So you need to create a backend for your application where you can store sensitive data like passwords and other confidential information and also non-sensitive data like your users' display names.
More often than not, you don't have an unlimited budget to go with an expensive solution right from the start, and even if you did, you would most likely want to reduce the cost and save as much as possible.
While money is not the only factor that comes into play when choosing which route to take, it is one of the most major factors since it ultimately determines the sustainability of your choice.
What are the cost implications of how you build your backend? Is bootstrapping the right choice, or is it cheaper to make it from scratch?
This article will shed some light on and evaluate how bootstrapping a backend by leveraging a BaaS provider can help you save money as you build.
Two Common Approaches to Setting Up a Backend
While there are several ways to create a backend for your application, these two stand out as the most common.
Building a Custom Solution from Scratch
A custom backend is great because it gives you the flexibility and freedom to add as many customizations and features as you desire. The downside of building your backend from scratch is that the responsibility of maintaining and handling the infrastructure rests on you. It also comes with higher development costs and a longer time to market.
Bootstrapping with a Backend as a Service
Backend as a Service (BaaS) allows you to outsource the building, ownership, and maintenance of backend infrastructure to third-party providers, enabling you to focus on the frontend, and other core aspects of your application. Instead of building a custom backend, you get access to APIs and SDKs you can use to integrate the backend functionality you need.
Baas vs Custom Backend: Factors to Consider
There are multiple factors to consider when choosing the appropriate backend solution that fits your product requirements. Here are some of the factors:
- Time to Market
- Stage of the Product
- Ready-to-use Functionalities
Let's explore these factors in detail.
Time to Market
Here's a simple truth: your target audience doesn't know or care if you use a BaaS or a custom backend. What they want is a product that solves their problems and delivers the best value to them. The sooner you launch your product, the better. Building a custom backend can take 1-3 months and that can be a long time to wait, particularly for highly saturated markets with competitors that launch fast, which is every market.
One benefit of BaaS solutions is that they increase the speed of development and enable you to build faster by eliminating the need to set up servers, provision containers, and write boilerplate code. Studies show that using BaaS solutions like Appwrite have the potential to reduce your development time by 50%.
Stage of the Product
When it comes to the proper backend solution for your application, one size doesn't fit all. The stage of your application in the product lifecycle will affect the type of backend infrastructure you choose. Builders often choose BaaS providers like Appwrite when their products are in the early to mid stages of development because they are the appropriate solution. For example, you may not want to allocate resources to set up a custom backend when you have few users and very few features available, particularly for a niche product. Besides helping you launch faster, BaaS solutions are a friendlier option for early and mid-stage products, which is how all great applications begin.
BaaS solutions come with multiple features and functionalities baked into them. This means you
are unburdened from looking for third-party services and figuring out how to integrate them into your product. With BaaS solutions like Appwrite, you get access to functionalities like storage, databases, authentication, functions, localization, team access management, and more, all in one platform. Leveraging the ready-made functionalities of Baas solutions means you don't have to reinvent the wheel when building innovative products.
Accessing these services from a single platform is also better because it is easier to manage as you scale compared to integrating and managing multiple third-party vendors when working with a custom backend. It also frees you from the pains of responding to several API changes and updates over time.
Cost to Consider when Choosing between Bootstrapping your Backend or Building from Scratch
When it comes to creating a backend, there are some costs you should consider, as they will ultimately help determine which backend development method you choose to work with.
Here are some of the cost considerations you should make:
Setting up a backend infrastructure is beyond coding. It also involves configuring data storage, hosting, server management, purchasing software licenses, and other responsibilities. The underlying tasks involved make the development of a custom backend expensive. Beyond the financial costs attached, there is also the time cost, as it can take weeks to months to complete the development.
BaaS solutions have no development cost because there is no backend to build. Instead, all you have to do is plug into their service the APIs and SDKs they provide.
Creating a custom backend requires a lot of resources, regardless of the stage of your product's growth and this includes manpower resources. The fewer features and functionalities you have to code from scratch, the fewer manpower resources you will need.
Since a BaaS system prevents you from reinventing the wheel, fewer hands are needed to build. By limiting the amount of backend work required, BaaS enables you to reduce your manpower cost, which is a good thing because the average global range for a backend developer's salary is $72,484 per year.
Cost of Prototyping
The idea behind a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is to launch a product as fast as possible while spending little money. BaaS platforms are great for creating proof of concepts and developing MVPs. They give you a lean and efficient setup you can use to launch the initial version of your product. The low-maintenance environment BaaS provides is great for quick prototyping.
Why take months and spend thousands of dollars on your application prototype because you built your backend from scratch when you can achieve the same goal in weeks without spending a dime building with a BaaS provider?
Creating a backend is one thing; maintaining it to ensure optimal performance is another. Many activities go into maintaining a custom backend such as verifying that backups are working, monitoring RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) alarms, updating the OS, and checking for hardware errors and your system's security. These are recurring costs that take time and tons of manpower to handle.
There are no maintenance costs with BaaS solutions because the backend is not your responsibility.
How Much Can You Save by Bootstrapping Your Backend?
Consider a scenario where you need to develop a backend for a SaaS startup with only 100 users. Here are some of the cost implications involved in building the backend from scratch development:
- Hiring a backend developer costs a minimum of $72,484, and this can increase depending on the developer’s experience. In some cases, a senior developer’s salary can be as high as $128,332
- Buying a physical server will cost between $5,000 to $10,000, and renting a server will cost between $100 to $200 per month. The SaaS startup will most likely go for renting for starters, then eventually switch to a physical server as they expand
- After buying the server, an IT technician has to install and set it up. This process can take at least 5 hours and costs at least $660
- Carrying out monthly routine server maintenance can cost between $150 to $1,500, depending on how frequently the maintenance occurs
All these costs together add up to a range between $78,284 and $139,142 to set up a backend from scratch.
BaaS solutions eliminate these costs because you don’t have to worry about the following:
- Hiring a developer since you have easy-to-use APIs and SDKs for quick integration
- Buying or renting a physical server, since
- Hiring an IT technician because there are no servers to install
- Carry out maintenance because there are no servers to maintain
However, the fact that BaaS platforms are more cost-effective does not mean they do not come with their own cost implications. Most BaaS solutions operate on a pay-as-you-go pricing model where you are charged based on your level of usage. The charge is usually between $0.01 and 0.10 per API call. They also come with generous free tiers ranging from tens of thousands to a million API calls per month, and sometimes, businesses don’t scale beyond that, meaning they pay nothing and get a backend for free.
With 100 users for the SaaS startup, the backend will cost between $5000 to $1000 per month, at $0.10 per API call. This amount depends on the number of monthly API calls generated by user activity.
This means that you stand to save at least $68,284 and as much as $129,142 by bootstrapping your backend with a BaaS provider.
Note that while actual costs may vary from one project to another and between regions, this budget gives you a rough idea of the cost-saving benefits you stand to gain by bootstrapping your backend development.
Creating a great product is complex, and a lot of decision-making goes into the processes involved. Among other things, it is important to consider the nature of your product and the resources available when deciding what backend solution to use.
A great thing about choosing Appwrite as your BaaS provider is that it provides you with the necessary APIs, SDKs, and functionalities to build great web and mobile applications easily. Appwrite is free and easy to set up. It has comprehensive documentation, a simple learning curve, and a large and supportive community to help assist and get you started quickly.
The following resources can help you get started with bootstrapping your backend with Appwrite:
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