In a world where there is essentially a mobile app for everything, having one in a business is critical to connecting and engaging with customers. Apps are a great way to offer a direct channel for companies to improve the customer experience and streamline their services. As a small business looking to build an application, an equally important consideration is the type of server that will host their mobile application.
Choosing the right server is critical, but how would a business owner know which is right for their mobile app? Knowing what to consider is the most crucial first step.
What Is a Mobile App Server?
A mobile app server is a technology that acts as the middleman between mobile applications on user devices and the backend resources they need to function effectively. When a user interacts with a mobile app, the app server processes these requests, managing tasks like user authentication, data retrieval and business logic. Essentially, it powers the app’s ability to interact with stored data, often located in remote databases or other servers.
The server is critical in ensuring the app delivers a smooth, efficient user experience. It handles the heavy lifting of data processing. This is particularly important for businesses with applications that need to manage customer interactions or process transactions. By using a mobile app server, companies ensure their apps are scalable and secure. Plus, it enables them to handle multiple user requests simultaneously without compromising performance.
Does Your Application Need a Mobile App Server?
Whether an application needs a mobile app server depends on several factors. For example, if the app requires messaging or live updates, a server is essential for handling these requests. Similarly, apps that need to manage data securely — like login credentials — make it necessary to have a server for security measures. Essentially, a server is likely required if an app involves user interaction, data processing, and integration with other systems.
However, if your app is straightforward — with no need for data exchange or processing — a dedicated server may be unnecessary. In this case, the app can function on the user’s device without constant server interaction.
Choosing the Right Mobile App Server
For small businesses, it can be challenging to know what server is right for their mobile application. Yet, with the right steps and considerations, they can narrow their choices and make their decision-making easier.
1. Understand Reliability and Availability
When choosing a mobile app server, small businesses must consider two factors — reliability and availability. These two considerations are essential for maintaining a consistent user experience and ensuring the app is always accessible.
When considering how reliable a server is, companies must take into account how consistent and accurate the server performs. A reliable server maintains smooth app operation with minimal downtime or errors. This is crucial for user trust and satisfaction.
Therefore, the server should have a strong track record of reliability, which businesses can find through uptime statistics, reviews and service level agreements.
When considering the availability of a server, it should have redundant systems and back capabilities. This may include features like load balancing, which distributes traffic across multiple servers to avoid overload. Another feature may be failover systems that switch to a backup server if the primary one fails.
Select a server that offers high reliability and availability with concrete measures and guarantees. This ensures the app remains operational and delivers a high-quality user experience consistently.
2. Assess the App Requirements and Scalability
Choosing the right mobile app server also requires a thorough assessment of the app’s needs and scalability. Firstly, small businesses must consider the app’s intended functionality and user base. For instance, will the app handle heavy traffic or large volumes of data? These factors dictate the server’s capacity and scalability needs.
Additionally, simpler apps with a smaller user base may only require a single server, especially when it demands low data throughput and simple processing. In such cases, a single server can efficiently handle tasks like content delivery, basic user interactions and data storage. However, choosing a server with some room for growth is crucial to accommodate unexpected surges in user activity.
Yet, as more people use the app, a single server may struggle to keep up with the increased load, leading to slow performance or crashes. With issues such as these, user satisfaction can decrease by 16% — even a one-second delay can reduce conversions by 7%. With this in mind, employing multiple servers becomes necessary to distribute the workload evenly, enhancing reliability. This ensures a smooth, responsive user experience.
Yet, even if a single server meets current needs, staying aware of changing requirements ensures the business can scale infrastructure and maintain user satisfaction.
3. Evaluate Server Architecture and Hosting Options
The server architecture makes up the design and layout of the hardware and software it possesses. It determines how the server processes requests and manages data, showcasing the mobile app server’s reliability and performance. Therefore, this step is critical in selecting the right one. Yet, the choice will depend on other factors like budget and technical expertise.
Alongside architecture, choosing the right hosting option is equally important. Hosting is where the server and app live, and the right choice depends on the business’s needs and capabilities.
Options range from shared hosting to cloud hosting. Here are the most common hosting options to choose from:
- Shared hosting: This is where an app shares server resources with other apps. It is cost-effective and suitable for apps with low to moderate traffic. However, performance can be inconsistent due to shared resources.
- Dedicated hosting: With dedicated hosting, the app gets its own server. This offers high performance and greater control over the server environment. It is also ideal for apps with high traffic and specific resource requirements. However, it often costs more and needs technical expertise.
- Cloud hosting: This hosting provides scalability, flexibility and reliability. It can easily scale resources up or down based on demand. These services often come with advanced features like automated backups. However, pricing can be complex, as costs may increase with more usage.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting: A VPS balances shared and dedicated hosting. It is more affordable than dedicated hosting and provides better performance and customization than shared hosting. However, it still requires some level of server management knowledge.
4. Security Considerations and Compliance
Security and compliance are critical when choosing a mobile app server, as security breaches can have significant consequences. Therefore, a server should include several security and compliance features, including:
- Data encryption: The server should support strong encryption to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access.
- Authentication and authorization: It should implement these two methods to control access to data and server functions.
- Regular updates and patches: The server should receive regular updates and security patches to protect against vulnerabilities.
- Data protection regulations: Ensure it complies with data protection regulations like GDPR and CCPA.
- Industry-specific regulations: Some industries have specific compliance requirements. The server and its operations must adhere to these standards.
- Audit trails: Maintain logs and audit trails for compliance purposes and to monitor any suspicious activity.
When a server incorporates these measures, the choice is easy because it protects the business and the users’ data. It also ensures the company meets legal obligations. This is essential for maintaining trust and good reputations.
5. Backend Integration and API Support
The backend integration and API (Application Programming Interface) support are crucial components of a server, as they pertain to how functional a mobile application will be.
Backend integration refers to how well the server interacts with the app’s databases, third-party services or internal systems. Effective integration is key for smooth data flow, real-time updates and overall performance. It is important to choose a server that easily integrates with an existing or planned backend infrastructure.
Meanwhile, APIs are the building blocks that enable different software components to communicate with each other. A server with robust API support allows an app to connect with other services and platforms easily. This is essential for features like payment processing, social media integration or accessing cloud services.
Look for a server that offers extensive API support and easy integration capabilities. It should support connectivity to various services and platforms. That way, the server can continue to meet the app’s integration needs without requiring large overhauls.
Successfully Choosing a Mobile App Server
Selecting the right mobile app server is an important decision for small businesses venturing into the digital space. By carefully considering factors like scalability and performance, companies can select a server that supports their business’s needs and future growth. To successfully launch and maintain a mobile app, having the right server will allow customers to use it effectively.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.