Do Mobile Apps Need Hosting and How It Works?

Apps and Software

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How to host a mobile application and on what server? How much does it cost to host it and do I really need hosting for my mobile app? These are the most common questions that you’ll ask yourself as you move forward in the process of creating a mobile application. And trust us, the moment when an item of hosting appears as an indispensable part of putting the app into operation always comes: you wrote specifications, requested estimation from a mobile application development agency, and boom – there’s the item “hosting”.

What Does It Mean to Host a Mobile App?

The mobile app is just the final product. Before users are allowed to discover and install your mobile application, there’s a whole universe behind. For example, your app requires creating a user account. You have to store the users’ information somewhere. This place is a database linked to your application and is completely invisible to the user but is essential to ensure the proper functioning of the application.

The database allows you to keep all the information of your users, such as e-mail addresses, nicknames… Or, for business mobile apps: customer contact details, identifications of technicians, invoices… You won’t be needing hosting for a mobile app only if you, for instance, developed a standalone offline game (like Minecraft or Tetris) that doesn’t have an online leaderboard.

Servers

This database we are talking about needs to be stored somewhere. That’s what servers are for. In simple words, a server is like a very powerful computer, specially designed to provide information and software to other computers connected to it over a network. Capable of handling larger workloads and running more applications, servers leverage their specific hardware components to increase productivity and reduce downtime.

The servers also offer remote management tools that allow IT technicians to check usage and diagnose problems from another location. These tools can also be used to perform regular maintenance tasks, such as adding new users or changing passwords. These modifications or additions are possible in the so-called backend.

One type of database is proven to be quite effective in running on the server-side of a mobile application – MySQL database. This is because MySQL is an open-source relational database management system, so wisely choosing MySQL hosting service that secures this database will allow you to enjoy all the benefits of a quality hosting. And all that without making a painful financial commitment. In short, connecting an app to MySQL database is configured in the backend for which a MySQL server and a simple Application programming interface (API) are necessary. The application will connect to the database only by sending requests to an API that has to be previously written in form of a script (usually PHP) whose job is to process a request and respond to the app.

This server, which is a physical element, must be located somewhere. These choices are available to you:

  • To host server(s) on the company’s premises. This saves money because you won’t need to rent a server from a specialized company. In addition, maintenance will be much faster because you’ll have access to your server. On the other hand, this requires having strong IT skills and staff skilled at the maintenance and proper functioning of the server. Hosting server(s) on your company’s premises is only recommended if you already have staff qualified for this or if your activity requires a very large number of servers.
  • To have your server(s) hosted by a specialized company that has established fees for leasing a dedicated server (server only for you) or a shared server (shared with other users). This has the advantage of not requiring any special skills from you but requires paying for this service each month. Prices vary greatly depending on the company, the storage requested and the number of servers you want. This solution is perfect for small businesses that don’t have qualified personnel for the maintenance and monitoring of servers.

Hosting a Native Mobile App

A native mobile app is a free or paid downloadable application. It’s developed specifically for one of the operating systems used by mobile devices – smartphones or tablets – and distributed via pre-installed application platforms, so-called application stores (Google Play Store for Android phones, Apple App Store for iPhone and iPad, and Microsoft Store for Windows phones). Don’t get confused: a native mobile application and a web application aren’t the same things.

Native mobile apps are built in the device itself for a specific mobile platform (Android, iOS, and Windows), which are, as we already said, downloadable and installed via application stores and have access to mobile system resources, such as GPS or camera.

On the other hand, web apps are part of the websites’ responsive design. It means they adapt to whichever device you’re viewing them when accessing them through the Internet browser. They don’t need to be downloaded or installed although their responsive nature makes them appear and function similar to mobile applications.

Until a few years ago, creating an app was reserved for the most technologically advanced companies in order to distinguish themselves from the competition. Today, it has become a fundamental element in meeting customers’ expectations. By this, we mean that customers no longer bother to inquire about a product or service if the company doesn’t offer them a communication channel compatible with a smartphone.

A business without an application excludes itself from the niche and can no longer compete with rival companies. Mobile apps improve your presence in the market and make your company more attractive and more efficient in market analysis. But these applications must be hosted somewhere for users to download them, and this is where mobile phone platforms that we stressed earlier step in.

Mobile Phones Platforms

The native mobile app itself is hosted by one of these mobile platforms (stores): Google Play Store, Apple App Store, and Microsoft Store. To place your applications to mobile stores, it’s essential to create a developer account. It’s up to you to decide on which one (or several ones) you want your brand to be present according to your target audience.

Here are some tips:

Google Play Store

Developed by Google, Android is present on most of the phones and tablets on the market. This operating system is very popular with developers. That’s why millions of Android apps are invented every day. Android is the leading operating system on the market today. However, be careful, because, in some countries, Apple remains the leader. For example, in Japan or Switzerland, the iOS operating system represents 50% of the market share. In France, the number of Android devices is 23 million (vs. 8 million for iOS).

Still, the average daily revenue when it comes to Android apps is 100 – 200 U.S. dollars (vs. 500 – 1000 euros on iOS). The registration fee for Google Play is a one-time payment of 25 U.S. dollars. It’s not necessary to renew payment for upgrading your Android application in the future. You also have the option of submitting multiple Android apps with the same developer account. The backward compatibility of Android applications is a real problem as only 2% of mobile smartphones run the latest version of Google.

Apple App Store

The iOS operating system is only supported on iPhone phones and iPad tablets. The company Apple doesn’t issue an iOS license to be used by third-party hardware. The distribution on this mobile store is expensive because you have to pay 99 U.S. dollars each year to get your own developer account for this purpose.

So, research your target audience carefully to be sure that this platform is suitable for them. For example, statistics say that Apple users aren’t fond of ads but are willing to pay for a mobile app, unlike Android users. In addition, due to regular updates offered by Apple, it’s a high probability that your application won’t have a backward compatibility problem on older iOS phones.

Microsoft Store

Originally, Microsoft bought Nokia’s operating system, Symbian OS, and turned it into a Windows Phone platform in 2010. Today, Windows 10 is the latest operating system released by Microsoft, available on PC and mobile devices – smartphones and tablets. Windows OS only covers 0.4% of the market in some countries today and it powers only 3 million mobile phones. This operating system includes a unique user interface, more aesthetic than its competitors. Microsoft has also put a lot of effort into this interface in the form of tiles, which are there to help users and provide information in real-time.

It’s necessary to be well informed on each platform, in particular concerning in-app purchases. This feature doesn’t exist in Windows’ Microsoft Store. In addition, Microsoft is much more demanding than its two competitors. Users are urged to update their phones or tablets under penalty of blocking their access to the Microsoft Store.

As you can see, choosing a mobile platform can be a real headache. This choice depends very much on your users and your project. However, nothing prevents you from starting with development on one operating system and then developing on the others when your revenues improve.

How to Choose Hosting for Your Mobile App?

A mobile application development company that you hired will, most likely, offer you a solution to host all of your tools. The type of hosting will be determined on the estimation.

The main criteria to take into account when it comes to mobile application hosting are:

  • Storage space
  • Bandwidth
  • The number of domain names
  • The number of email accounts
  • The degree of independence you’ll have

Don’t hesitate to inquire about the different hosts that exist and do research of your own in order to find the one that will best suit your project. Check carefully in your provider’s Terms of Service what it supports in the event of a server malfunction.

What Is the Best Hosting for a Mobile App?

Shared hosting

Shared hosting is the starting point for the vast majority of people when they step into the world of web or mobile hosting. It’s very cheap, and ideal to get started. The main advantage of this type of hosting is its ease of use. Whether you have a domain name or not, you only need FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software to transfer your files to the server. The data sent is immediately online.

This type of hosting is accompanied by a range of fairly general services. Depending on the provider, you’ll have the possibility of getting a more or less large storage space, backups, speed, a limited (or maybe not) bandwidth, a variable number of mailboxes and module installation services (forum, blog, etc.) – clearly, everything you need to get started without having to worry about the technical side.

Pay attention to what each provider’s offer has. There’s a large number of offers with more or less advantageous options. The contract may even include the availability obligations in the event of a breakdown, or even an automatic backup service.

Dedicated hosting

The dedicated server is more concerned with mobile apps that have a certain technical level and which require a higher speed of execution or a larger memory capacity. With the dedicated server, you have total freedom – the freedom to do what you want and when you want. There’s currently nothing above the dedicated server except, of course, to have several of them.

But, just like with the shared server, the possibilities depend on the offer you’ve chosen. Your contract may provide storage space ranging from several hundred GB to several tens of TB of data, fast or very fast bandwidth, automatic backup systems for better security and performance. Nowadays, it’s easier and easier to gather information on the Internet to understand all the necessary information about the way dedicated servers run.

For those who have neither the time nor the desire, nothing prevents you from entrusting the administration of your mobile application to a service provider called “reseller”. In fact, it’s unusual for direct hosts to take care of hosting by themselves. More likely, they will rent different servers to prevent outages instead of doing constant monitoring.

Conclusion

How much you’ll pay for hosting will depend mainly on your use and needs. As you can imagine, Facebook doesn’t have the same needs as the independent website of a blogger. Facebook needs entire floors of servers in different countries to keep it running smoothly. The price can also skyrocket when you decide to double your servers either for increased activity or as a precaution.

Indeed, what will you do if the server has a problem – will you stop your activity or will you decide to secure everything and divide your information into two servers? The choice is yours. When you request for estimation when developing a mobile app, discuss it with the different mobile providers.

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