Hey, I'm Luke Siedle maker of things technical and creative. I'm a full stack developer by day. Musician and writer by night.

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What is Parse.com, and what are the pros and cons of this service?

I recently had the opportunity to try out Parse.com's API for a couple of projects, including our new recruitment web app http://www.flagd.com. We needed an API backend as a service solution since we wanted the option to eventually create native Android/IOS versions of the app. Parse looked like the best solution because they have SDKs for just about every platform, they've got a pretty solid free tier, and they allow you a reasonable level of control over your code.

But like every service, there are both pros and cons to using Parse. Overall I was extremely impressed, especially with what you get on the free tier.

Here's a breakdown/summary of what I thought was good about it, and the pitfalls of using Parse for your production app. It should be noted that we were using https://angularjs.org/ for these projects, which proved to be a great companion for Parse, and vice versa.

PROS

CONS

How I solved the critical problems I experienced

I had to write some custom code to handle OAuth. For uploaded files, I used Amazon S3 instead and ran all assets through Cloudfront distributions, solving the font issues.

Since I was using Yeoman with Angular, I tweaked my Grunt configuration slightly to basically create a copy of the app for production which had a unique Parse configuration for deploying (global.json). So I can build for staging and production in a single step, and then just deploy to Parse using their CLI tool.

Should you use Parse.com?

As with most of these discussions, it all depends on what you need and how much you're willing to pay when/if you end up running the app at scale. Parse.com is definitely an awesome way to build a prototype, and not have to worry about maintaining another codebase like a Rails backend just to store some data.

What are other similar options? - Google now owns Firebase, which is a similar service but has a less potent free tier (development tier). - Apple now offers its own API Backend on iCloud, called CloudKit. CloudKit is only for the Apple ecosystem.

What I would like to use in the future

I haven't ever sampled anything like this, but from a Google search, http://loopback.io is an open source API as a service/NodeJS platform with SDKs for Android, iOS and Angular. So you can install this on your own server at low cost, and also have the benefits of being able to tie up the app quickly on your various clients. Maybe I'll try this next time!

All things considered, for rapid development, prototyping, or even production, Parse.com is a pretty amazing solution. For our team at Lab19 Digital it provides a great way to get a production-ready app up and running without worrying about configuration and scale.