options to manage user records
  • Push notifications to interact with users
  • Analytical instruments
  • Upgrades without the need for extra hardware (in case the app grows)
  • Thorough and understandable documentation

2. User section

  • Registration & logging
  • Email verification & password resets
  • Messaging and chats
  • Social media integration with famous networks
  • Geolocation

Also, there are exclusions that offer more additional features or the deeper services. For example, enterprise-oriented mBaaS platforms offer an integration with some existing applications and databases. In addition, various backend systems generate their own mobile SDKs, support app’s offline operation and database synchronization, or provide you with custom mobile device management.

How to Choose the Right Backend?

To choose the right mBaaS provider with needed functionality, you’ll have to evaluate all features described above and the services’ support for the devices that your app is designed for. You need to cross-reference and differentiate the available mBaaS platforms according to the technical requirements and the core purpose of your app. Define for yourself what features are crucial and important most of all, then see which provider has the whole package.   

And during the assessment, we strongly recommend considering such issues as: 

  1. How the mBaaS processеs different authentication and authorization mechanisms?
  2. Relational databases service VS Schema-less storage. Is data storing plays a huge part for the app?  
  3. Does the mBaaS offer a detailed analytics service (dashboard) for real world performance monitoring?
  4. Which data will you collect from the app’s users? What information would be tracked and analyzed by the backend instruments?
  5. Sort out all the features each platform offers and range them based on their relativity to your goals.

In short, look for the mBaaS services that will provide you with maximum technical support and allow you focusing more on designing some specialized functions in the application. Can we take a moment and review several of such highly-rated platforms?

Top 3 mBaaS to Consider

If you need a mobile backend system as soon as possible, the landscape is quite striking. But we decided to take a closer look at the following successors among mBaaS solutions.

1. Appcelerator

MBaaS Platforms Appcelerator

Appcelerator lets you build, deploy, and host on various servers (public, virtual private, private). This provider is your complete end-to-end solution that includes: mBaaS platform with interfaces and more than 20 APIs, Node.js support, and the cross-platform app development tool. Its local development environment compiles JavaScript to native code for both iOS and Android.

There is also the robust algorithms to analyze mobile metrics (engagement, user acquisition, retention, etc.). Due to the performance panel, developers could get valuable insights about the app installs, sessions, push notification logs, API requests, and crashes displayed on the Appcelerator’s cloud dashboard page. This platform allows a developer to handle the data management and cloud configuration. SOASTA’s TouchTest plays a role of an integrated mobile testing solution for a testing panel.

Appcelerator also has the Titanium SDK with an interface between JavaScript and native services. Then, for more advanced usage, there is the Alloy Framework with its model-view-controller architecture and built-in support for Backbone and Underscore. It also takes care of some offline/online data synchronization but not all of it.

2.  Kinvey

MBaaS Platforms Kinvey

One of the leaders during the last couple of years here – a complete app platform that covers native, hybrid, and web approach. In short, Kinvey offers the broadest selection of MBaaS services on the market and allows you easily to develop for iOS, Android, HTML5, and Xamarin.

The list of main services include:

  • Major enterprise databases
  • Great client support
  • Backend data storage
  • Push Notifications
  • Authentication
  • iBeacon integration
  • Location Services
  • Analytics
  • Out of the box integration with Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, and others
  • The ability to run custom code or use the additional code snippet libraries

This is a suitable solution for those who are looking for an enterprise-like platform. Kinvey’s support team is fast, efficient, and highly responsive, they're struggling for a successful launch of your app as much as you do. There is a chat access to support for Platinum users and the “starter plan” that leaves you with an email support, which works as well too if it’s not your deadline.

3. AnyPresence

MBaaS Platforms AnyPresence

The platform is enterprise-focused and has the goal to save time and money of mobile-oriented enterprise businesses, making their development process convenient and fast. This provider handles both native iOS and Android along with HTML5 web applications without platform "lock-in".

Provided backend is impressively scalable, while AnyPresence supplies you with all the needed package:

  • User interfaces (starter kits) for iOS (storyboard), Android (XML layout), and jQuery
  • SDKs for iOS and Android, Java and HTML5, Windows and  Xamarin
  • App development tools
  • Authorization and authentication
  • Backend services
  • Management of the data sources and objects
  • API gateway
  • Online dashboard with all necessary screens
  • Created source code controlled by user

In addition, their online designer lets you customize the backend, mobile app itself, and the API codes. And all the generated codes are downloadable, editable, and could run on different compatible platforms.

“AnyPresence is built to meet the evolving needs of mobile-enabling a developer ecosystem with fully portable runtime source code and zero platform lock-in.”
AnyPresence (c)

Simply put, AnyPresence gives its customers customization, portability, and complete control when it comes to the created applications.

Conclusions

Summing it up, during the research of these three mBaaS platforms, we came to such results:

  1. All three backend services’ storages use MongoDB – an open source NoSQL document database that processes JSON objects.
  2. In all of these mBaaS products, you’ll find a data design UIs (for MongoDB storage) that look pretty similar.
  3. All these systems operate in a multitenant cloud way.
  4. All have quite understandable online documentation.
  5. Appcelerator, Kinvey, and AnyPresence provide you with push notification and user authentication (authorization) APIs.
  6. All of them support native iOS and Android applications.

The differences, actually, lay deeper and concern such topics as user registration and working with objects. But they’re not critical, and in the most cases mean only that you need to do some handwork or spend a little more time on the backend design. And, of course, the pricing strategies aren’t the same and vary according to the number of your API calls, active users, and push notifications.

MBaaS Platforms Conclusions

As for the impartial analysis, let’s state some final facts...

The pros of an mBaaS would be:  

  • Saves time
  • Reduces expenses
  • Data liberation
  • Apps become richer  
  • More productivity

And the known cons are:

  • No complete control over the product sometimes
  • Latency issues

It’s not much, but we hope the mBaaS filed is now somewhat clearer for you. And if the described providers aren’t what you’re looking for, you should check other trusted services like Google Firebase, Apple CloudKit, FeedHenry, Kii Cloud, Built.io, or Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Have troubles still? Get in touch with us, let’s chat!

It’s always hard to sort through the variety and choose some product that would be perfect for your project. Especially when your requirements and standards are high, or the deadline is close. However, you know now that the choice has to be based on the particular type of the app you plan to build, OS, and your budget size.

We’re sure that you’ll make a right decision about what backend service to use, but if you can’t make up your mind for now, just shoot us a message and ask your question. Our team has a great experience in this field and we’re always ready to help your cause!  

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