[Guide] What is a cloud-based application and how do you develop one?

Radhika Madhavan

Director of Marketing

Table of Contents

What is Cloud?

In today’s day and age, everything we use these days is hosted on the cloud. Your Google storage? Cloud. Your LinkedIn profile? Cloud. Your Salesforce account? Cloud! Considering that most applications are built on the cloud, the world still sends people into a frenzy when they hear it. Let’s break down what it is and what it means for you.

The word ‘Cloud’ refers to the servers and software on the web that are interconnected. These components can be accessed using a simple internet connection. The intention is that if you’re offering a product or service using cloud-based applications, you can access them from anywhere using the internet.

From the examples we’ve given, it’s no surprise that most products available these days are hosted on the Cloud. The ease of access and high level of security it offers is more than enough for it to become a preferred method of service delivery. It allows developers to create software hosted on servers that can be used for any purpose, leaving room for experimentation and innovation.

This article will focus on why cloud-based applications are important and what their development process looks like.

Why cloud-based applications?

The biggest reason developers prefer cloud-based applications to traditional ones is that it doesn’t limit them—be it their device or network. They’re free to develop an application barring any configuration constraints—making the process flexible, scalable, and affordable.

But, apart from that, what are the benefits? Here are a few to help you understand them:

Reduced costs

A glaring benefit has to be reducing overall project cost at both levels—development and maintenance. When you develop applications on the cloud, you don’t always need bulky physical infrastructure such as data centers. You also don’t need to pay for a team to set up an on-prem infrastructure or supervise its maintenance.

Even for the customer, it’s a better option as most service providers that host products on cloud applications offer a pay-as-you-go model. They only pay depending on their needs and usage—instead of an entire package that doesn’t fit their requirements.

Fosters collaboration

Cloud development needs collaborators from different teams to be on board with the end goal. A DevOps approach is recommended for most development projects because it removes the latency involved in the usual development process. Developers can use a single platform to produce, deploy, and test their products.

They can do that because all the code and related components are stored in one place, ensuring all collaborators have access to it. It also allows them to monitor how the project progresses at any given point in time.

Easy to use

Developers don’t spend too much time waiting for resources to be sent to them since they’re easily accessible. That’s why it’s touted as ‘something no more than a click away.’ Even when the applications are deployed, the end-user doesn’t have to rely on external sources to access these applications.

Lower downtime period

When cloud applications run into issues, they don’t have to be ‘switched off.’ Instead, developers can fix the root of the problem while users are working on them. Even if the server does need to be shut down, the downtime is minimal compared to applications that rely on on-prem infrastructure.

In addition to that, there are no qualms about losing data as the loud-based applications have in-built backup systems. These systems automatically backup your data at your preferred cadence.

Better storage

Having extended storage is one of the most significant advantages of developing applications on the cloud. Here, developers can provision storage space depending on their usage. Another benefit is that interaction on the cloud is much faster when comparing on-prem infrastructure against the cloud.

Easily scalable

Cloud-based applications are easier to scale because physical storage options do not limit them. It gives developers the adoption to add features depending on their user’s requirements—without worrying about flexibility. They can also store data as needed without affecting the application’s overall performance.

Cloud development vs. Cloud-native development

There are a lot of misconceptions about the development process of cloud-based applications. Even though they’re developed on the cloud, it doesn’t mean that there’s only one approach to development. Two of the most common approaches—Cloud-based and Cloud-native development are detailed below:

Cloud-based development

Cloud-based development focuses on moving existing applications to the cloud. As per Flexera’s State of the Cloud Report 2022, it’s estimated that 57% of organizations are migrating more of their workload to the cloud—making this approach in demand. 

While these applications are either redesigned or developed on the cloud directly, they don’t necessarily exploit everything cloud computing offers. The main reason companies move to the cloud is for higher scalability and better availability.

Here, the users access these applications through their browsers or mobile, but the processing happens on the cloud server. A key difference is that you might require additional hardware in some cases. Also, cloud migration requires a very streamlined and company-specific approach to get the best out of it. So, it’s always best to consult with experts in the space.

Cloud-native development

In the cloud-native development approach, developers exploit the capabilities of the cloud through its microservice architecture. These applications are made specifically for the cloud, meaning they are run and hosted.

They can also adapt to the dynamic environment of the cloud using the functions of container-based technology. A few examples include Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and more.

What is ‘cloud-based application’ development?

Now that we’ve discussed the differences between cloud-based and cloud-native approaches let’s dive into the technicalities of the former. It requires much better communication capabilities between developers as the entire process is very hands-on and efficient for starters. Fragmented coordination defeats the purpose of using this approach.

Developers also need to be familiar with different cloud platforms like Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, etc. Besides, they would also need a much deeper understanding of its architecture to provide a comprehensive development plan. They need to be technology agnostic as companies have differing requirements. Using one specific set of technologies for every project is not always feasible.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) and Content delivery networks (CDNs) are an essential requirement for connectivity—which is why experience or preferably fluency in these are a must. 

Moreover, developers need to understand that while provisioning storage might be free and unlimited, cloud hosting is not, so accounting for their client’s expectations is essential. Data security is an additional concern in cloud-based applications because of the lack of a physical storage center. But, if applications are developed as per current regulatory standards, you can circumvent them.

Types of cloud applications

Cloud applications are far too common these days and for good reason. They’re easy to deploy, launch in the market, and scale as you build a client base. At the end of the day, all applications serve a purpose—service delivery. Based on this, here are three cloud-based application types:

Software-as-a-service (SaaS)

Software-as-a-service (SaaS)
Source: Hackernoon

Software-as-a-service, or the SaaS model, is a software delivery method where the applications can be accessed using subscriptions. They don’t need to be downloaded on your device—and are accessed using the internet. You can use them on mobile and web browsers. 

Because of the ease of development and use, it has become one of the most popular software delivery models today. A few examples include Slack, ClickUp, Toggl, etc.

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)
Source: Iron Blog

Infrastructure-as-a-service or IaaS is a software model that offers storage, computing, and networking resources on one platform. It can manage your business’s infrastructure—like your servers, storage, network, etc. All of these can be managed using public or private cloud.

It’s an excellent option for those who need to manage their operating systems and vendors on existing infrastructure. A few examples include Amazon AWS, Digital Ocean, etc.

Platform-as-a-service (PaaS)

Platform-as-a-service (PaaS)
Source: AVI Networks

Platform-as-a-service or PaaS gives you a deployment and development environment within the cloud. It offers a comprehensive solution for those who need everything for application development in one place.

A third-party vendor provides the necessary hardware and software—like tools, operation systems, infrastructure, etc. A few examples include OpenShift, Heroku, etc.

How do you develop a cloud-based application?

Now, you understand what cloud-based applications are and how their development process differs from traditional models. Using this information, let’s delve into the step-by-step process of developing one.

Step 1: Research your target market

It goes without saying that without knowing who you’re creating the application for, you won’t know what to create. Hone in on who the ideal user of your product is—think about their demographics, behavior, and usage trends. Create a user persona and develop the application based on that.

If you’re not sure if your idea is good enough, test it out. Conduct a customer survey and understand their core needs. Will your product solve that? Yes—continue building it. No—iterate and reconfigure it. You can also evaluate competitor products and understand how they position similar products.

Step 2: Hire or create a development team

Hiring a development team like High Peak Software is crucial since they have the expertise to execute your project. Product development teams have members with specific expertise for each stage of the process—from strategy to execution.

They plan for business analysis, technical specification, development cost, and overall planning. Given the team’s expertise, they’ll be able to give you a more accurate idea of how to plan and budget for the development process. Based on that information, they can help you create workflows and map features to each stage—giving you a base idea on how to price the product for the launch.

Step 3: Define features and capabilities

Once you’ve conducted your market research, you can now decide what features your product needs. The architecture and service model acts as the baseline for development. Using the technical expertise of your product development team, you can start setting the foundation for your production in the cloud.

It’s always best to create an advanced data architecture depending on the business needs. Depending on the solution you’re offering, you can finalize the service model for the product (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS).

Step 4: Hone in on the tech stack

Once you’ve decided on the features and capabilities of your product, you need to nail down what technologies you’ll be using. Your tech stack is critical to the success of your project, which is why it’s best to evaluate your requirements —or even better, consult an expert.

Your product team needs to factor in scalability and its eventual costs, so the tech stack should be in line with these criteria. Some categories include the types of application and data, DevOps and business tools, and any additional utilities.

Step 5: Figure out monetization & MVP

When the product development process is ongoing, you can begin planning the monetization model for it. The reason is that it’s a massive factor for your users when they sign up. It decides the kind of users you attract and the features you’ll make available to them.

You can consider a few options like Freemium (free + paid plans), Paid (monthly or annual payment), in-app purchases, or advertising-dependent. Using a minimum viable pricing (MVP) model can help you test it out in the market first, gather feedback, and iterate based on user feedback.

Step 6: Deploy & test

A considerable advantage of the DevOps approach is that you can continuously deploy, test, and iterate. For cloud-based applications, it’s a boon as even when you launch it; you don’t need to shut your server down to fix bugs. So, once it’s built, test it out and iterate to keep it bug-free. Having a team with the capabilities to handle such projects can prove very beneficial.

Step 7: Get ready to launch

After you’re done testing and perfecting it, you can launch it in the market. Depending on the type of application, your launch strategy will differ. With time, as your user base increases, you’ll be able to identify more bugs and create a product that’s truly in line with your audience’s expectations.

Benefits of a Cloud-based application

We’ve detailed the benefits of cloud-based applications from a business perspective, but we’ve listed a few from the user’s perspective below.

Improved application performance

Since the computations with the application happen at a much faster pace compared to traditional applications, the performance is much higher. It also means that a large amount of data can be processed and analyzed without server overload. Because it’s hosted on the cloud, the service is more reliable too.

Improved uptime

These applications rarely experience downtime. The reason is that developers can fix the bugs without shutting the backend. The downtime is minimal, even if it happens, and all the data is automatically backed up on the server.

Automatic updates

It’s important to update the application regularly. As the development team keeps deploying new iterations, they need to be installed too. These updates include feature updates, the launch of new features, bug fixes, etc. Cloud-based applications don’t require users to do it manually, nor do they stop users from using them during the update process. 

Better security & compliance

Cyberthreats are a common issue with respect to cloud applications. It doesn’t mean that there are no protective measures in place. Many cloud-based applications come with in-built security using newer security standards available. In addition to that, they’re required to follow state-mandated regulatory procedures—making them compliant and safe to use.

Better recovery process

Data loss is often an issue with on-prem infrastructure. Due to security breaches or lack of maintenance, the stored data gets corrupted or deleted forever. With the cloud, that’s not an issue as everything is backed up immediately or at a pace the user wants it.

Planning to build an impactful product and quickly take it to market? Let’s talk!

All in all, cloud-based applications are one of the most recommended applications in the market. From ease of development to maintenance, it has a host of benefits for the product development team and users—which is why it’s increasing in popularity. 

At High Peak Software, we have specialized teams to help you create these applications with ease, keeping your requirements in mind. If you’re looking for a software development partner, please reach out to us today.

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