How Much Does It Cost to Maintain An App?
Tammy Slaughter wrote this article
The costs incurred during the design, development and launch of your app are not the only expenses you need to plan for when it comes to long-term viability in the App Store.
The reality is, there are certain costs associated with just maintaining the day-to-day status-quo of your future app.
While this can vary widely based on necessitated industry technology and functionality, general app maintenance can include the cost of servers, sending push notifications, and payment gateways.
The Rule of Thumb: Budget 20% of Development Costs for App Maintenance
This might seem pretty steep, but it may also be all the more reason to limit available features in your app right out of the gate.
Less features = less expenditure towards development and annual app maintenance.
That’s pretty straightforward, in and of itself.
But turns out, this actually makes good “user sense” as well.
Recent estimates suggest the average user never uses about half of an app’s features, relying on a mere 20% during regular app usage!
It only makes sense, then, to tailor the available features to what users might be most likely to use from day one; saving yourself the time and costs incurred by including the less desirable ones.
Of course, this then begs the question: How does one know which features to include?
Conducting market research, asking potential users for feedback, and gaining an early audience of supporters on social media are all great places to start.
But that’s a whole other beast to be explored here on the blog at another time.
Maintaining Your App’s Status Quo
No matter what, there are a few key areas you can expect to incur costs to maintain your app’s vitals. These include:
Infrastructure – Servers and data storage
Administrative – User support, app content management and password requests
Functionality – Namely, APIs necessary to plugin to your app.
IT Support – Regular iOS and Android updates
Keep reading for a detailed breakdown of maintenance costs across these key areas.
Costs to Maintain App Infrastructure
Server Cost – $60 and up per month. Can range up to $12,000 annually depending on app usage. While we offer complimentary servers for your app until we can no longer support it (yay, growth!), we like Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a secure server option.
Data Storage – Data storage needs can vary widely from app-to-app, but you can expect to spend anywhere between $3,600 and upwards of $6,000 annually on data storage. If your app deals with user generated content, you will need to have a place to download, process and deliver images.
The Hidden Cost of Administrative Password Maintenance
Believe it or not, simply maintaining access to existing user accounts for your app is something you’ll need to budget for, and it can add up pretty quickly.
Login credential and password reset requests make up between 20-50% of all customer support volume for online businesses and apps, according to Janrain. Each password-related support request from a user costs companies on average about $70!
It takes manpower and infrastructure like to handle user-related customer service requests – more than you might think.
Plugging in a simple API to enable social logins for your app could not only save you upfront in development costs, but also maintenance down the road.
Social login APIs also allow you to leave username security and maintenance up to the big boys and focus on your core business instead.
Users seem to like social logins as well, with 54% of users reporting they may actually leave a website or an app and go to another rather than complete an individual registration form.
Password fatigue is real, and if data is what you’re after with your own user registration process, it may be a moot point: 88 percent of users surveyed reporting they often sign-up with fake information.
A Robust Administrative Backend To Keep Costs Down
Apps are nothing without an administrative backend built to scale. Think of it as the app’s life’s blood.
Content Management – Changing content like text or uploading photos and videos should be as easy as click and edit.
Pushing Dynamic Updates -All apps require regular updates, but some apps will need to go through a resubmission process each time a content change is made. Your app’s backend needs the built-in functionality whereby a simple click of a button in your dashboard pushes out the content changes automatically.
Managing User Profiles – If you opt-in for your own registration process, you’ll need tools to for customer service requests to securely manage usernames and passwords.
Analytics Tools – This one is a given (at least it should be). You want to know how your app is performing! App analytics can tell you a lot.
App Control Panel – Your app may require permissions to manage who can access and change what within the app. This also includes what users can access; what screens they see, access to premium content and even provide admin access to your own team.
API Integrations for Functionality
Push Notifications – Starting at $10 per month, but can run upwards of 3k annually. We like OneSignal.
Payment Gateways – $149 per month and up, including a small transaction percentage. We like Stripe.
Email – $1,000 annually if your app requires a basic email feature. We like Mailgun.
SMS Alerts – $500 annually. We like Twilio.
But before you get too excited thinking app maintenance costs are nominal at best, each app and industry has its own unique set of technological needs, challenges, and APIs needed to “Make It App’n”.
For example, many PropTech apps looking to disrupt the real estate market will quickly realize they’ll likely need to get an enterprise-level subscription to ListHub to harness the amount of MLS data necessary to power their app.
This may require budgeting a couple thousand dollars a month to use at scale.
Similarly, MedTech apps typically require access to the Electronic Health Record, or EHR’s.
While there are numerous EHR software programs to choose from, they all have one thing in common: their hefty price tag.
One potential cost incursion could be maintaining your API dependencies with regular security patches. Github does have a tool that makes it easy to help you stay on top of this, however.
A Long-Term Partner with a Proven Track Record Can Help
The key concern when it comes to app maintenance costs is the sheer amount of individual components needed to assemble in order bring your app to life.
Each of them costs thousands of dollars upfront, and some of these costs will continue throughout the life of your app — if only to keep your app functioning and up-to-date with security standards.
While app development is not a one-size-fits-all service and every app has its own needs and APIs to wrangle with, remember the 20% rule of development cost when it comes to annual maintenance and you won’t be surprised by any hidden costs down the road.
Limiting early features most users will ignore anyway will also help.
You can always add more features later, especially with an app that’s built with scale-ability in mind.
And on that front — if you plan on maintaining an app across multiple platforms, you should consider using React Native (our personal fav here at Chop Dawg), as it makes pushing regular updates to iOS, Android, and web both cost-effective, timely and easily scaled.
At the same time, conducting your due diligence when it comes to finding the right app development partner is essential.
The right technical partner can help your app stay relevant; with fresh features to wow users, guidance to avoid future maintenance cost overruns, and set you up for success with the tools and app analytics you’ll need to easily power your app’s day-to-day.
Schedule your free consultation with us today!
About ChopDawg.com: Since 2009, we have helped create 300+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.
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