Once upon a time, building a backend to you application was a nightmare. You had to set up a server, create databases, write your own little API for the server and the client side. Sure there were libraries that could help you, sure if you have time and experience you could manage to do it... but still... it was way too cumbersome. And you couldn't even think about authentication or integration with Facebook, Microsoft Account or Twitter... that was way too complex!

How many apps didn't you write because of this? How many feature did you leave out that would have been cool? A leaderboard for your game? Sharing data with other users?

But this will soon be distant memories thanks to Windows Azure data services! This new service will let you create a cloud backend to your apps within minutes. Not only for Windows Store apps or Windows Phone 8 apps, but also for iOS or Android apps!

You might wonder what a cloud backend is, well let me answer you with a classical example. Imagine you want to build a simple "to do" application where the user can store his tasks. If you only want your application to store the tasks locally on the device than you don't need a backend, but then you have a terribly borring app because the user won't be able to see his tasks on his other devices! Instead you could store the data in a backend and have it available to the user through all his devices. You could also imagine doing a "to do" app for teams, this would be impossible without having a backend to share the data!

How to get started? It's really easy, just follow the great guides and documentation on Azure's website. The first example will walk you though creating a very simple "to do" application: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/mobile/tutorials/get-started/ . You can then continue and learn more about integrating authentication or push notifications!

What about the price? It is pretty cheap! If you are using the "shared" version you won't have to pay anything for the data services part. This will be more than enough for moderate traffic. If your app gets really succesful you can scale up to a dedicated server that will costs you a few Francs per month to get maximal performance. You will also need Azure MS SQL server to store the data. This is the only thing that would cost you. If your database is under 100Mb that would also be just a few Francs per month (ess than a price of a beer in Zurich!). Of course if you only want to play around you can start with Azure's 90-day free trial !

Hope this post will help you create new exciting applications! If you have comments, ideas or want to know more write to us in the comments or on Facebook!

- Pierre