The Ongoing Costs of Running an App

Apps are costly. This is the unfortunate truth of the matter. While there are many costs involved with the development of an app (see our previous article The Hidden Costs of Developing Apps), you also need to consider the continued running of your app. There are many factors involved in ensuring an app you’ve had built will keep running efficiently and to ensure it will keep providing value to your users. Unfortunately, many of these factors have a cost and if you’re not fully aware of these costs, you could be caught by surprise and end up blowing out your budget. Let’s explore what you’ll need to consider after you launch your app, the tools we use and ongoing costs you can expect.

The two main areas of app support and implementation that will create costs for you are:

  1. Servers and hosting platforms- these are called direct costs.
  2. Ongoing bug fixes and updates- these are called indirect costs.

Direct Costs 

Direct costs are unavoidable and absolutely necessary so that your app can function. These costs are mostly from server setup and server management.

Server Setup Costs

The cost of setting up a server for your app can vary wildly depending on a few different factors. How many users will be using your app will affect the costs as well as what the servers are being used for. For example, if your app involves video processing, this will require a more expensive server. Alternatively, if your app just requires simple data processing, the server to host it will be relatively cheap.

The servers we tend to use at Digital Basis are Vultr or Amazon AWS. These are both pay-as-you-go subscription platforms so you’ll only be paying depending on how much server space you’ll need.

Again, this cost will vary greatly depending on your project but from our experience, we have found running apps on these servers usually costs between $20USD - $400USD.

Server Management Costs

Server management refers to the processes needed to maintain your server and store information on these servers. These are essential in order to host your app and ensure your app keeps running smoothly.

At Digital Basis, we use Serverpilot.io as a hosting service as it manages everything you would need and it is simpler to run than a lot of the alternatives. We also use either Backblaze B2 or Amazon S3 to store your information on the servers.

Serverpilot costs around $12USD a month to use. As for storage costs, Backblaze B2 costs $0.005USD per gigabyte of storage, while Amazon S3 costs $0.021USD per gigabyte.

Extra Direct Costs

If your app requires you to make calls or SMS, then you will have to pay extra costs. For this service, we use Twilio or Messagebrid and it usually costs 5 cents per SMS. Depending on the size of your app, we use two different services for an email processing server for your in-app emails. For some small apps, we use Sendgrid as it is a free service and completes most basic functions. However, we usually recommend using Postmark for this as it is a much more thorough system and only costs $10USD a month.

Indirect Costs

Indirect costs are harder to quantify as it is highly dependent on the work your app needs. It can involve growing your app, listing your app on the Apple app store, fixing bugs or updating the current version.

App Growth Costs

If your app audience grows, you need your app to grow with it. Adding new features is vital to keeping the app relevant and useful. If you’re looking for a program with all round capabilities, including email, to help with productivity and collaboration, we suggest getting Google Workspace (formerly G Suite), which starts at $5USD a month. However, if you’re just looking for an email provider, Migadu provides a cheaper alternative at just $20USD a year. 

If you’re looking to implement a Live Chat service or Support Desk option into your app, we recommend using Re:Amaze or Helpscout. These will both cost you $20USD for the basic package.

Finally, for source code control and software development, we use GitHub. You can use this program for free for the basics but if you need extra functionality from it, you can start paying.

App Store Listing

If you’re looking for your app to be published in the Apple App Store, you will need to pay $99USD a year for the Apple Developer Account which allows you to list your app. Likewise for listing on the Google Play Store there is a developer account fee of $25 USD. 

Bug Fixes

It’s highly recommended that when you start deciding on your app budget, that you budget a small amount of money per week or month to cover bug fixes as you will want to fix these immediately so your users aren’t turned off from your app.

If you choose to partner with us at Digital Basis to help you with your app maintenance, we offer monthly retainers from as little as $300 to be spent on maintaining your app and fixing bugs as they occur.

App Updates

While it is essential that you maintain your app, if you have a paying customer base you’ll want to update your app regularly to ensure it is running at peak efficiency. From previous experience, we have found it costs roughly $2000 a month to update your app and add improvements.

This cost is highly dependent on whether your app is a web-based app or a native app on the App Store. If it is published on the app store, it will have to be regularly updated to align with the current phone updates like the latest iOS14 update for Apple phones. However, if it is web-based, it exists on our servers so there doesn’t have to be constant updates and will result in lower costs for you.

Summary

Running and maintaining an app does involve a lot of costs that can be easily overlooked if you aren’t aware of them or you’re new to app development. If you want to make this process much easier for yourself, you can always partner with us at Digital Basis. We’ll take care of all your software needs and make sure you’re not surprised by any of the hidden ongoing costs involved in running your app.