Cloud integration in Apps

Cloud integration in Apps

February 19th, 2014 By: Stefan von Gagern
Apps have much to gain from storing data in the cloud: it makes default settings, data and documents available on all devices – and configuration without a PC. Find out about the basics for integrating cloud services in apps.
Cloud integration in apps

In their blog the CeBIT IT trade fair reported that nearly 90 percent of all Internet users now use cloud services in one form or another – for example, through Facebook, Google or Amazon. Despite this, around one-third of them still have trouble explaining what cloud computing is. We previously described what cloud-based systems offer developers in our blog; in this post, we will take a look at the cloud from the user perspective. And when users are delighted, the developer also benefits, of course, through the greater success of the app.

Always up to date on all devices

Apple iCloud
Apple iCloud impressively demonstrates how user-friendly developers can package cloud computing. (Source:

A good example to illustrate the possibilities of cloud services and apps is Apple's iCloud, launched in 2011. The basic idea is conveyed in the slogan: "Your content. On all your devices." The handling in iCloud is intended to be more effortless than ever before: the data is synchronized almost completely automatically on all devices, without users having to do anything or even think about it. When they take a picture with the Camera app on their iPhone, for example, it is automatically stored in the cloud and transferred to all the devices connected with the service – other iPhones, iPads and desktop computers with Windows or Mac operating systems. They do not have to perform any downloads or direct synchronization; they only have to open an album in the Photos app.

Every user who buys an iOS device today automatically receives a free iCloud account and five gigabytes of storage. Users activate their accounts during configuration. iCloud takes care of many other things, as well: calendar appointments, contacts, e-mail, Safari bookmarks, notes, reminders, documents and data only have to be created or changed once on any connected device and are then updated on all other devices automatically. Users even have the option to back up their entire smartphones in the cloud. This fills the 5 GB provided free of charge quickly, however; users can buy more storage space for an annual fee. iCloud ensures trouble-free configuration of iOS devices even without a PC. Once the Apple ID is connected, all already purchased apps can be downloaded again.

APIs enable integration of cloud services

Integrate cloud services in apps
APIs let developers integrate cloud services in their apps. (Source:

Cloud services give developers APIs that make it possible to connect custom apps with the storage service. Apple, for example, provides comprehensive iCloud documentation for developers. The basic idea behind iCloud is to make device synchronization practically invisible to users. Users do not have to fiddle with folders or data on the iCloud server. The apps take care of practically everything in the background, as long as developers follow the specifications of the API.

Apple differentiates between three types of cloud storage in iCloud:

  • Key value storage: Default settings, user settings and even states of an app can be saved in the cloud and transferred to other devices.
  • Document storage: This area allows the storage of visible user information such as documents from word processing, drawings and complex app states.
  • Core data storage: iPhoto and iTunes are examples of "shoebox-style" apps. Users interact here with a single library of data records (which the app manages with core data) instead of with multiple documents. In this approach, core data only stores logs in iCloud and uses them to restore the database on another device. This method saves bandwidth, since only changes have to be transferred.

iCloud is embedded deep in the iOS operating system, but there are also alternatives from third-party vendors. Dropbox, for example, features a sync API, to synchronize files with Dropbox. More than 100,000 apps already use the Dropbox platform to synchronize their data.

Synchronizing application data with Android

There is also an API for Android applications to storage data in the cloud. Predictable: In this case, the data is stored on Google servers. Like in iCloud, the Backup API aids the management of new and reset Android devices, not only reloading the apps again, but also the data stored on the device. The Backup API is intended more for small quantities of data, of around one megabyte: preferences, notes, high scores and other statistics are the use cases for the Backup API.

Using the Marketplace for business apps

The TelekomCloud features content such as photos, videos, e-mails and more, in a secure, reliable environment. (Source:

Some applications pose special requirements of cloud services, particularly in the business domain. If there high demands for security and reliability, for example, or German-speaking customer service is a decisive argument, then the cloud solution by Deutsche Telekom is a strong partner.
Companies can lease apps at and use them on all devices worldwide. The public cloud services of the TelekomCloud make it possible to set up custom e-mail systems, applications, CRM and backup solutions with secure, high-performance data centers, without having to set up dedicated IT resources.

Here, as well, developers can use an API to access resources in the TelekomCloud and place their own partner apps in the Business Marketplace. The partner apps are then distributed as SaaS solutions (leased software) through the TelekomCloud Business Marketplace.

The bottom line: Cloud services make apps more attractive

When implemented correctly, cloud services can improve the user experience of many apps. Users only have to create the content – take pictures and create documents, for example; the cloud takes care of subsequent storage and synchronization between devices. Numerous criteria are relevant for developers who face the selection of a cloud service, for example, its user-friendliness, its speed and reliability, data security during saving and transfer and options for integration in the specific app.

About the author
About the author

Stefan von Gagern works as a freelance journalist in Hamburg. Since 10 years he covers web and mobile technologies and –development. He also works as a consultant, helping companies to build websites, mobile and social media. At Kiel university of applied sciences he teaches media conception. In his free time the gadget fan loves to write music as a singer/guitar player in bands and his home studio.

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