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4 Ways to Connect a Remote Server to Your Mobile App

 

Have you ever wondered how information gets into apps installed on your mobile device? How they’re updated? How they synchronize with your account on the web/desktop app?
 
We know, we know, end users only care about enjoying the app, but as engineers, we also care about the “nuts and bolts'' of apps. For example, the methods used to connect the mobile parts of an application to the server, effectively transferring data bidirectionally.
 
With the introduction of high-speed data transmission channels such as WiFi 6 (802.11ax) with maximum connection speeds of 600-9608 Mbps and high-speed 4G mobile networks with transmission speeds of up to 100 Mbps, we are gaining major opportunities for accessing information systems from a mobile device. 
 
Now, with the introduction of the new 5G standard, data rates are bound to increase. It is also worth noting that the percentage of mobile devices used for accessing information systems is increasing every year in comparison with desktop. And as you may have guessed, this means that the amount of mobile traffic has already exceeded the traffic from desktop systems.

So, what are the options of communication between your mobile device and remote storage? In fact, there are several ways to do this. Here are several options to choose from depending on your business goals.

1. TCP/IP Direct Connection

Here, the mobile application directly connects to the server database to get responses. To ensure confidentiality, you can use SSH or another encryption type. In this case, a mobile application uses TCP/IP sockets (or UDP if necessary) connected to the server.

Features:

  • Direct connection using standard TCP/IP telnet/SSH;
  • User verification via simple login/password;
  • UI commands converted to server commands.

Advantages:

  • Simple;
  • Average costs for developing the back-end of applications;
  • No additional costs on maintaining additional hardware.

Disadvantages:

  • Complicated scalability;
  • Some TCP/IP ports can be closed or disabled, causing the mobile app to stop working;
  • Only one functionality for standard telnet/SSH protocol.

Please refer to iOS and Android documentation for more details about programming TCP/IP sockets.

2. Web application with Responsive Design

Mobile applications can be built as web apps with responsive design and they can use different frameworks like Electron and NW.js.

Features:

  • Using web services via specialized APIs;
  • User verification via simple/secure login/password as on the desktop web app;
  • UI commands converted to API requests.

Advantages:

  • REST API;
  • Easy client-side development;
  • Ability to use external resources (servers, databases) with connection from the server side;
  • No additional costs on maintaining additional hardware on the back-end;
  • The back-end can be placed on a cloud server or a dedicated server;
  • Easily scalable with cloud technologies.

Disadvantages:

  • A more complex development cycle;
  • In some cases, it can be comparatively slow because of the HTML/JS user interface, for instance 2d and 3d graphics.

 
* Note: It requires the development of the back-end web application and API services.
 
Please refer to Electron and NW.JS documentation for web application development.

3. Cloud Integration

With cloud integration, you can connect your mobile application to the back-end very easily. Thanks to modern cloud systems like Firebase or Amazon API Gateway, you can build scalable, reliable, and secure back-end for any kind of mobile app. This solution will also be cost-effective for any number of mobile users.

Features:

  • Connect to the cloud leveraging its services (API);
  • User verification via simple/secure login/password;
  • Easy scalability of APIs, up or down;
  • API versioning;
  • UI commands converted to cloud API commands.

Advantages:

  • REST API;
  • Easy client-side development;
  • Ability to use external resources (servers, databases) with cloud services;
  • Access all of cloud services;
  • Gain access to every computer in the cloud according to user permissions;
  • Highly scalable;
  • Extremely reliable and solid.

Disadvantages:

  • Time-consuming to configure;
  • Not easy to change cloud provider if necessary;
  • Back-end developers must be qualified;

Please refer to the Firebase and Amazon API Gateway documentation for cloud integration.

4. GraphQL

GraphQL provides a new API development approach. It can be compared and contrasted with REST and other web service architectures. GraphQL lets you define the structure of the required project data. The same structure will be returned by the server without the need to change the API, preventing the transfer of redundant data.

Features:

  • Send and receive new data without changing the API structure;
  • GraphQL servers are available in approximately 10 programming languages.

Advantages:

  • GraphQL supports reading and writing (modifying) data;
  • Ability to subscribe to real-time update data changes.

Disadvantages:

  • You must study relatively new technology;
  • Reduction in the effectiveness of web caching of query results.

Please refer to the GraphQL documentation for GraphQL integration. 

Shh, don’t tell anyone but we’ve just let you in on one of the best kept secrets of where the info on your smartphone or tablet is stored! There are no cables, no intermediaries, and certainly no owl post. It all comes down to high technologies.

As reported by world IT statistics and experts, the mobile industry is on the rise and promises to continue evolving for the foreseeable future. There are still many open challenges and a big space for growth in mobile application development, including storage and security areas, but, hopefully, IT experts will continue to amaze us with something new :)

by Svitla Team
November 26, 2021

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