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Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Cloud-Based Application

Cloud technology is used in almost every modern digital product. It’s reliable, highly scalable, and convenient for both businesses and consumers. The cloud has become the first option for many companies that want to create new software products or modernize existing products.

In this article, you’ll learn what a cloud-based app is, how it works, and how to build a cloud-based app in a reliable and fail proof manner. I’ll also talk about the pros and cons of cloud-based apps and give you step-by-step instructions on implementing a cloud-based application for your business.

How does a cloud-based architecture work?

Every application has two parts: a client and a server. The client part is everything a user sees and interacts with; from the user’s perspective, it’s the app itself. The server, also called the back end, is the core of the application that stores data and executes business logic, receiving requests from the client and returning responses.

A cloud-based application has its back end in the cloud, meaning all its data is stored on a remote server.

Benefits of a cloud-based application

Why are companies choosing cloud architectures? Let’s find out.

1. Speed
Unlike on-premises servers that need constant upgrades to keep up with growing amounts of data, cloud servers offer impeccable performance and can process data fast even with constantly increasing requirements.

2. Omnichannel capabilities
Data in the cloud can be accessed from any device, so it’s much easier to provide an omnichannel experience to your users. Also, a cloud architecture allows you to use multiple devices at the same time, making it perfect for Internet of Things products.

3. Flexibility and scalability
A cloud architecture allows more flexibility during development, as you can scale your cloud storage within minutes just by changing your plan. You can also distribute your cloud capacity across multiple locations to minimize the risk of downtime.

4. Fast recovery from failure
All databases and servers can fail, and having an on-premises server won’t save you from failure. That’s why large companies invest in complex recovery programs that make their architectures bulletproof. Small and medium-sized businesses use cloud recovery solutions that are easier and cheaper to implement.

5. Low costs
Building your infrastructure in the cloud requires less upfront investment than having local servers. You simply don’t need to spend anything on hardware, maintenance, and updates, as your vendor takes care of that.

Types of cloud-based apps

There are several types of cloud-based applications you can build for your business.

Software as a service (SaaS)

Users can access SaaS products from web browsers without having to install anything on their desktop computers or laptops. On mobile platforms, SaaS products usually can be accessed through a mobile app.

Software as a service products store all their data in the cloud, so users can access it from anywhere. The only requirement is internet connectivity; however, many SaaS products allow users to save some data locally for offline use.

Examples of SaaS products are Google Docs, Dropbox, and Salesforce.

Platform as a service (PaaS)

Platform as a service products allow users to create their own applications, offering all the necessary development tools, infrastructure, database management tools, middleware, and operating systems. Many modern businesses use PaaS platforms to build their products efficiently.

Examples of PaaS products include Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google App Engine.

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

If you need a backbone for your products and you don’t want to invest hundreds of hours into building your own custom infrastructure, IaaS is for you. With IaaS, you get everything like servers, storage, and networking in the cloud: The only thing you need to do is implement an API in your product.

The most famous companies that offer IaaS products are Microsoft, Oracle, DigitalOcean, and Amazon.

What to pay attention to

When developing a cloud-based application, pay extra attention to:

  1. Developing for failure
  2. Building the right infrastructure
  3. Ensuring security

How to create a cloud-based app in six steps

Step 1. Research

Conduct market research for your product and define your main competitors. This will help you later in marketing your product to the right audience and establishing your monetization model.
Define your buyer personas and make a list of features your competitors already have.

Step 2. Hire reliable developers

To build a cloud-based application, you need developers that have experience with cloud architectures and cloud computing. Building a cloud-based application is different from building a traditional software product, so make sure your software developers have the right skill set.

Step 3. Build an architecture and features specification

The architecture is by far the most important part of your cloud-based product, so make sure you and your team have a clear understanding of how your product will work. Involve a business analyst along with a development team lead to plan out every part of your project from its architecture to each of its features.

Step 4. Define your technology stack

A cloud-based product should have bulletproof security and be reliable, so you should pay close attention to your technology stack. The architecture should be scalable and maintainable, and all technologies should work well together.

For the client part of your app, you’ll need:

  • HTML + CSS
  • A JavaScript framework like Vue.js, Angular, or React

For your server, you’ll need a framework as well. Your choice of frameworks will depend on the programming language you choose.

  • PHP (Laravel or Symfony)
  • JavaScript (Node.js)
  • Ruby (Ruby on Rails)
  • Python (Django or Flask)

You’ll also need a database for storing your backend data. I advise you to combine several databases for backup purposes. Here are two common databases to choose from:

  • MySQL
  • PostgreSQL

For your server, you can choose Nginx or Apache. I also advise you to have more than one server: in case of downtime, you’ll always have a backup.

Step 5. Choose a monetization strategy

After you’ve done your competitor research, you should have an idea of your monetization strategy. Most cloud-based applications earn their money through subscriptions.

This is convenient for clients, who don’t need to pay every time a new product version is released, and it’s also convenient for you, as you get a constant revenue stream and can predict your earnings.

Step 6. Build an MVP

It’s best to release your product as soon as possible instead of spending years polishing a product that may not meet market needs. Define the most important features for your product, implement them, and release your product to the market. Then use analytics to determine what features to implement next and what to improve.

Step 7. Test and launch your product

Now that your MVP is ready, it’s time to test each of its features and conduct a full regression test on all devices, operating systems, and browsers that are popular among your target audience. Launch your product along with your marketing campaign and start analyzing the market response.

Step 8. Improve and update your app

Now it’s time to improve your application and add new features so your users get value each time they renew their subscription. Apart from adding new functionality, you need to maintain existing functionality such as by updating libraries and updating your software to support new versions of operating systems or browsers.

Final thoughts

Building a cloud-based application requires specific knowledge of cloud computing and cloud architectures. The main principle of cloud-based application development is building for failure. This means you should always ask yourself: What if something goes wrong? In this way, you’ll be able to build a reliable system that your users will be confident in.

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