Guide to Cloud Application Development: Best Practices & Process

Tobi Moyela

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Are you considering cloud application development to build your SaaS product? That’s a smart move because the cloud application industry is booming, with more consumers switching to cloud services. In fact, recent surveys revealed that 94% of companies now use at least one cloud solution.

Also, projections indicate that the global cloud market’s value will hit $168.6 billion by 2025 - A significant rise from 2021's $133.6 billion. These numbers prove that the widespread adoption of cloud solutions won’t slow down soon. If that's the case, then now is as good a time as any to launch a cloud-based mobile or web application.

However, your cloud web or mobile app will only be successful if you go about cloud app development correctly. To help you succeed, we’ve put together a cloud-based application development guide. Our comprehensive guide covers everything, including the process for cloud app development and how to build a cloud application successfully. Let’s get started!

What’s in this guide:

What is cloud application development?

Cloud application development covers building and deploying mobile or web apps on cloud infrastructure. It also involves hosting and managing building apps with cloud technology. You can get cloud hosting services from top providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform.

If you don’t know what cloud technology is, it’s infrastructure for storing and accessing programs or data via the internet with the help of remote servers. It’s different from traditional systems that rely on physical on-premises computers or servers to store, access, or manage data and applications.

The process of developing cloud-based apps typically requires using cloud-based tools and services to build, test, and deploy the application. The process may involve leveraging back-end programming languages like Python, Java, and PHP or web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The top cloud app development teams use DevOps practices and tools like Kubernetes.

Approaches to cloud-based application development

Multiple approaches exist for developing cloud-based applications, but three approaches rule them all. These approaches are:

  1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): IaaS offers virtualized computing resources, such as virtual machines, storage, and networking. Developers can use these virtualized resources to quickly build and deploy software and scale their application infrastructure when necessary. The primary difference between IaaS and other approaches is IaaS provides greater flexibility and control over operating systems.
  2. Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS involves a third-party cloud services provider (such as Heroku) offering developers a complete development and deployment platform. Developers can use the platform to access the hardware, software, and middleware they need to build and test cloud-based apps. The primary benefit of this approach is it allows users to focus on development and deployment instead of infrastructure management.
  3. Software as a Service (SaaS): The SaaS approach gives developers access to pre-built software applications via the internet. Developers don’t have to build apps from scratch because they can use existing software and tools to create a SaaS application.

In short, the PaaS development approach is best for developers who want to build custom applications without managing the underlying infrastructure. On the other hand, the SaaS approach is ideal for building software applications without dealing with infrastructure and technical details.

The IaaS approach is best for building large-scale applications that require significant computing resources and flexibility. Developers using this approach have greater control over servers, data storage, networking, and other infrastructure. Note that the approach you choose will affect the cost and efficiency of your app development process.

How does it differ from other types of app development?

Cloud application development is very different from these other forms of app development:

  • Native app development: Native app developers build applications to work on specific platforms, such as iOS or Android.
  • Web app development: This is building applications for a web browser. You can develop these web apps with web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • Hybrid app development: Hybrid developers combine native and web-based development techniques to build an app. Such apps can work on multiple operating systems, including iOS, Android, and Windows.

Cloud app development combines all of the above by delivering an app that can run on any system, be it macOS, Windows, iOS, or Android. It’s possible because users can access cloud-based apps via any device’s web browser as long as there’s an internet connection. Alternatively, users can access cloud-based applications via an app installed on their device.

Cloud app development vs. traditional app development

Other differences that set cloud-based application development apart from other forms of app development are:

  • Easier deployment: Traditional developers typically code and deploy in different environments, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Instead of developing apps on local machines and deploying them elsewhere, cloud developers build and deploy in a cloud environment. Doing so eliminates the hassle of multiple entries, compatibility issues, lost data, and more.
  • Agile and DevOps software development: Cloud developers use agile and DevOps software development methodologies that facilitate collaboration between development team members. The collaboration leads to more efficient product development. Also, agile processes require frequent iteration and user testing. The feedback from testing increases the likelihood of launching an app that pleases your end users.
  • Infrastructure: Unlike traditional app development, cloud app development does not require building and maintaining your own physical infrastructure. Relying on cloud computing infrastructure can help you save time and money and facilitate scalability during development.

In summary, cloud application development has a more efficient and flexible building and deployment process than traditional app development.

Benefits of cloud app development

The primary benefit of building apps within a cloud environment is developers can do away with physical on-premises hardware and servers. Developers will instead leverage cloud resources and experience these benefits:

  • Enhanced scalability: Cloud computing helps developers scale applications up or down as necessary. The ease of scaling ensures applications can always access computing resources to run smoothly as user traffic rises and falls. Also, developers can use technologies like containers and microservices to develop more scalable software solutions.
  • Improved flexibility: Cloud-native application developers can work from anywhere if they have an internet-connected device. The flexibility facilitates collaboration and productivity as developers can make changes and view updates from anywhere.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Cloud app development does not require investing in on-premises infrastructure, making it cheaper than traditional app development. Also, easy access to cloud resources facilitates experimenting with new ideas and prototypes without incurring significant upfront costs.
  • Improved performance: Cloud-based applications can run faster and more efficiently than on-premises applications. It's thanks to cloud providers having data centers (server farms) that provide as much computing power and resources as the app needs.
  • Enhanced security: The top cloud services providers offer robust security measures and data protection, including encryption, backup, and recovery services. These security features can safeguard your cloud-based app against cyber threats and crashes.
  • Easy integration: Cloud apps can integrate with other cloud-based services through APIs. Integrating with other systems helps developers build more complex and powerful applications with less effort and time.
  • Easy upgrades: Cloud app developers can automate multiple developments and testing routines to improve cloud software. Also, development approaches like DevOps allow cloud app developers continuously improve software and deploy updates to benefit end users.

Cloud app development challenges

While cloud application development has several advantages, it’s not perfect. Some of the challenges faced by cloud app developers include security challenges. Choosing the wrong cloud service provider can put you at risk of cyber-attacks. Other problems you may experience are scalability and integration issues.

Also, cybercriminals tend to target a third-party app’s API. So, even if your cloud app is secure, cyber attackers may gain access through the API of a compromised third-party app that a user integrated with your software.

Cloud application development best practices

Following cloud application development best practices will help your developers deliver a reliable, scalable, valuable, and secure finished product. It also minimizes the risk of errors that may compromise your app development process. Below are the most important best practices to incorporate into your cloud app development process:

1. Design for scalability

Cloud application developers must put in place measures that ensure apps can scale easily to accommodate changes in demand. Some of these measures include designing applications with a distributed architecture. The distributed architecture will enable an app to run on multiple servers, utilize cloud services, and automatically scale resources as needed.

2. Minimize time-to-market

Time-to-market is the period from ideating a product to launching the finished product. A short time-to-market lowers app development costs because developers charge more the longer a project takes. Also, the sooner you launch a product, the sooner it can start generating revenue.

Equally important, a short time-to-market allows for quick testing and early feedback. Your team can use the feedback to optimize your app’s performance and make it more attractive to end users.

mvp

Reduce time-to-market by first releasing a minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is not a completed product, but it will have your product’s core features and closely simulate how your final product will look and perform.

With this iteration of your app, you can collect user feedback to gauge your cloud-based app’s value. As we’ve mentioned, you can also use the MVP to gather valuable user insights you can apply to improve your product’s value, performance, and attractiveness.

3. Fast iteration

Fast iteration involves developing and releasing new versions of your cloud-based app quickly. Shortening the time between iterating allows you to collect and implement user feedback quicker and more effectively.

For instance, if you release an iteration of your product today, users can test drive it and provide feedback regarding what to improve, remove, or add. You can then release another iteration of your product with the requested modifications within a month. The new iteration will provide fresh feedback for your next iteration, and so on.

Besides ensuring that end users find your final product highly valuable and desirable, fast iteration can shorten your product development cycle. It also saves money by helping your development team focus resources on solving relevant product and user problems.

4. Prioritize security and automate

DevOps practices suggest automating building, testing, and deploying cloud-based applications. Automation eliminates manually entering code, minimizing the risk of human error. Avoiding human error during cloud application development can fast-track the process and facilitate getting the best results.

Also, reducing human error can prevent performance issues and vulnerabilities that cyber attackers can exploit. Further prioritize security by incorporating encryption, access controls, and other security measures into the app. Doing so will minimize the risk of unauthorized access and protect sensitive data.

5. Have a performance monitoring and disaster recovery plan

Developers should continuously monitor cloud-based apps during the development process. Doing so will help verify if the app is performing as expected. It also enables developers to identify and rectify bugs and other issues quickly. Several performance monitoring tools are available for identifying app performance issues in real-time.

Lastly, developers must put in place disaster recovery measures. Such measures will prevent having to start product development from scratch if a catastrophic event occurs. Effective disaster recovery measures include regular backups and failover procedures that facilitate recovering saved progress.

Process for cloud application development

Cloud application development processes typically vary between app development teams. Also, developers may need to tailor app development processes to match a client's unique needs. Regardless of the differences in processes, developers must still pass through these stages during cloud application development:

Process for cloud application development

Stage 1: Ideation

The stage involves you and your team coming up with an idea for a cloud-based app. The trick to creating a multi-million dollar idea is first identifying a problem (or problems) you can solve with your app. The problem must be recurring and long-term. Otherwise, your app will become obsolete within a few years because the problem it solves no longer exists.

Also, the problem should be widespread, meaning several people experience it and want a solution. The more widespread the problem is, the more potential users your app will have.

How do you generate ideas for your app? You could start by looking inward to identify problems you or someone close to you needs to solve. Alternatively, look outward by researching competitors within your industry or your target audience to identify gaps in existing products. You can also visit forums like Reddit or Ask Product Hunt to see problems discussed by consumers.

Stage 2: Screening

During the ideation stage, you identify multiple problems to solve with an app. Once you’ve shortlisted ideas, next is the screening stage.

Screening is where you look at your ideas to identify the right one to pursue. The best idea to pursue is one that checks these boxes to the highest degree:

  • Fits your long-term business goals
  • Has a clearly defined market (people who need the solution)
  • Solves a specific problem(s)

The idea should also be scalable and have clear development costs.

Stage 3: Concept Development

Once you’ve settled on an idea, manifest it by developing a concept for your app. The best way to start this is to build a low-fidelity prototype. A low-fidelity (lo-fi) prototype is a rough sketch of your app's look and user flow. Below is an example.

lofi prototype example

You can also use the prototype to map out user flows. Showing the prototype to your app development team will give them a clear picture of how you want your app to look. You can also show the prototype to stakeholders and potential users to get valuable feedback regarding the product's viability.

Stage 4: Select Cloud Hosting

As the name implies, cloud-based apps require cloud hosting. Your cloud host will provide the resources needed to power your app so it runs smoothly and stays accessible. Also, as we’ve mentioned, picking the wrong cloud service provider or host can cause various problems.

Top cloud computing platforms that developers use include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. You can get public cloud or hybrid cloud hosting services from these providers. Alternatively, you can opt for a private cloud solution.

Private cloud hosting means you’ll have a data center to yourself for cloud storage and other functions. Since setting up and maintaining the infrastructure is expensive, only government agencies and large organizations use this solution. On the upside, it is more private and secure than a public cloud system. Also, you’ll have more control and flexibility because you can modify it to meet your needs.

Public cloud services cost less but offer high reliability and almost unlimited scalability. It involves a separate company (cloud provider) owning, managing, and maintaining the servers for the data center. You can pay the provider to host your app and provide your required infrastructure. Since the provider takes care of the back end, you and your development team can focus on app development.

Then you have hybrid cloud services that combine public and private cloud benefits. For example, you can get private cloud for storing sensitive data and use public cloud for its unlimited resources and scalability.

Stage 5: Product Development

Once you’ve settled on a cloud host, you can begin iterating your product. Start by building an MVP – a high-fidelity prototype that closely simulates how your final product will look and function. It will showcase the core features of your app, and users can test drive these features.

Below is a hi-fi prototype sample for the lo-fi prototype we showed earlier.

hifi prototype example

Since building an MVP costs less than building a finished product, it’s ideal for collecting feedback from users and stakeholders. With each version of the hi-fi prototype your developers create, you can get more feedback and repeat the process until your app is market-ready.

Stage 6: Launch

After multiple iterations and functionality, aesthetics, and performance optimization, your cloud-based app should be ready to launch. Also called commercialization, launching your app involves making it available to the public. You may need to run ads or other marketing campaigns to bring your newly launched app to users' attention.

Users should be able to access the app to complete tasks and experience value. However, launching your cloud-based app doesn’t mean that development is over. Your development team must monitor how your app operates in the wild. Monitoring usage and other factors will help identify opportunities for improvement so your app can reach its fullest potential and serve users better.

Cloud application development companies

Now that you understand cloud app development and how to go about it, will you do it yourself or hire a pro? Doing it yourself is the cheapest way to go, but you likely lack the expertise and resources to bring your app idea to life perfectly. As such, you are better off hiring an expert, such as one of these cloud software development companies:

1. DevSquad

fully managed cloud application dev team

Does your SaaS company need a cloud app development and design team that can manage and complete its project on its behalf? Look no further than DevSquad.

We are a fully managed Utah-based product development team that can take you from ideation and development to launch and optimization. Our user-centric approach to app development ensures you receive a finished app your end users find valuable and easy to use. You can also count on us to speed up your time to market and prevent delays that lead to cost overruns.

Schedule a consultation today to learn more about how our team can help bring your app ideas to life.

2. FiveDotTwelve

cloud application development agency

FiveDotTwelve is an experienced mobile development team that provides cloud app development services. The team uses modern techniques and adheres to the latest best practices to build cloud software that effectively resolves user pain points. However, since the agency is Poland-based, it is a better fit for Europe-based businesses.

3. Ikayzo

cloud app development team

Ikayzo is a small boutique design agency based in Honolulu. The agency offers various web and mobile app development services, including cloud app design and development. The team’s experience building with Amazon EC2, Heroku, and other cloud platforms equips it to handle various projects. However, since the Ikayzo team is small, clients may experience long waitlists.

4. Fiverr

hire cloud application development freelancer

Are you on a tight budget and can’t afford to hire an app development agency? Consider hiring a freelance cloud app developer. Platforms like Fiverr connect individuals and businesses with various freelancers, including those offering cloud app development services.

Fiverr’s search and filter features simplify finding highly-rated developers who fit your budget and other requirements. Besides developers, you can use the platform to source other freelancers to manage other aspects of your app development.

Do you want a high-performing cloud software development team that simplifies app design, building, and launching? Check out DevSquad today.

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