Web development has been growing exponentially since we went online. From developing simple web documents to complex web systems, the demand for web developers is far from diminishing. Nowadays, web platforms are not simple web documents anymore; behind that page that the final user sees, there’s a lot of data being processed and moved from different layers of web services. With this, more and more services appear to simplify the task of developing a web system, so the quality, security, and reliability of these systems can be better than those systems built before.
Software as a Service (abbreviated SaaS) could be called a kind of web application. SaaS is a software distribution model where software is provided via the internet. The owner of this software is in charge of everything related to the software maintenance (features development, fixing bugs, daily operation, etc.). This means that software built using the SaaS model is software served through the internet using web protocols. This makes this software, practically, a web application.
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A Matter of Cost
All of this comes to the point where web applications are located. Web apps are stored in physical servers, machines intended to be part of a network to process requests and provide responses. These machines take up space and produce heat, even more with a growing amount of connections when the app is being more and more used and wanted. Even Microsoft has got to throw a bunch of servers into the ocean as an experiment of dissipating heat more efficiently. This being noted, it can be deduced that the cost of maintaining a just-launched app can be quite high for a startup (and imagine if the app grows popular).
Cloud services appeared to attend to these high costs of maintaining web-based services. Nevertheless, cloud services are not limited to only providing web solutions. Cloud computing is a concept that has been around for some years now. Cloud computing is the availability of computing resources through a network. This means that you’d have available computing power, storage, or even a pc-like desktop through any kind of network, this includes the Internet.
Cloud computing services provide a great variety of services, but we will focus on cloud-based applications. This service allows the developers to run web apps and services in cloud servers, delegating most of the tasks related to maintaining and serving the web app to the service provider. With this, development teams can stop worrying about building the required environment for the app (a very time-consuming task) and investing money in hardware, space, network experts and more-than-needed development time. And we’ve not mentioned the security concerns, adding more time and cost to a web app development or, in our case, a SaaS application development.
Cloud service providers grant state-of-art security within their services, so both businesses and developers can take a breath in matters of protecting their app (and its data). HTTPS, data encryption, user-data protection, DDoS protection, you name it – when the app is within a cloud-based server, it’s protected against practically everything.
SaaS in cloud computing, with all the features that we’ve mentioned, is a concept that fits perfectly with the possibilities of cloud services. Security, no hardware management, variety of ecosystems, environment-free, everything offered by cloud computing services simplify the development process.
So, summarizing, cloud-based services provide almost everything a development team could ever need, saving time and money. Opting to test and deploy web apps in the cloud could be the cleverest decision for a startup (or even for big businesses) and cloud-based application development is a wise option for a project.
Now that we’ve mentioned the benefits of cloud services, it’s time to mention a couple of providers and how to build a cloud-based SaaS application.
Cloud Services Providers and How to Choose One?
Nowadays, almost every major tech company provides cloud services. From the simplest user-oriented services like iCloud from Apple to full cloud development kits like IBM cloud, but the market is mostly split between three options: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure.
The major differences between these three are practically defined by the time they’ve been in the market; AWS is older than the other two. This being noted, the advantages of AWS are a consequence of its longevity, offering more tools for management, deployment, testing and even development. AWS is oriented to a multidisciplinary team, meaning that every part of a web development team (including business or stakeholders) can be centralized in one platform, enhancing communication and reliability.
This doesn’t mean that GCP and Microsoft Azure are worse than AWS; they just offer different services, with their advantages and disadvantages. Some examples: Microsoft Azure has better route management than AWS, but it doesn’t have a great ecosystem to offer. GCP offers the complete Google Suite, but it offers fewer cloud services. AWS has great management tools (remember the Alexa Ranking), but it doesn’t offer a complete suite like Google’s.
In terms of simplicity, we’ll encourage you to build a cloud-based SaaS application using AWS, because it’s a great starting point for those who want to start using the cloud as a development environment. We should note that you’re free to choose whichever cloud service provider you feel comfortable with, but if you’re new to cloud development, AWS is a great option for introducing yourself to the cloud services world.
Starting a Project
It’s clear that building a cloud Software as a Service app is cheaper and more straightforward than building a traditional on-premises app. There are more and more sources to research how to create a cloud-based SaaS solution.
Now that we’ve talked about our cloud service provider, it’s time to talk about how to make a cloud-based Software as a Service application project.
First of all, you’ve got to have an idea. Forming an idea is more about letting your mind fly about a problem and finding an untrivial solution. You can create it by yourself, but it’s always better to discuss it with someone else to compare different points of view.
The right starting point of an idea is a problem that needs to be solved. This could be a problem that affects you directly or a big picture problem (a problem that has been anywhere in the world and no one has noticed it). After this, you should start to brainstorm about the possible digital solution (that means, your future SaaS application) and write down everything that comes to your mind. Later you’ll select the thoughts that fit better with the solution that you’re building, so do not hesitate to write absolutely everything down.
Note: The important thing about creating something new is to WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING. Bringing abstract ideas to paper or digital note keeper helps give them more sensitivity. Even crazy ideas can bring you closer to a revolutionary solution. Of course, don’t be hard on yourself. You can start with just scattered sketches and organize them later on.
Now, you have your idea and are ready to turn it into a possible project. It’s time to check the niche and the market related to the project and make sure that the future application fits well in the business.
An obvious step is to start looking for projects, apps, services, anything that relates to a problem you are going to solve with your app. Here, you’re establishing your possible competency. The advantage of having competency is that you can grab all the downsides of those other services and “patch” them with your app. That gives you a place in the market, solving problems that the others haven’t attended. Besides, if at some point you get stuck, it’s always handy to check how others have managed to solve project related issues.
Another thing useful about having competency, and related to SaaS application development, is that you can check prices and plans, so you can have a base to start with in terms of costs, service pricing and, on the other hand, like we’ve mentioned before, the lack of offers or commodities for the clients.
Don’t get scared if you don’t find similar projects like yours. That means that you’re possibly offering something completely new that no one has cared to provide, and possibly needed. In terms of positioning, you’ll be the first option people will look for. That gives you some sort of control about pricing and plans, especially knowing what your target market is.
Talking about the target market, this is important to know because it will establish how you’ll promote your service once it’s done, and how much you’ll charge for your service. That means that, summarizing, your price will be determined by competency, target market, and operation costs.
In terms of business, deciding on the technology that will be used to build your cloud-based SaaS application is more related to future proof terms, scalability, and maintenance. Also, it’s a matter of opting for the tech that better fits the project, depending on its size and complexity. Choosing a development suite (frontend and backend frameworks, and database) is crucial for your app’s future.
A heavy advantage of using cloud services is that you don’t have to worry about updating your hardware, so you only have to worry about the platform (that will be updated automatically too).
The cloud platform
Choosing the cloud platform is easy. AWS gives you a great ecosystem to choose from but mostly is reduced to two options: Linux and Windows. Either of them is fine, but I’d rather prefer Linux; it’s far more flexible than windows, so you have more freedom of choice for techs and frameworks.
But what is complexity though? How do you measure it? How do you even know how much security your application needs? To know this, you’ll have to READ A LOT, to research what has been used in the market, what has been made and why (or even when it was made). You could do this by yourself (or your team) or you could hire an advisor. The decision is yours.
The idea to build cloud apps can lead you to a great business. But you have to do your homework first: carefully think about your idea and research the market focusing on various existing solutions to the problem you are targeting. Define possible weak spots you can fill with your solution. In cooperation with your development team, choose the cloud service provider to run your app. And finally, build a product that will match the needs of thousands of users all around the world.