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The most common challenges of a growing application

By John Cleary
20/05/2020

The most common challenges of a growing application

For many businesses, web applications form an essential part of everyday operations. Whether they are how you provide a premium user experience to your customers, manage daily tasks, or communicate with staff, we often expect applications to do a lot of the heavy lifting.

But maintaining an application over time requires continued commitment and investment. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as building an application once and then having it forever. Applications require maintenance and updates; they demand ongoing resources and should evolve alongside your business, not stay stagnant and quickly become out of date.

As maintaining an application requires an ongoing commitment, it is important you are aware of what to expect before undertaking such a long-term project. Here are some of the most common challenges to overcome when maintaining and growing an application.

Security

One of the key challenges of web applications is security. Most applications are built using either free open-source libraries or proprietary closed-source libraries. But regardless of how your application is built, there is a high risk of vulnerabilities being exposed over time. 82% of vulnerabilities are located in application code and unauthorised access is possible on around 39% of all sites.

When it comes to web application security, you don’t want to take any risks. If your site is vulnerable and found to be unstable, you risk hacking, data breaches, and significant disruption to your business.

With this in mind, it is imperative that you keep on top of security. If the creators of your code were to find a vulnerability somewhere later down the line, it falls to you to upgrade the vulnerable piece of code. Patching is like performing a small upgrade on one part of your system.

The best-case scenario is someone reads the code and notices a mistake, they inform the creators who create a patch, announcing the error and patch at the same time. The worst-case scenario is the vulnerability is announced first, leaving everyone using that code vulnerable and exposed until a patch is created. Either way, it is your business’s responsibility to upgrade to the patched version as soon as possible and minimise any risk to your organisation. 

Security issues like these can’t be ignored, so it is important you are always prepared to patch any potential flaws in your system.

Performance

We all want to see our businesses grow and develop. But alongside increased demand and traffic comes a need to expand your infrastructure.

With optimisation, it is important you can grow and evolve as a business while also maintaining your performance and service for existing customers. Say your traffic was to grow past what your infrastructure was built to handle, even if your servers failed for a short period of time, it could cause significant financial and reputational damage. 

But, on the other hand, premature optimisation can also be problematic. Business growth is difficult to predict ahead of time and you could waste valuable time and resources optimising an application that doesn’t yet need to be optimised. Not to mention the risk of downtime for existing customers during the optimisation process.

The best practice is to build sensibly at first but stay aware of the potential to optimise and expand at a later stage. Then you can optimise areas of your application as and when it becomes necessary. Optimisation makes a system look significantly more complicated internally, so it is best to wait for a specific problem to fix rather than trying to anticipate something that might never happen.

Upgrades

Unlike patching – which provides solutions to specific problems – there will come a time when you want or need to upgrade your application. The advantages of an upgrade are that you have access to newer features, sometimes better performance, and can integrate with more technology. You will be getting the latest version of an operating system and newer, faster features.

But upgrading your software will be a major undertaking. It will need at least a few weeks of effort and will eat into your time and budgets. Like optimisation, it is something you want to time perfectly.

Decoupling 

When building an application, you will most likely start off with one piece of software that does everything you need it to. But, over time, as you keep adding more features, it will become a large application – or monolith – that is increasingly difficult to manage. With large applications like this, one simple change can affect everything. You can no longer deploy quickly, leading to slow performance and difficulties when it comes to testing.

Decoupling involves breaking your application down into smaller, micro-services to make management easier. Micro-services aren’t somewhere you should start, but instead something that becomes essential after steady growth and development. Like we mentioned with premature optimisation, you don’t want to build expensive, complicated architecture before you really need it. 

Decoupling services is another big undertaking and it is more successful when you know exactly what problem you are solving, rather than doing it just because it seems the right thing to do or what everyone else is doing.

Costs

Maintaining an application is no simple task. Everything we mentioned above will demand time, money, and resources from your business. It is also likely that infrastructure costs will grow as you do. This means the further you get along your application’s journey, the greater financial burden will fall on your shoulders.

With this in mind, it is important to manage the amount of work your app is generating effectively. As the application grows, you may need to grow the business in order to handle the workload. 

At this point, you reach a quandary of whether to hire internally or outsource your tech support to an external team. Outsourcing can be a great option as you can leave your core team to deal with the main build of the application and daily business operations. You leave the tumultuous peaks and troughs of application maintenance and developments to someone who is an expert in that field and has the time and focus necessary to make the best decisions and anticipate any problems ahead of time.

Developing an application is a lot more complicated than just the initial build. Applications demand ongoing attention, resources, and intervention to stay up to date, efficient, secure, and effective. Whether you plan to take care of things in-house or outsource to an external team, it is essential you are prepared for all the commitments and challenges it brings.

At Createk, we are experts in application development and management. We bring our many years of experience to make our clients lives easier and provide the technological solutions needed to help your business be its best. To find out more, call us today on 0330 995 0685.

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