BaaS Providers Simplify Enterprise App Development
With employees eager to bring their own smartphones and tablets to work, the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement is as strong as ever. Unfortunately, employee-owned devices can expose a corporation to subpar security and privacy. This problem is made worse by carelessly downloading mobile applications--programs that can sometimes be malicious in nature. In order to provide some form of defense, midsize firms are starting to develop custom stores. These databases offer a collection of whitelisted programs, many of which have been built by IT departments from the ground up. Unfortunately, enterprise software is notorious for having a poor user interface, a lack of features, and an ugly display.
BaaS to the Rescue
According to ITWorld, this is where backend-as-a-service (BaaS) companies come in. BaaS providers, such as FatFractal, eliminate much of the complexity surrounding app development. They allow regular employees, even those not involved in IT services, to design and create their own. This is accomplished through prebuilt APIs that can quickly add features, such as a log-in system, social integration, and push notifications. Although some programming expertise is required, it significantly simplifies the process. Kevin Nickels, CEO of FatFractal, explained, "What I keep telling CIOs is what they should do is create an internal app store and let anybody submit an app to it. Anybody in the company." In fact, it is fairly common for marketing departments to try to build their own apps, even if this duty generally falls under IT jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, BaaS providers are receiving considerable resistance from IT, largely because they feel threatened by the technology. Nickels added, "This is very antithetical to IT departments. Enterprise IT is afraid of this because they think it makes them obsolete, but it doesn't." Even though IT might not be the only ones capable of developing corporate apps, their main role could shift to overseeing and monitoring apps that are submitted by the firm's employees. Much like Apple and their App Store, they could serve as the gatekeepers to the store.
Currently, FatFractal has aimed their products at smaller businesses and tech start-ups. Nickels explained his marketing plan by saying, "I'm looking for enterprises to really understand the strategy they need to adopt. We're gearing up so that when they start to make that move we'll be all over it."
Right for Midsize Businesses?
Midsize firms are unsure of whether BaaS providers are truly necessary. After all, these services can prove to be quite expensive. For example, FatFractal's services can range up to $400 a month. According to VentureBeat, this plan includes unlimited domains, 25GB of outgoing bandwidth, 30GB of storage, 25 million API calls, and unlimited incoming bandwidth. Although FatFractal is one of the newest companies to enter the BaaS industry, they are by no means the only one. By comparison, competitor StackMob offers a similar plan that costs approximately $3,000 per month.
The other big question is whether midsize firms should want their non-IT workers developing apps for the corporation. On one hand, no one understands employee preferences better than themselves, and employee-designed apps may have the fluid user interface that enterprise versions often lack. That being said, an employee's time is probably best spent on their actual job rather than on app development. Furthermore, BaaS software does not necessarily mean that all employees will have the knowledge and skills required to create their own programs; it just simplifies the process for the select few who do.
An enterprise must carefully weigh the options before deciding whether a BaaS provider is right for them. However, with the BYOD movement continuing to pick up steam, it looks as though BaaS is here to stay.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.