There are moments in your life as a mobile developer when you actually don’t want or need your app to get super popular — for example, when you’re building an app for internal corporate use only, or when you’re testing a new version of an app among a small group of employees and friends.
For those moments — when you don’t want your apps publicly distributed — there’s now a new solution. Called Knappsack, the product is launching today with free, premium, and open-source versions.
Knappsack was built especially for testing environments within development shops or large companies, as well as government and enterprise organizations that need to run secure apps for internal eyes only.
In some ways, it’s a bit like TestFlight (a free solution for testing iOS apps) plus Ad Hoc (Apple’s limited distribution service) plus Apple’s business-to-business custom distribution for registered developers, except that it’s an all-in-one product, and it runs on all devices, not just iOS.
In a conversation with Knappsack’s makers at tech shop SPARC, we learned that while Knappsack’s competitors abound, this SaaS offering differs in a few ways. First, it’s secure enough for government use. Second, it spans all the major mobile platforms and desktops, too.
Third, it supports multiple versions of an app with granular controls over which groups of users see which version. For example, you can set up a version for field agents who need to send in reports and a separate version for managers who need to coordinate the activities of the sales force in the field. Or you could have a stable beta being tested by all 100 employees at your digital media boutique, but a less stable, newer version being tested by just the 15 employees on the mobile development team.
Finally, the SPARC folks emphasized how Knappsack speaks to a unique challenge of the enterprise. The bring-your-own-device trend has made mobile device management (MDM) a big concern for IT managers. In a recent guest post on VentureBeat, one such manager went into gory detail about the “security fun-sponge” that BYOD in general and MDM in particular represents, saying that management had to be prepared to remotely wipe an employee’s whole device in the event of a data breach, as well as continuously monitoring each employee’s apps and data. A true fun-sponge if ever there was one.
On the other hand, the Knappsack team advocates mobile application management, a more granular (and less expensive) approach that keeps company data safe while allowing employees to use whatever devices they like. “It’s a BYOD party, and your whole company is invited!” as they’d say. The team noted that not just applications but any kind of file — even PDFs — can be shared via Knappsack.
The product’s open source provenance is a nice touch, too. Knappsack is based on an eponymous open-source project, so if you’re good and comfortable with running your own software on your own stack, it’s free of charge and free to fork as you please. The paid version takes care of the stack for you.
Knappsack is available on a sliding scale of free to appropriately spendy, depending on your needs. The freemium version will let you roll out up to two app versions to up to 10 employees — perfect for a mobile app startup — and the Standard and Plus plans cost $20 and $75 per month, respectively, for larger numbers of apps, users, storage, and bandwidth. Custom pricing is available for larger internal applications with more than 1,000 users.
Top image courtesy of Robert Kneschke, Shutterstock