Based on what you read in the papers, you might think that everything is cloud-based now. From streaming movies and music, to IoT (Internet of Things) devices, it seems like more and more apps are making use of their connection to the cloud.

But there’s one area in which working in the cloud is not yet the norm, and that’s when it comes to app development. This can get a little technical, so bear with us as we explain the difference between cloud apps and traditional apps.

Cloud apps vs. traditional apps

Essentially, the difference between a cloud app and a traditional app is the architecture, which refers to the systems and structures that comprise a piece of software.

Traditional apps are more rigid, with three main tiers: a logic tier, a presentation tier, and a database tier, all hosted on their own individual server. Because the app infrastructure is static, it’s harder to scale. This remains the case even when the app is subsequently moved to a virtual server. If any of the infrastructure fails, it all fails.

In short, traditional apps may be cloud-ready, but they aren’t designed to be used on the cloud. This includes many legacy apps, which can be deployed to the cloud using a VM (virtual machine), but use network-based storage and computational power. As a result, they cost more to maintain and don’t really benefit from being moved to the cloud.

Cloud apps, on the other hand, are deployed in the cloud from the start, so they’re less dependent on physical infrastructure. They’re much more versatile, and are usually built using service-oriented architecture (SOA). This means that data can be delivered using individual components and can be organized based on usage and other factors.

Cloud providers offer many of the managed services that cloud aps require to operate, such as database servers, eliminating the need to run the app on a VM. This makes it easier to scale and maintain them, with less likelihood of failure.

Native cloud apps are even more flexible, allowing for greater scalability and continuous deployment. They’re built entirely in the cloud, with Containers as a Service (CaaS) and Functions as a Service (Faas) making up the bulk of their architecture.

These apps are more modular, and can incorporate user and developer feedback more easily. They can either be hosted on a public cloud, such as AWS, or on a private cloud, which is an option for businesses that already have a secure internal data center.

Ultimately, you can think of the cloud as a spectrum that includes traditional apps, apps that are designed to be run on the cloud, and apps that are built entirely in the cloud. As more developers move toward cloud app development, it’s becoming the go-to solution for companies that want to build modern, scalable apps from the very beginning.

How are the development processes different?

Because cloud apps have a different architecture and deployment process, they require a different set of skills on your development team. Usually, cloud apps are built using a DevOps process that includes a high degree of collaboration and user feedback. They may use agile methodology or a modified version of the waterfall model.

Because cloud apps are built using containers and microservices, they can be deployed and updated on a shorter time frame. Unlike traditional apps, which require an integrated set of services in order to function, individual microservices perform their own functions, and communicate with each other using APIs and a service mesh layer.

They may also rely on serverless architecture, which means your developers don’t have to spend as much time on infrastructure, and can prioritize the code. You can either build a cloud-native app from scratch, or turn your legacy app into a cloud-ready version.

Either way, the unique features of cloud app development means that you can be more involved in the process than you would be with a traditional app.

Cloud app development requires risk.

That said, cloud app development isn’t without risk. Here are a few of the questions to keep in mind when speaking with your developer about the development process:

  1. How scalable is it?

    Traditional apps rely on your company’s internal servers and data centers, which can mean a single point of failure if anything goes wrong. Cloud apps, on the other hand, rely on your cloud service provider, which raises concerns of its own. Can they meet your app’s data load if you receive a sudden increase in traffic?

    One solution is to choose a hybrid cloud strategy, which means that your workload is distributed across a combination of public and private servers. That way, it’s easier to keep pace with your users’ demands and scale up or down as necessary.
  2. How secure is it?

    Because cloud apps are communicating with a range of services through their API, they can be susceptible to data breaches and other cyberthreats. One benefit to cloud apps is that the distribution of their components reduces the risk of brute force attacks that could more easily take down a single enterprise server.

    Still, it’s important to talk with your developer about security measures, such as using SSL, proxy servers, and data encryption to protect yourself and your users.
  3. How portable is it?

    Ideally, your app should prioritize portability and interoperability, and be able to run in multiple cloud environments. This means that if you want to switch between AWS to Azure, your app will be capable of making the move without having to be rebuilt.

    Not all apps and as portable as others, so speak with your development team to make sure that they’re using standardized protocols and containers.

Cloud app development increases interactivity between customers and partners.

App development used to be a tedious and time-consuming process. From R&D to unit and usability testing, development took place in discrete phases, with each step coming after the next. This made it harder for the development team to adapt to changes in the  customer’s needs or to feedback from users.

But with the rise of DevOps and agile development methods, interactivity between the development team, the customer, and other partners is easier than ever.

Because questions about infrastructure are secondary, developers can focus on writing the code, making changes more quickly and incorporating user feedback.

Additionally, because everything from data storage to testing takes place in the cloud, customers can view changes to individual containers more quickly, without waiting for the entire app to be redeveloped and redeployed.

Customers can also share their apps with third parties, enabling their external partners to have access to certain systems. With this increased interactivity, though, comes the security concerns associated with sharing data.

Companies without much cloud computing experience may not realize just how much access they’re granting to third parties.

But with continuous deployment and frequent testing routines, you can ensure that your security and accessibility practices are in line with your company’s current needs.

Keep an eye out on the constant resource requirements of cloud apps.

With the increased modularity and scalability of cloud apps comes additional resource requirements. For one, cloud apps may simply have a greater number of components for your development team to keep track of.

From one or more cloud servers to hundreds or even thousands of microservices, the individual components may not be as visible if you don’t know where to look.

Your vendors may use different tools and systems than those you currently use on your enterprise system, making it harder to see how it all fits together.

And, finally, you may have to do some extra work to track your usage of cloud services. Since fees are often based on usage, your costs may rise and fall based on how much data or bandwidth your app is using.

Have you set up an automated testing routine on your app and forgot to turn it off? You may be paying fees that you wouldn’t be paying if the same thing happened on one of your internal servers. After all, you might be paying for rent and power usage on your own machines, but a virtual machine on the cloud comes with a different fee scale.

With the increasing awareness of the energy resources that cloud computing requires, it may be worth doing some research into which platforms have the most efficient cloud to ensure that your cloud app costs less to run and has a lower carbon footprint.

Get a cloud app developer that can solve these problems for you.

There are a lot of factors that go into developing a cloud app, but the benefits to cloud apps over traditional apps are clearer than ever. If you’re looking for a flexible, scalable solution to your business needs, then cloud app development may be the way to go.

Once you’ve made that decision, it’s time to choose a developer who can answer your questions and solve any problems that arise along the way. The team at Zibtek has years of experience developing web apps, mobile apps, cloud apps, and more. Whether you’re building a new app from the ground up, or rebuilding your legacy app to be redeployed on the cloud, reach out to Zibtek to find out how we can help you develop your custom cloud-based app today!